This last weekend I had the honor of officiating the wedding of a couple of my yoga students. They said they wanted a non-religious ceremony about love and community, and thought I was the best guy for the job. How cool to be asked! I’d never officiated a wedding before, and have actually not even been to that many weddings, so the whole thing made me pretty nervous, but I figured I might as well do it and have the experience – what’s the worst thing that could happen…well, just destroy one of the the most special days in the couple’s life – no pressure.
I met with the soon-to-be spouses a few times before their special day to figure out the details. As the date got closer I kept refining what I was thinking about and how I wanted to do the ceremony. Finally, on the morning of the wedding I realized that they asked ME to do it…so they probably wanted me to be myself, instead of pretending to be an uptight minister. That made me feel better so I threw in a few jokes, which paid off later.
When my wife and I arrived at the wedding venue, the amazing All Souls Interfaith, and the guests started arriving, I was hit by what you might consider an obvious realization — there were going to be people there I didn’t know thinking I was some kind of actual wedding officiator (instead of just a yoga teacher), and they were probably expecting the whole thing to be relatively good! I mean, the parents probably didn’t originally envision when their babies were babies that on their big day a yoga teacher would officiate their wedding. I was feeling the trepidation.
With this newfound realization, I started to get a bit more nervous, and read into my interactions with guests that they didn’t think I was qualified for the gig. All that energy was in me as I stood at the “alter” (under a huppah…which was under a couple apple trees) and the guests began to gather around. Once they were in front of me I had another realization…I wasn’t up there on my own…the friends I was marrying were there with me – that calmed my nerves.
We all came to silence, and still feeling anxious myself, and seeing the same in the crowd, I reminded everyone how lucky we were to be there, and what a special day this was. I invited them to savor every moment of this day. And then, something kind of amazing happened. I saw in the faces of all the people a true expression of love. It was like everyone allowed all their coverings of separation to disappear and let their own heart and light come to the surface. I did the ceremony, they laughed at my jokes, everything worked out great, and I got feedback that people thought the ceremony was beautiful. To me, what really made it beautiful is people opened up and allowed themselves to feel love and be present in the experience.
All this reminds me of one of my favorite yoga sacred texts, “Narada Bhakti Sutra”. The translation and commentary I prefer is by William Mahony, called Exquisite Love. Sutra #76 is the one that comes to mind – “Teachings on Bhakti (Love) should be reflected on, practices that awaken it should be undertaken.”
You can’t really argue with the sentiment, but it can be hard to practice. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to hold ceremonies like weddings…it gives everyone present, the newlyweds, the inlaws, the guests, the officiator, a chance for at least a few moments to undertake the practice of love. It’s ok if after that practice you may go back to not feeling love 100% in yourself, that’s normal. What’s important is to spend dedicated time, whenever you can, doing practices that awaken the love in your heart. Right now is a good time to start.
I’m not sure why, but this summer I’ve been particularly DESPERATE to experience the full glory of being outside and having a summer. One theory is that this last winter in Vermont was awful. Another theory, that I feel might be more accurate, is I have come to recognize that there is a lot that life, and particularly summer, offers. I don’t want to miss out on it. As you’ve heard from being in my classes, I like sunshine and warm weather…not so much cloudy and cold. So, with that in mind I’ve been swimming in the lakes, motorcycling around Vermont and Canada, kayaking, car camping – it’s really been an awesome summer so far!
But, with this awesome I’ve felt a bit guilty – here’s why. In my mind (and outside of my mind in talking to students) I’ve said, “I have more free time over the summer than during the rest of the year, so I’m going to really get motivated and make a yoga video EVERY week. It’s going to be awesome!” After a couple weeks of enjoying the summer and not making a video, I changed my thoughts to, “I have more free time over the summer, and I REALLY want to have some fun this summer, but I’d love to made some videos as well. I’m going to make a video every OTHER week.” Well, that didn’t work, either. Now we are in August and I have no new videos, so this is what I’m saying now. “IT’S SUMMER!!! Sometimes it’s ok not to make yoga videos.” :-)
You know, making yoga videos and doing yoga are great…but…camping and riding my motorcycle and kayaking and warm sunshine are pretty great, too. I can’t really do those things in the winter, but I can make yoga videos in the winter. I’m thinking there is no reason to feel guilty about taking time off from doing something you love and want to do because you want to do something else you love and you want to do.
So, if you are like me and out there enjoying summer and taking it in and having fun, and maybe not doing as much yoga, awesome! At the heart of yoga is finding your inner light, being happy, seeing the good…so if being outside having fun is helping you do that…you are doing YOGA! I’ll be seeing you at the campground…then come September, I’ll be seeing you back on the mat – Happy Summer!
P.S. If while you are out there having fun you want a yoga class while on the beach, you actually can download one of the 80+ videos I ACTUALLY have made and take your own personal class right on the beach – you wouldn’t be the first person to do it. :-)
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