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Teacher of October 2011 - Felina Chung

As a member of the original SPACE Yoga faculty, to write about myself again not only brings up mixed feelings, it also needs to be carried out as cautiously as treading on thin ice. When we practice observing impermanence, everything we see is all happening in the present and this present also changes from moment to moment. When I put down a word, my perspective may be different in the next second and the words that I just expressed could be in danger of being lies.

My work is to teach yoga and yoga is simply living. Life is yoga, and not yoga is a part of life. Ever since I met my first teacher, Martha Lonergan of Sivananda style, I am forever intertwined with yoga. After going through different styles of yoga, I committed myself to Anusara Yoga. And now my main teachers are John Friend and Christina Sell. In my teaching career, SPACE has been my home. My boss, students, and colleagues are all like family to me. I’m deeply grateful for the freedom that SPACE provides; the autonomy to teach as we see fit is hard to come by for teachers. It is also because to a yogi, the most dreadful thing in life is unable to be true to oneself.

It was also this strong desire to be true to oneself, in addition to the fact that there is no clear divide between life and yoga, when conflicts had built up between teaching and my personal life to a point that I could no longer handled, I had a hard time facing the immense love from my SPACE family. Later, a small scooter accident that happened right outside of SPACE led me to take time off to rest my body. It also made me deeply appreciate the preciousness and impermanence of a human life. Maybe it was my karmic debt been repaid or that heaven took pity on me, my dream of someday meeting my guru actually happened during this period of time off. And with the financial support of three SPACE friends, instead of going to US for more certification, I ended up following my guru to the birth place of yoga - India.

Time ceases when you are up in the mountain. I was up in the Himalayas with my guru day and night; there was no so called “off the mat” time. Guru is a living, walking scripture; her whole being is the manifestation of wisdom, where even the most subtle expressions are enlightening lessons. I quickly discovered that even though the practices are harsh and that they may still fortify the ego, be it sleeping with creepy crawly bugs, being crowded in with thousands for dharma talks where there was no water or electricity, or working in the kitchen, skin torn flesh gapping, in the deep winter with my hands and feet so frozen that I had lost awareness of them, but they were all tuitions paid to breakdown the self-attachment. Living in this kind of glass house, the assault on the ego-centered mind was severe; many of my deep-seated wickedness were revealed, my sense of righteousness was challenged and many of my fundamental values were turned upside down. But perhaps because of it, the line between right and wrong was blurred to the point that I was able to sustain a single droplet of the guru’s grace. Doubts and uncertainties were often swiftly cleared through an interaction with my guru. It could be a look, a joke, a sarcastic remark or a sudden scolding. Now when I reread the scripture, I have a completely different understanding.

When I first got back to Taipei, it felt like a sudden transportation to another world, another lifetime. When I first went home to SPACE, I even went to the wrong floor. After being bare for so long and to have to dress in garments again, to be back in the multicolor world left me feeling somewhat at a lost. The Chinese language operating system in my brain has not been activated for so long that I was so inarticulate I even offended a close friend one time, who thought I was being a phony. Now when I think back, the difficulty in expressing myself was because a large part of the past has died off, what was left found this delusional world that mistaken the fake to be real unfamiliar.

I wish I can be like the past satisfied with using beautiful, moving words to tell everyone how yoga has transformed my life from black and white to color or how yoga helped me achieve the so called worldly “success”. However, I have to apologize for not being able to do so. The diffculties in life didn’t cease because of yoga, in fact, yoga made me truly see them, so they now seemed endless. But, I am confident in telling everyone that what yoga brought me was the courage to sit with my own crap and Buddhism’s profound insight and wisdom had given me the broad foundation to practice yoga. Together, they make it slightly more possible to get closer to being true. And perceiving from that truth, I can genuinely state that alongside our sufferings, the possibilities and wonders of life are also ubiquitous.

All that guru had granted me is like a bottle of rare vintage wine, even until now it is still fermenting. Being in this present that is happening now doesn’t have any eye-catching embellishment nor can it be seen by the naked eye. Not only that, I’m often mistaken by others as being mad. Even so, in this day and age where yoga is hip and Buddhist studies are a trend, to share this wine with others is perhaps the best way to repay the kindness of my guru and my other benefactors.

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