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Sunday, October 19, 2014
I just had an incredible weekend at Wolf Creek Outpost, conducting my latest yoga retreat. The fall leaves were exquisite. The yoga practices and meditations we did on the deck were decadent. I’m always so charged when I come home from these retreats.
On Sunday morning, as we were sitting in the woods near the ranch, solo in meditation, I felt like I belonged to a monastery. I and a few other choice souls were scattered across the landscape, sitting in silence as the expectant sun crept over the eastward mountains. A stone was my zafu, the earth my zabuton. Instead of saffron robes, I was wearing hunter’s orange—after all, it was the opening weekend for the deer hunt. While I’m slowly attempting to raise the light of my consciousness, I’d prefer that my illumination come slowly through a lifetime of work, mediation, and love, like the early morning light beginning to crown the mountains, rather than meeting the infinite with a quick bullet from a misguided hunter. But the neon orange vest and dorky hunter’s cap, complete with a virile buck embroidered on the front (sportsman soft-porn), seemed the perfect habit for this weekend monk.
The sun slowly bloomed over the caps of the mountain and I’m sure every plant animal and mineral on that mountain paused, just like me, to take in the daily miracle of that priceless sunrise. Then suddenly the quite perfection of the morning air was torn with a gun shot. Deer were on the move and hunters were taking notice. Earlier while in my open-eyed meditation, I noticed four or five deer tenuously crossing the canyon road several hundred yards below seeking the water of the creek. The explosion of the rifle brought my senses to full attention. It dawned on me that maybe an early morning sunrise sit in the woods on opening weekend of the deer hunt isn’t the wisest idea, even if we are sporting safety vests and the like. Yeah, that’s the clarity that came to mind. But something else too. At that moment, the mass of knowledge and experience we’d received regarding our hearts purpose, this retreat’s focus, in the form of yoga, conversation, meditation, a sweat lodge, nature, food, laughter and fun, all struck me like a bullet as if some cosmic hunter had placed me in their cross-hairs and put a slug right through my heart.
With my mind alert, my senses active, and my heart listening, noted to myself what I’d learned so far at this retreat:
1. We must know ourselves. Yoga and meditation are an awesome way of doing that.
2. We must then understand the gifts of our hearts and offer them to the world also as a gift, even if no one is pickin’ up what we’re puttin’ down.
3. Like the fox in The Little Prince says, “One only sees clearly with the heart. That which is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
With that, I stood up and started to gather my little flock of weekend monks silently back to the safety of the ranch house and a warm cup of coffee. And as I walked, my gaze on my feet on the earth, I prayed for all those deer out there that nothing more than a beautiful sunrise would pierce their heats that day.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Paris. Rush hour. I was on a crowded bus, daydreaming. Someone bumped into me, breaking my reverie. "Excusez-moi," a man said happily. "Pas de problem," I responded and looked up to see a blind man with a wide smile groping his way, inch by inch, toward the front of the bus. He spoke to the driver and a moment later the bus made an unscheduled stop. The blind man offered a heart-felt "merci" and he tenuously felt his way down the bus stairs to the busy street. A walking stick would not have helped in this concentration of people. He stepped brazenly and alone into the rapid current of foot traffic. After a few steps, just enough to avoid the bus he stumbled up onto the sidewalk, stopped, lifted his bright face upward, and asked the deaf ocean of people if there were anyone who could might point him in the right direction. Immediately a lovely and stylish woman materialized from the busy crowd, a complete stranger. The woman gently touched the blind man's arm, wrapped her other hand affectionately through his bent elbow, and the two of them made a quarter turn. Then the two strangers set off together across the crowded Pont Neuf, talking and laughing as naturally and casually as if they were on a date, strolling toward the opera matinée. The smile on the blind man's face never once strayed as if he had expected this woman to be right there when he stepped off the bus. He had set a date with destiny. As I sat in the bus again staring out the window, I wished that I could somehow, magically hear their conversation as they dissolved into an ocean of people.
I think about that experience sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like I'm stumbling through life like a blind man, walking around busy streets, tripping off the bus, bumping, into the sidewalk, and graciously, not without some self-deprecating humor, asking humbly for some kind soul to give me direction, to hold my arm and steer me to the other side of the river, over the bridge. And sometimes I think, "don't give me the answers right away. Nor give me back my sight. At least not yet. Let me be blind, if only for a while, so that I may learn to feel my way, so that I may learn to ask for help and know of something deeper within, so I may learn to trust my deepest hearts direction. Let me look inside to find my vision."
To find my way I close my eyes, like the blind man I suppose, and look inward. I find my way onto my yoga mat and mediation cushion and by so doing I hope to find my way. There, I discover a faith inside that says that what's more important than figuring out the specific details of my life, my true work lies with first coming to know my deep inner-Self. That's true sight. I see that I must learn to feel with my heart and trust that feeling and not just intellectualize each direction. Armed with inner sight and feeling, all of the details and particulars of my life will naturally grow and evolve as they should. I can go on blind. My gut tells me to go ahead and make my plea to the Universe against the din of the world and ask for what I want, where to go, and what to do, and then watch to see what emerges. It tells me that I must learn to be lost, to ask directions, and ask permission. I must risk a little. I must keep my heart open and ask myself regularly how my heart feels. I have faith, just like the blind man, that by feeling, I will find my way to where I need to be and that along the way I should expect something lovely.
I hope you stumble onto your mat this week and find some inner vision. Let's expect something lovely as we move blindly through this life together, arm in arm like we're heading to the opera matinée.
Monday, September 8, 2014
I've got wheels again! So, as you may or may not know, almost a month ago, my truck Nina was stolen literally right before my eyes. In fact, I was almost run over in the process. It was a surreal moment for sure. And during the past several weeks I've been so touched by how many friends have stepped up to offer help, loan me a car, offer me a ride, or simply share the story with me.
For example, my good friends Christy and Brian had two cars. For the last year they were experimenting with only driving one of them. Their other car, a 2001 Subaru Forester, needed some work on the clutch and had therefore been sitting in an auto-cocoon in their driveway. After a year of not using it, they decided that they didn't need it and offered it to sell it to me. I agreed to pay for the repairs and for the car and just like that, I was rolling again. This all happened last Tuesday. I'd been rolling around in my dad's truck for the previous two weeks. My dad also helped me get the Subaru from my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance, he sat at the DMV with me while I registered it, and then accompanied me to the Red Iguana for Mexican food, because everyone who just got a new ride deserves killer Mexican food. I brought the Subaru home and parked her in the driveway and what really made the experience complete is when I put another 1" sticker on the back. This is the same sticker I had on the back of my truck that reminds me that my greatest journey I will ever travel is the journey to know myself. Then! she really felt like part of the family. I was so happy to have a ride again, and one that rolls very nicely: she's got low miles, clean interior, AC, cruise control, the whole bit. Plus, every time I drive it, I remember the generosity of Christy and Brian and I feel something good has happened in the world.
And wouldn't you know it, last Thursday morning, just two day after I started rolling around in my sweet Forester, I received a phone call from the police department informing me that they had found my truck! They asked me if I could come right then and pick it up. It wasn't far away, stashed in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Redwood Road and about 600 South. I was at 9th and 9th. I told them that I was literally about 5 minutes from jumping in and teaching my Thursday morning 10:15 am Restore class and that there was no way I could come right then, but that I'd be free in about an hour and a half. They informed me that they had called the fingerprinting team who needed to dust it before they could release it to me anyway and that if I called back as soon as I was done with my class, there was a possibility that I'd avoid having to pay tow and impound fees. See, in order to protect my vehicle from whomever stole it, the police have to tow it from where they found it and impound it so Truck Thief can't come and move it somewhere else. The down side is that I have to pay for tow and impound, usually runs around $200.
So, as I'm teaching my restore class, I had a really difficult time concentrating. Questions like, "What kind of shape is my truck in? What did they take?" and "Does it even run?" were swimming in my head. After class, I called the police department back and told them that I was on my way. They informed me that they had already called the tow truck but if I got there before it did, I could avoid the hassle of dealing with all of that. I learned how speedy my Subaru can be as I broke a few land speed records to get there. Just as I showed up, the tow dude was literally hoisting my truck onto the back of his truck. I approached the tow dude and explained the situation. He basically said that he'd been given orders by the cops to hoist my car and nothing but that officer can stop him from taking it. I tried to explain and even tried to call the officer back to have him explain the situation but my phone, you see, is in hospice-it's on its way out from this world and will soon go to cell phone heaven and in its demented state it decided to spontaneously power down and not allow me to make any phone calls. This happened right at the crucial moment when I needed to call the cop. In complete frustration I told the tow guy, "Fine! Tow it and I'll meet you at the impound yard and talk to your boss."
I bizzed over to the impound yard where the tow truck was heading and entered into the make-shift office, a long narrow room with dirty carpet, a couch that looked like it had been towed from off on the side of the road, and a large television blaring loud day-time TV commercials. I explained to the rather apathetic man behind the desk my plight that I didn't want to have to pay the $200 for something that the police said I could avoid. He said that there was nothing he could do so I asked to talk to his boss. I called the number and Boss said, "Let me make a phone call." Five seconds later the phone in the office where I was standing rang. It was Boss. He told Mr. Apathy to impound and process my car. Thanks. Mr. Apathy also told me that I couldn't just pay the fee and roll away. Besides, I didn't even know if my car rolled. He told me that I'd need to go to the DMV to get an impound release form then bring it back to the impound yard, pay the fee and then I could take the car. Such bureaucracy!
I left my truck at the impound yard and rolled away fuming mad. I had another corporate yoga class to teach so I made arrangements with my good friend John to pick me up at my house after my class and take me to the DMV and then to go and get my truck outta hock. We spend an hour or so running around and attending to the minutia. Once I'd retrieved the necessary forms, paid the fees and received the keys for my truck, it dawned on me that I hadn't seen the inside of my truck. I wasn't sure what they'd stolen, what condition it was in, or if the truck would even start.
The front console was torn up a bit, the result of stealing the car stereo that wasn't working anyway. I think there's a special pawn shop for car stereos that don't work, very valuable in certain markets. They had ransacked everything leaving it a mess. I opened the shell and looked in the bed and saw that they had stolen my yoga mat and Seneca's yoga mat, cuz thieves need centering to reevaluate the direction of their lives. Then I looked on the dash. No Chubby Hula Dancer! They'd stolen the Chubby Hula Dancer who happily danced for me on my dashboard. Bastards!
I put things basically back together the best I could and then started her up. Even before she was stolen, Nina sounded pretty hard thanks to her rusted out muffler and non-existent tail pipe. But now as I fired her up, now she sounded really tough. But at least she ran. So I waved a thank you to John who sped away from the impound lot and I drove straight to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance. They kindly looked it over and informed me that Truck Thief had stolen the catalytic converter because there is some precious metals in there, like palladium, the same stuff my wedding ring is made of. I decided not to wait and drove directly to the muffler shop and asked them to please hook me up with another catalytic converter and tailpipe, all of which was going to cost me around another $450.
I took the bus home feeling sorry for myself after such an emotional and harrying day. But as I was walking home from the bus stop I couldn't help but think of all the people who had helped me out. I thought of everyone who had wished me well and offered condolences and an understanding moment of bewilderment after seeing my ride stolen. I thought of Nan who loaned me her car for a few days, and my dad, retired now, who let me tool around in his truck for almost two weeks. I thought of Brian and Christy who gave me a screaming deal on a new ride. I thought of how nice it was to ride my bike places. I thought of how nice, accommodating and professional, Peak Performance had been to have fixed my new ride and advise me on my old one. I thought of John who helped me out by running me all over town, who had shown up on my door steep the day Nina had been stolen asking if there were anything he could do, like run errands or just offer a listening ear. I thought of the cops who'd found it and who despite everything really had an air of generosity in their tone. All of that. My pity party didn't last long in the face of all that generosity and good will.
So, on Saturday, I rode my bike from the Avenues down to 3100 South and State to pick up my car from the muffler shop. I put my bike in the back and drove away, quieter than ever I can remember her sounding, feeling like this truck hasn't run this well and sounded this good in several years. And even though I knew it would add to the rust, I decided to go against protocol and give Nina a bath. I took her to the car wash and spent the better part of an hour cleaning her inside and out. I wanted to get the kidnaped feeling scrubbed off of her. It was a little traumatizing to see my fingerprints still smeared on the dirty window on the driver-side from where I'd tried to hold on as the guy was literally stealing my truck from my own hands. You see, I caught him in the act but not fast enough to stop him from bolting off and almost running me over in the process. I reassembled the dash, the result of ripping off my stereo. Then, other than the hole where my stereo used to be, everything was back to normal. Better than normal, really. And surprise, surprise, as I vacuuming under the seat guess who I saw hiding under there? Well, none other than Chubby Hula Dancer! She may look large and lumbering but remember how well that dancer can move. Apparently, from what I can deduce, sometime during her kidnapping, she used all her strength to unstick herself from the dash and jumped down to hide under the seat. I picked her up, brushed the dust off of her blue plastic grass skirt and placed her redemptively back on the center stage of the dash. As I dove away from the carwash, without a song on the radio (without a radio), just the smooth purr of a well-exhausted engine, I felt that everything was right in the world. And despite the lack of music, Chubby Hula Dancer began to dance happily, reminding me that somehow, every moment is an opportunity for celebration.
Whoever stole my truck, my stereo, my catalytic converter, and my yoga mats also gave me something in return. Something very small but unspeakably valuable. Resting in the seat next to the dismantled dash and various trash, was a blue rubber bracelet honoring the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fascinating, right? What he gave me was hope. Yeah, this bracelet reminds me that despite any tragedy or fiasco, ranging from a bombing to getting your ride stolen, human beings have an amazing power to come together and to show love and support to one another in the face of hardship. I roll more smoothly and with more ease after all this truck stealing business. Now, there's a hole in the dashboard where my stereo used to be. In that void I put that reminder bracelet and it fills me with the memory of how good people can be. Despite everything, getting my car stolen has shown me that yes, there are some careless, rude, and probably desperate people who might steal your ride simply for the low-hanging fruit of parts and almost worthless stuff inside, but that there are dozens more people who will freely give of their love, help, and support quicker than you can say "hotwire my ride." This experience of getting my truck stolen has reinforced my faith in people more than tarnished it. And even though the whole thing cost me around $1500, I'm the richer for it. I'm rich in the form of friendships, love, and support. I'm rich in the mere experience. The story itself makes me rich. And now I own TWO cars. I think I'll give Seneca the Subaru.
As we practice yoga, we look inside and hopefully what we see is a being filled with love and light. My hope is that we understand our own brightness and then spend our energy shining our light into the dark corners of the world. My invitation to you is to choose some way to shine your light to others today. Send a text and let someone know you're thinking about them. Drop off some of your garden's bounty to a neighbor. Offer to help someone out on the side of the road. Understand your light and use it to brighten everything around you.
Who knows, maybe I'll recognize my yoga mat under someone else's feet while teaching one of my yoga classes.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning
Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.
Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.
Whew! I’ve come home from my retreat to Greece and my following honeymoon with a lot on my mind. I’m coming home feeling like I am truly being reinvented. It feels really, really fresh, like I’m still sitting on the neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. In fact, the house is still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachelorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There is only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this is scary, I feel like I’ve got a lot of possibility to mold the future.
The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime. I guess this makes me feel better, like all of this is expected. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. I think Shiva was the original Burner. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.
So, in a meditation recently I received some divine guidance, instruction that seems absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. First, I need to acknowledge what’s happened, good and bad, put out some of those cinders that are still burning. Next, I learned that in order to move forward, I have to take a good hard look at where I might be holding onto anger, resentment, fears, and grief and practice forgiveness. Finally, I’ve got to allow for new birth and not allow the past to impede the possibilities that are already starting to bud.
That’s my list. What’s yours? Cuz really we are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?
And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.
This weekend I’m in Lander Wyoming for a weekend of workshops. Join me! We will road trip, it’ll be fun. I’m starting at Centered City Yoga with my regular schedule starting Monday, August 4th. I’ll be at a wedding for a dear friend Monday evening but you can catch my 6 am class on August 4th! Best time of the day to practice, I tell you what.
Thanks all. It feels great to be back!
Monday, June 30, 2014
These past few weeks have been all over the place for me. It’s been a practice for me to stay centered when so many things are changing in my life. I think it’s easy to identify with the thing you do (read: teaching yoga) and when that changes, even just then venue, it becomes quite humbling. I like the word humble because the root of the word refers to returning to the dust of the earth, back to your roots. I’m experiencing a wonderful opportunity to reinvent myself in some crucial, important, and exciting ways.
Last year, when I planned my yoga retreat to Greece, I leave this week, I scarcely could have picked a better time to get away and take some time to air out the mind and soul. Little did I know last year, what would be transpiring this year with the closure of my studios and a new marriage and wow, how things can change in a year! I’m planning on a few weeks to allow the practice of meditation, yoga, stories and myth, and a heap of sunshine, to work its wonders on my soul. Did I mention that I’ll be on my honeymoon soon after the retreat? There’s nothing like love to put what matters most front and center in your life.
So yeah, I’m co-hosting this trip to Greece with my dear friend Kim Dastrup, but I’m expecting that the practices and teaching will offer me great insight into what the next era looks like for me.
I want to share this retreat with you (sorry, the honeymoon is private J). I’ll keep you joyously involved by including in my weekly newsletter, a message regarding some of the themes and photos as they happen on Facebook and Instagram and the like. Please join me! Join me as we visit the ancient cities of Greece and through practice, mediation, and a study of history, apply that crucial motto that spoke to Socrates on the plaque above the temple to the Oracle at Delphi: Know Thyself. I encourage your insight and feedback so others can benefit from your experience, knowledge and insight as you interpret the messages based on your life. And if it didn’t work out for you to come with us this year, start thinking about it for next year.
I’ll be back toward the end of July and I’ll be teaching a weekend workshop in Lander Wyoming at Ananda Yoga August 1-3. Join me. I’ll be starting classes with full gusto on the week of August 10th at Centered City Yoga. I’m really excited about my future and the new life that is starting to sprout in my own body/mind/spirit.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Chuck Dickens really knew what he was talking about. My business is folding. That’s a mess. I’m going to be married to the most wonderful woman in the world in about three weeks. That’s bliss. I feel like at any time I should be hearing the announcement, “Please keep your arms and legs in the ride at all times.”
It’s times like these that I gotta remember to keep my center, that my daily practice is critical. I also need to remember that it’s part of the practice to fall out of the pose once in a while, whether the pose is tree pose or running a biz pose. Like Leonard Cohen says, “there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Nothing has to be perfect. I gotta breathe and keep my center through it all, the bliss and the mess.
It’s nice to remember that even though things are really crazy, part of the practice is to take care of myself in little ways like going to a yoga class, going on a run, or going on a walk with my love in the twilight.
Thanks to so many wonderful friends and students, to all of you, who have wished us all well during this transition. I am very moved by all of your kindness.
Here’s to another week!
I'm still available to teach private sessions, Girl's Nights Out, and corporate gigs. I'm even doing a few Skype sessions of both Yoga Nidra and Asana. Things aren't so crazy that I don't have some time to do what I love the most, teach yoga. Contact me if you want to set something up.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Master teacher and author Donna Farhi wrote in her book, Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living: "One of the most devastating consequences of skewed perception is the longing that grows in us for someone to see us as we really are. We long to have someone, somewhere, even for a moment, really see us. When someone sees the "us" that is our essence, we say that we feel loved. My teacher taught that the primary thing to learn is how to be this loving, accepting presence. . . . When this longing to be seen by another is great, we become susceptible to chronic manipulation of our image. We may continually rearrange and reinvent ourselves in the hope that this new rendition will please our audience. Instead of being present, we perform." (pp. 179-80)
The Poet David Whyte says, "To be constantly explaining who you are is a gospel of despair." He further invites us to simply be ourselves and in so doing give permission to all around us to do likewise.
In yoga, we practice self-witnessing as we breathe, move through poses, and meditate. Without this self-witness, you can't see the true you. No amount of others seeing or perceiving you will supplement for a lack of knowing yourself. It's the paradox of rock stars feeling so lonely. Like a friend told me recently, it's as if in our quest to experience and really discover/remember who we are, we feel like being seen by others is synonymous to being. If people are seeing me, it gives the false confidence that there must be something there to see, right? But being witnessed isn't witnessing. Yoga philosophy suggests that who we are fundamentally is the ability to truly witness ourselves and everything around us.
I know what you're saying, "Thanks, Mr. Oblique Yoga Philosophy Guy. That's some awesome yoga thought but give me some real-life ways to relate that to getting up in the morning and facing another day of work and family and the every-day." Well, the easiest way to apply this is to just pay attention to your life. What does it feel like to sit in a warm shower and let the water flow over your skin? What do the blossoms smell like when you walk down the sidewalk? What does your breakfast taste like? What does it feel like when your boss walks by? Yoga practice is simply a condensed and refined way of paying close attention. Besides yoga makes us feel great, helps us have a healthy body, calm mind, and open heart. Here's the deal: once we start practicing this self-witnessing business in yoga, we won't stop at Namaste. We'll be feeling our hamstrings in practice one night, and wake up extremely aware of the way the shower feels or maybe start to see the deep feelings in your heart. These are the most real ways of just being. The deeper we pay attention, the more we notice what's behind the surface, what's animating the outer form, what's sensing, what's seeing. Eventually, with practice, we become more and more familiar with this Inner Self. What's amazing is how this knowledge of Inner Self gives us amazing confidence to just be. We stop trying to produce the image of ourselves, and we just be ourselves.
It reminds me of tales of Mark Twain giving lectures back in the day. He would walk out on stage in front of a packed theater and just stand there looking at the audience. The crowd would applause, would eventually quiet down and wait silently for him to talk. Instead of saying anything, he would just stand there and stare back to them, like he was staring down the entire audience. The tension in the room would begin to build second by second as he just stood there looking back at them all. One man looking at thousands. He didn't have to perform. He didn't have to say anything. He was Mark-Freekin'-Twain! Finally, when the tension became almost unbearable, he could say one word and have the entire audience in his hands because he was completely real.
Writers, poets, yogis all have this one crucial thing in common: they all pay very close attention themselves and the world around them.
I'll see you in class and we'll practice some of this self-witnessing. Maybe this is what John Lennon meant by "let it be."