“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Islena Faircrest is a yoga teacher that exudes serenity, harmony and tranquility, and yet like the rest of us she shares a common bond; she too has experienced the ups and downs, stresses, and challenges of the human condition.
However, if you were fortunate enough to attend one of Islena’s classes you would only experience the serenity. How does she do it? How does she transfer calm to her students and maintain it herself in the swirl of a modern Western lifestyle? Is it her eclectic yoga classes where she teaches everything from Hatha Flow, Power Vinyasa, Therapeutic, Restorative, Prenatal, Mom & Baby, Kids, Seniors Yoga, Yoga for Equestrians, Yoga Dance, Yoga for Surfers, and Yoga on Standup Paddleboard (SUP)?
Whatever it is Islena truly leads the “yoga life” both on and off the mat, and today she has agreed to give us a brief glimpse into what shapes her worldview and helps her to maintain her serenity in the eye of the storm.
Please enjoy these insights from our newest contributor to Yoga Guardian and be sure to check out Islena’s complete bio and link at the end of the article.
Being your own Guru
Whether you’re a yoga practitioner or not, many agree that the massive growth of yoga has influenced mainstream culture with images and media stereotypes more akin to fashionista sheeple than a spiritual tradition. Thin dancer bodies, enlightened gurus and Olympic feats of gymnastic strength are intimidating – even to a well-practiced yogi.
The yoga industry has a conundrum — oversaturation, streamlining and a quest for originality have made us demons of marketing (something many see as a necessary evil). There’s no doubt that competition fosters accomplishment-based intentions. And not just on the physical level, but also the mental, spiritual, and soul level: the drive to fix and improve ourselves.
Fixing ourselves is BIG industry.
So we’re flooded by “experts“ of all kinds. Mentors, holistic health practitioners (mitigate pain), relationship therapists (mitigate emotions), life coaches (mitigate confusion), mental health experts (mitigate chaos), clairvoyant guides and intuitive councilors (mitigate finding oneself)…
By being so focused on the accomplishment of growth and improving, whether in asana, the spiritual realm, or the learning realm,
— we forget the value of our falls
— and the value of emptiness.
It’s like we’ve gotten stuck in a traffic jam of our own bling. But what about our blegh?
How about the times when life cracks you open?
During those times, there’s real opportunity. For solid authentic growth. A kind of unraveling.
Growth is not pretty. It often resembles a gnarled train wreck more than evolution. A friend and I joked that if we had the power to manage our experiences, kinda like puppet masters — no he won’t leave you, yes this investment will make you money, no you won’t get laid off, yes they’ll live… our choices would NOT resemble the events that actually panned out in our lives.
Because no rational person would consciously choose that much suffering. Right?
It’s Carl Jung, father of archetype personalities and the collective unconscious, who reminds us that “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
My greatest teachers — and I’ve have a few good ones — were not mentors or gurus. Mine were and continue to be…my darkest and deepest struggles.
You know, the ugly stuff. The compost.
Things like —
— marriage (anyone married more than a decade is lying through their teeth if they say they haven’t been brought to the ends of the earth tattered and back.)
— parenting — there’s a LOT of character development that happens when you become a parent right?
— and depression — if you know anybody of depth…there’s a good chance, no…a 100% chance they’ve been through a dark night of the soul that’s rocked them to their core.
So it’s all stuff we’ve gone through
and continue to work through,
as it bubbles up from our unconscious mind. And makes the darkness conscious.
Our biggest hurts make us powerful because we eventually come to a pivot point where we suddenly crack open to different possibilities. When our world shifts out from old non-serving habits and patterns, and sneaks a peek through the cracks of our conscious mind into the shadowy depths of our unconscious mind — for something different.
When we’re lying broken in a pile on our bedroom floor, as Julie Peters, a yoga teacher in my hometown Vancouver confesses.
This is when creativity begins to be released as a healing salve.
Our unconscious mind is the fertile compost from which the branches of our conscious mind blossom and reveal their origin. From this compost, grows a surprisingly creative harvest to support us. From the muddy waters grows the lotus flower. A popular quote reminds us: No mud, no lotus. No pressure, no diamond.
Writer Courtney Walsh puts it succinctly:
“You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of messing up. Often.”
So there’s hope for those of us who operate out of the fear that “we are not enough”. Who shortchange ourselves when we believe the hype that what’s outside is better, smarter, and bigger, than what’s inside of us.
In the shadow below our conscious mind, is the teacher we’ve been looking for all along. For seekers, this is particularly relevant. Yoga studios are wonderfully filled with the souls of seekers.
In the Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu says:
“We mold clay into a pot,
but it’s the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.”
Everything once came from emptiness.
From the death of winter comes spring.
From nothingness came the big bang.
Even an empty room in our house is something that inspires us to get creative.
That’s why I love having beginners in my yoga classes because beginners mind is a great thing; it’s open to all possibilities. It’s not stuck on pattern or achievement. Beginners mind is truly creative.
I once had a meditation teacher describe how when you look at the moon on a beautiful night, you have a moment of direct experience with it. Where you’re in silent awe. The vessel of your body drinks everything in. When we have this kind of visceral pin-pointed focus, that’s what stays in our cells. And then the logical mind takes over with the need to describe it and say wow, look at <blah, blah, blah>! Yes we can be guided by “experts” and the like — it’s all good encouragement…but nothing replaces direct experience.
So have a moment of direct experience with where you are in your life right now. Sit in silent awe of accepting What Is. Appreciate what your body and mind are able to do for you. In this moment, you’re good enough. No lack. No competition.
Soul-diving is your entry ticket to being your own Guru. It’s a teacher in its own right. The connection we all crave, is always available to you in your empty clay pot.
An ardent Yoga educator, Islena Faircrest brings to bear thirteen years teaching to all ages, stages & types. Advocating the Yoga lifestyle, she’s written and appeared in Yoga publications and taught Yoga Teacher Trainings & retreats in the US, Canada and Costa Rica. She teaches all over the East Bay & coastside peninsula of San Mateo county. Visit her at www.onboardyoga.com