Welcome to Yoga Wonderland (12:18 audio)
Welcome to Wonderland
Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, “Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!” She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.
Imagine this scenario. You want to try something new. Something you’ve never done before. The absolute first thing you do is find a teacher. That teacher is a White Rabbit, wearing a waistcoat, with a timepiece in his pocket. He takes you down a dark tunnel and sets the pace, and he sometimes gets annoyed when you don’t keep up. If you do as he does, in precisely the same way that he does it, you are sure to succeed. (but what are you succeeding at? a complex game of follow the leader?)
At some point, your White Rabbit might tell you that you learned everything he had to teach you, and either he hands you off to another more experienced White Rabbit, or he sends you off to find one yourself. In time, some White Rabbit might even give you your own rabbit suit and waistcoat with a timepiece so you can become a White Rabbit yourself, teaching others what you have learned from your white rabbits.
This is how things work in the world of learning. There are teachers (White Rabbits), and courses (rabbit hole tunnels), and rules (waistcoats), and parameters (timepieces). They expect you to trust them to be your guide. They tell you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. They explain to you why you are doing something and how it serves you in the future. They have completed extensive trainings and certification programs to hold their AUTHORITY.
This same scenario applies for yoga. Millions of yogis have followed White Rabbits down the yoga rabbit hole. Over the years, they have multiplied, like . . . well. . . rabbits! Whether you accidentally-on-purpose found yourself in a yoga class like I did, or you have just watched the rabbits scurry down the hole without ever following them yourself, or you went sliding down the slippery slope with arms up screaming “wheeee” all the way down, you have likely encountered many different white rabbits along your path.
Inevitably, in any journey, circumstances change. You will lose a favorite teacher, or many teachers. Schools close. Teachers move away, or fall off their pedestals. Or, you simply grow bored because you have learned everything they have to teach you. We are conditioned through life to seek a teacher, an authority, to show us how to do things we don’t know how to do. So, when we lose our teachers, the natural response is to go in search of another one. New teachers may take you down some different tunnels, but those tunnels are their tunnels, not your wonderland. I ask you, how many white rabbits have you collected as authorities on your ventures? How many tunnels have you explored with teachers as your tour guides?
Somehow after years of schooling, we lose the curiosity and wonderment that comes with childhood exploration, adventure, and imagination. When we chase and follow white rabbits, we forget the wonderment and curiosity that comes with exploring unknown territory on our own. After awhile, those tunnels start to feel confining, and those authority figures feel oppressive. And those timepieces and their pace feels really, well. . . limiting.
When you find yourself in that place where you don’t have a teacher anymore, you have a choice, find another rabbit to take you down another tunnel, or find a way through that tiny door. I hope you choose door number one instead of rabbit number six, or tunnel number sixteen.
psst. . .come over here. . .let me show you. . .there’s MORE!
Take a peek through this tiny door behind this curtain. . .
You took a leap of faith when you followed a White Rabbit to teach you something you didn’t know before. I’m here suggesting you take a completely different kind of leap. Stop following the White Rabbits (they run too fast ahead of you anyway). Don’t go looking for another one. They will just keep you in the darkened rabbit hole tunnels with them, following them through complex labyrinths. You can thank them for their service, honor them for the excellent foundation they offered you to accept out-of-the-way-things to happen. Then, let them hop away.
Instead, venture on your own into Wonderland.
On the other side of the tiny door is the loveliest garden you ever saw! That garden has zillions of flowers and colors and plants and creatures unlike anything you have ever seen before. That garden has all kinds of wide open paths and trails and adventures you can follow to places that live beyond the perimeters of your wildest imagination. Heck, you can even build your own paths and trails just by imagining them yourself! In this place, there are no rules, no time structures, no parameters. You get to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, and play how you want to play. And when you do, the most amazing magic happens, you come to expect the unexpected. Here, in wonderland, you access your most infinite resource, your imagination. Once you turn that on, the possibilities within your world become limitless.
The deepest and most profound wisdoms cannot be accessed through the guidance of a guru. Those, you must find on your own.
You see, I’ve been playing in Wonderland for a very long time, and I LOVE IT HERE! It is such an amazing place where every single day I discover out-of-the-way-things and never-expected-occurrences happen. IT. IS. SO. MUCH. FUN!!! I’m talking WAAAAY more fun than the rabbit hole tunnels.
Yet, I feel rather lonely in my wonderland sometimes. I am really a massive introvert. I really love exploring wonderland by myself without having to wait on anyone else, or check to see if my companion wants to do what I am doing or go where I am going. And, I’d also like to occasionally talk to other people who explore their own wonderlands. I want to build a sort of gathering place where Wonderland explorers and can sit at a mad-hatters table and drink some tea out of upside-down cups. I know there are hundreds of thousands of other wonderlands and wonderland explorers out there, probably layered in parallel universes with my own.
I’m Teri Alice Leigh, your not-white-rabbit. Think of me more like the Owl who helps you figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. . . one, two. . . join me in Yoga Wonderland where we can play together, in our imaginations, and make magical-unexpected things come true any time we want. Cuz here in wonderland, why lick the tootsie pop when we can chew!
I need you to believe me when I say that in yoga and in life, the best teachers are those like Alice’s rabbit. They hop away. They abandon you. They leave you to find your way through this tiny door, by yourself. The best teachers expect that we learned what they had to teach and leave us to find our own way with our acquired skills. We call that graduation. Allow me to introduce myself.
As the tootsie-pop owl, your not-white-rabbit, I refuse to be a main character in your yoga story. Because, that’s not what wonderland is about!
Wonderland is about looking INSIDE YOURSELF.
YOU are the main character in your story.
I believe so much in Wonderland and all the adventures that happen there that in November of 2018 I retired from teaching public classes and workshops. I hung up my white rabbit waistcoat and threw away my timepiece, shutting the door back into the rabbit hole. Heck, I was never all that great at getting people to follow me through the rabbit hole for long anyway. The few times I did try to establish myself as a consistent and regular teacher, my residency didn’t last more than 6-9 months. At some point, with all my students, I wanted them to GRADUATE.
In Wonderland, you have complete control of the timing, the pace, the sequencing, and well, EVERYTHING. So, I have changed my title from teacher (authority) to mentor (peer). My job as mentor is to encourage you to be your own teacher, to listen to your own insights, and discover things on your own, in your body, and in your heart that no one else can show you. I am vigilant that I will NOT tell you what to do or when to do it. I’ll only share with you little tea-cup tidbits I have found in my wonderland, all the while, encouraging you to break any and all rules you’ve ever had to follow.
Mentorship is a simple game of questions, and curiosity, and more questions, and more curiosity. And encouraging you to bite the tootsie pop and chew the gooey center. My goal as your mentor is to help spark more questions, to trigger more curiosity. Along the way, I’ll show you some of the things I figured out without the help of a teacher or instructor. But moreso, I’m hoping YOU will show ME and everyone else in the program, the wonder-filled things that YOU discover without a teacher telling you how. And hopefully, somewhere amidst all those questions and explorations and adventures and discoveries, you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of your most infinite resource, your IMAGINATION!
The Creatures of Wonderland
When I ventured into Wonderland, Alice showed me the tiny door. I borrowed her adventures in order to find my own. Come meet the mouse who showed me how to swim in a pool of my own tears. Run with me in the Caucus Race where the Dodo, Lory, Duck, and Eaglet reminded me of my warrior strength. Eat from both sides of the hookah smoking caterpillar’s mushroom where balance is not about finding center but about playing on the see-saw teeter-totter to get that whee tickle feel in the tummy. I promise you, somewhere in Wonderland, you’ll find yourself grinning like a disappearing Cheshire Cat in a tree. After borrowing Alice’s ventures for awhile, I found my own when I stole that cocky cat’s grin and smacked it on my own smug face. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an owl with the crooked purple mortar board and strawberry flavored tootsie pop. If you need, I’ll loan my my polka dotted pointing stick, and you can use it as a magic wand, or a wizard staff, or a walking stick, or whatever you want it to be. Eventually, you’ll become your own magic creature and play amongst us all in your own way too.
Unlock the Tiny Door
But first, you have to take the initial step and get yourself through that tiny door. I know, that door looks teeny-tiny, and it doesn’t make sense that you can fit your too-big-body through. I invite you, be like Alice, and expect “nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen.” When you get on your home yoga wonderland practice mat, just to do a few stretches, with a few deep breaths, you will fan yourself with your White Rabbit’s tiny fan. The fan of your breath makes your ego shrink, as well as the things you think you know and all the things your teachers taught you to know. Then, your imagination grows. When you just get on your mat alone, you get to make-up-the-rules-as-you-go, like the Queen’s Croquet Game.
Just do it, get on your mat.
Questions for Comment
- How did you tumble down the Yoga Rabbit Hole? What White Rabbit led you?
- Who are the most influential White Rabbits of your life?
- When was a time a White Rabbit left you?
- What excites you most about Yoga Wonderland?
Who was the White Rabbit you followed into the Yoga Rabbit Hole? (If you have never done yoga before, you can say that you skipped the rabbit hole tunnel and went straight to wonderland) Share your story in the comments below.