Chatting with my Inner Guru

The DL

I have this picture of the Dalai Lama on the wall in my office.

I sometimes gaze at it while wondering what to write about or how to handle some situation in life. I have conversations with it. In the picture, the DL is making a really cute happy face, so in my mind he has a cute happy voice. I ask him questions about what’s on my mind, and his answers are always half-chuckle. His advice is always very simple and given with a smile (admittedly, this is because he’s frozen that way in the picture).

The entire conversation is happening within my own head, of course. The DL is not telepathically communicating with me. Rather, the picture of him is a symbol that helps me access a seemingly wiser part of myself. There’s the part of me that’s wrapped up in my day-to-day stuff, and then there’s the part that can step outside myself to get a better perspective when necessary, and that part sometimes hides in a picture of the Dalai Lama. I think of the DL as someone who embodies many of the traits I aspire to like wisdom and compassion. He’s also a relatively down-to-earth figure I can picture having a conversation with. I can imagine the sorts of answers he would give me, and I try to use that mentality as a guide when I feel stuck.

To be clear, I’ve never met the man. I may have his voice all wrong. I may be totally off base with the answers I imagine him giving. Nonetheless, the part of me that uses his voice is a part of me I like. It’s kind and wants me and everyone else in the world to be happy. And though it might surprise you, this part of me gives pretty solid advice even when the rest of me is suffering from cranio-rectal inversion.

As an experiment, I asked the DL if there was anything he wanted to say to the blog. In my head, this is what happened.

Him: Now you’re just being silly.
Me: *shrug* Seemed worth a try.
Him: Tell them to meditate.

So that’s that. My inner guru doesn’t perform for audiences, and he thinks we should all meditate.

Have you checked in with your inner guru or guide lately? If you’re in need of a little clarity (and aren’t we all?) maybe you should.

Derby Diary: Hit the Ground Rolling


I spent Saturday  night handing out flyers at the derby demo at Skateland.

I spent Saturday night handing out flyers at the derby demo at Skateland.

Since making it into the league, I’ve been inundated with derby: Practices, scrimmages, volunteering, bouts, committees, meetings, social events, and oh yeah, picking a name. I thought I’d found the perfect name, but according to the derby name registry it was taken. Picking a name isn’t the most important part of derby, but I admit I obsessed about it all week.

My husband thought I should stick with MissDirt since it’s already my name everywhere else. “Dirt” has been my gaming handle for over 10 years, and many of my close friends call me that, but I also still wanted a fun derby name that would be unique to this new part of my life. After brainstorming a while and surveying my friends, I found one I like: Ms. Dirt Deville. Some people have already started calling me Dirt, and I’m totally happy with that.

Fun facts about the last name Deville: It’s French, so it’s a little nod to my Cajun roots. It also looks like “devil,” and you know I’ve got a little bit of a devilish side, so that works. Plus, “Ms. Dirt Deville” rhymes with Mr. Demille, which makes me think of Miss Piggy batting her eyes and saying, “I’m ready for my closeup…” I’d like to think I have one or two things in common with Miss Piggy, so I’m cool with that. Derby girls are supposedly mean, and Cruella Deville is nothing if not mean. And finally, Deville happens to be the last name of Phil and Lil from Rugrats, the two coolest twins ever.

Practicing with the league is going well so far. I was intimidated for about the first five minutes of my first practice, and I still get a little flustered trying out new skills in front of the more experienced players, but that’s getting better. The coaches give lots of direct and specific feedback, and I can actually feel myself improving during practices. As a result, I’m more willing to take little risks during practice because the payoff of improvement is so big. And all those women who look so tough out there on the track? Well, they are tough! They’re also nice people who love their sport and want to share it, so until you’re playing against them, they’re not scary at all.

My Yoga Super Heroes


I used to think my yoga teachers were super heroes. Now that I teach, I’m constantly tempted to compare myself to them, and the comparisons are not always favorable to me.

I want to be like them because their work changed my life. Maybe even saved it. I know I’m not exactly the most with-it grownup on the block, but can you imaging where my life would be without yoga? I can’t.

At sixteen, I didn’t have the patience to just sit and be quiet. I was anxious about everything. My brain never quit chattering. I would regularly tear at my skin until I bled. And I hated everyone and everything. Yoga became the moving meditation that allowed me to find some quiet within myself. I have Janet to thank for that.

At twenty-seven, in a panic about the grey cubicle farm that was my daily life, I turned to yoga again, this time with a different need. I had learned to make peace with my body, but could I make peace with the rest of my life? This is when Elizabeth introduced me to the real power of the breath, which gave me the ability to be present in this moment. Notably, many of life’s worries drop away when you’re living in the present rather than stressing about the past or the future. I learned to work on my problems just like asanas — one moment at a time, letting the breath be my guide.

Now that I’m teaching, I wonder if I can give my students the same things my teachers gave me, and I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s not my job to give my them precisely the same lessons but rather to introduce them to their own inner teacher. We honor certain great teachers with the title “guru,” but the true guru for each of us is the wisdom that lives within us. Finding that divine spark within yourself feels a lot like how I imagine super powers feel. Now, if only I could figure out how to give people that.

Yoga Sutras 1.25 & 1.26: God and the Guru

Vyasa grants Sanjaya divine vision

The next two sutras continue discussing Isvara pranidhana and the nature of Isvara or God. Before we go on, I want to point out that the translation I’m using (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda) uses the masculine pronoun for Isvara. On one hand, what we’re talking about is far too big to be limited by our ideas of gender: God is neither male nor female yet encompasses all the attributes of both. On the other hand, we reserve words like “it” for inanimate objects and things that lack intelligence. If you don’t believe that God or the universe is intelligent, bear with me for a minute and you might change your mind.

In Him is the complete manifestation of the seed of omniscience.

In other words, Isvara or God truly is the alpha and the omega and contains everything in between as well. God is the big bang. God is time and space. All knowledge, all events, all beings are contained within this one ultimate reality.

Perhaps you’ve played that mind game where you try to imagine what exists outside of the known universe, beyond the edges of space, before the big bang, etc. When you do that, you’re basically exploring the possibilities of the ultimate reality. Patanjali says that ultimate reality is Isvara.

Unconditioned by time, He is the teacher of even the most ancient teachers.

I admit, this one makes me scratch my head — hey I never claimed to know it all!

Notice the word “guru” tucked into the Sanskrit above? Let me refer you to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait for an excellent discussion of what guru really means. If you don’t have time to watch it right now, bookmark it and come back to it later because this is powerful and essential information!

The short version is that guru means “one who dispels the darkness of ignorance.” That teacher or guru can come in infinite forms, and the ultimate guru and source of wisdom is what we call God. This is why when we devote ourselves to that ultimate truth and try to live our lives in alignment with it, we make great progress.

Seriously, though, watch the video because Panditji does a perfectly beautiful job of describing the common misconceptions about gurus and how to correct them.

my definition of confidence

Young Woman from the Boni Yaou Family, Djougou, Benin photograph by Alfred Weidinger

One of the most powerful things you can have as an individual is the understanding that absolutely no one can invalidate you or make you less of a human being. No matter what name anyone calls you, you are good. No matter how anyone mistreats you or fails you, you deserve goodness. No matter what challenges you face or shortcomings you may have, you are worthy of love. When you know that, you will not let anyone mistreat you. You will not believe the bullshit they heap on you. Their words and actions may sting, but you will have dignity. And instead of internalizing their evil, you will look the cowards in the eye and see their pain, and you will respond with love. For them and for yourself.

 That’s confidence.