Excellence Reporter: Yanti, what is the meaning of life?
Yanti Amos: I was watching a documentary recently which followed the daily routine of a traditional Japanese sword (katana) polisher. The polisher’s discipline is not an easy one, for he must do justice to the character and nature of each individual sword with which he has the good fortune to be tasked. He is challenged every day as he meets the sword with his polisher’s tools, to bring out the sword’s full beauty and potential. It strikes me that my role as yoga teacher and sometime karate sensei is similar to that of the traditional artisan.
The polisher’s role can only, like the teacher’s, be truly fulfilled with the right balance of discernment, mental acuity, self-confidence and self-knowing; with the right level of knowledge fused with compassion. How can the teacher bring out a student’s best qualities while respecting the importance of struggle and false starts? How can she see students in what may seem to be at times an aching averageness, and in other moments, a shocking shining glory? This is the simplicity and complexity of our daily task as teachers. The subtle nuances of this rollercoaster is what gives life meaning.
Our role also mirrors that of the sword maker himself. In the forge where the sword is “birthed”, the bellows pumps air through the iron. The charcoal pile must be constantly fed and adjusted, so that the heat is applied evenly to the blade. We cajole, express and drum away at the fundamentals, and we share like this every moment in the dojo and on the yoga mat. We want our students to love our art and discipline as much as we do. The poundings and the sweat that pour from us as we bend and surge, are constantly honing, smoothing and fine-tuneing our ease with our poses and our forms. While we see much of it through the teacher’s lens, in reality, we are living the practice through our own students and reliving it as students of both the practice and the teaching of the practice.
Most Sundays, my husband and I visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art, meandering through our favorite sections. More often than not we end up in the Buddhist art section at the foot of a statue we have named the “Fudodachi” (immovable stance) sculpture. We are casual in the way we refer to this ogre-like giant of a being. He is almost comical in his ferocity. But we are not cavalier in what he represents to us. He is perhaps what we all, as humans, ultimately aspire to. He oozes an awe-inspiring fearsome power. But it is not simply the external power that impresses. His ineffable unknowable internal strength exists side by side with the outer structure of his Adonis-like musculature. He carries a secret. And perhaps only the adept recognizes the undulating abdominals of his uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock); the latter being testament to years and years of more profound inner work.
It is the subtlety and the countless layers of the practice of yoga, meditation and of karate that give my life its meaning. The vascillation between high joys and miserable lows of creative expression, of partnership, of sharing through truth-seeking, of discovery and of service. To say nothing of the business side of matters. The stuff that makes you tear your hair out in the not-knowing and the not-yet-understanding.
I love the non-stop questioning and striving – which all ironically seems to sit so comfortably with the grace and gratitude of being lucky recipients and journeymen of lineage, humanity and community. The stuff that connects us to what must surely be divine and heaven-sent.
This knowing and knowledge that must be shared and which expresses itself in exacting standards; of wisdom and slow, measured dispensing. The deep stuff that is often mute, that is profound silence, but is there nonetheless, coursing through our blood, in our teachers’ hearts and minds and deep in the core of our tanden.
I think this is the meaning of our hybrid life as recipients and givers of tradition.
~Yanti Amos former international lawyer, is owner of Earth YogaNYC which she founded in 2009. Yoga teacher, karateka, entrepreneur and speaker, she is recognized as a practitioner who bridges the world of business and the realm of yoga and meditation, intimately understanding the needs and pressures of her clients who live and breathe the corporate America existence. Yanti is influenced by a variety of traditions including Ashtanga, Hatha and Bhakti yoga, teaching internationally in seminars and retreats. She continues to spread her love of yoga through the Earth Yoga 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program. through mentoring and community service. She speaks regularly on entrepreneurship and leadership and is currently working on a humorous book about the practice of yoga business.
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