Through the Eye of the Storm and Back Again #LevelOne #Menla2016 #BaptisteYoga

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I have never been as proud to wear and keep an event lanyard as I am of my badge from Baptiste Level One training.
Photo Aug 13, 7 47 45 PM

For the past eight days I have been attending my first Level One experience at the Menla Mountain Retreat Center in upstate New York (in Phoenecia, near the Catskills Mountains). Prior to arriving, I scoured the Internet, searching for information on what to bring, what to expect, how to prepare?! Essentially, I came up empty handed. I know that my experience is only a tiny sliver (1/155th) of the overall event, but I am compelled to share my experience with others.

My planning/packing is well documented in this blog post, and now that I have been there and back, I can identify things that I would have done differently, or not at all.

Starting with the logistics of getting to Menla - I had a great experience with Advantage Transportation. Our driver Lawrence was waiting four our group at the Albany airport before I'd even landed. He was very helpful, friendly and he went above and beyond to ensure we had a pleasant trip to and from Menla. He arrived early on our departure date, picking me up outside my bunkhouse (and saving me a ten minute walk to the front of the Lhasa Inn (the main dining hall and check in/out desk).
Photo Aug 06, 4 26 34 PM

Photo Aug 06, 4 25 22 PM
I opted for the bunkhouse residency in order to be more involved in the social aspects of Level One and I had several warm, connective conversations across the kitchen table of the Dragon House. I was unaware that the bunkhouse had no air conditioning but had a full kitchen. As a result, the battery powered fan I brought was essential. If I had known about the refrigerator, I would've brought a silicone ice tray, but luckily a lady on the lower level of the bunkhouse came prepared! Genius!!


My clothes drying rack worked well enough, but I'll have to redesign the main tripod connection joint. The epoxy I used didn't hold the tripod nut to the PVC cap as well as I'd hoped. The handout says to pack enough changes of clothes for 2 changes per day, but what it does not say is that your sleeping quarters are such a long walk away from the dining hall that you won't have enough time to eat, get showered/changed and get back to the conference center in time. Out of the eight days, I managed to catch a full mid-day shower once. Two other days I managed to wash my hair in the sink during lunch. I brought 7 full outfits and only had to re-wear one pair of leggings. The Nalanda Conference Center is a full ten minute walk to the Lhasa Inn Dining Hall by way of the South road. There is a trail through the woods (indicated on the Menla map) which is only a five minute walk between Nalanda and Lhasa. Either way, the one day I managed to shower, I was already beginning to sweat by the time I'd returned to Nalanda for the after lunch inquiry session.

Bring baby wipes/antiseptic wipes, twine to string up clothes lines (I didn't think of this), and shoes that can traverse gravel roads and uneven surfaces. Espadrilles are not sufficient (trust me on this one).

Photo Aug 13, 7 10 55 PM

The gift shop in the Lhasa Inn is stocked with bug spray, sunscreen, deodorant and other sundries if you forget anything (or don't want to pack everything in your carry-on bag). Had I known this, I would've left some stuff at home & bought it there if I needed it.
Photo Aug 12, 1 42 53 PM

The first night was a general overview of the tenets of Baptiste yoga and an outline for the rest of the week's schedule. Our days began with breakfast from 6:30-7:30 in the main dining hall (Lhasa Inn), followed by morning meditation at 8am in the Nalanda Conference Center. Each morning Baron held a guided meditation for our group, followed by us listening to audio tracks from Tree of Knowledge by Humberto R. Maturana or selections of Osho. After meditation, we had a snack break and then returned to the conference center room for asana practice. The first day (Sunday), Baron led us through the Journey Into Power sequence. Subsequent days we did individual practice of our own JIP flow, each day building on the previous day's learned section of the flow. After lunches, we'd return to the conference center for Inquiry work, sharing sessions or connection oriented interactive games.

Our inquiry sessions began with the group being asked to create a fear inventory. We drew four columns on a page of our journals and the header for each column went like this:

What are some of your fears? What are the things that you do or do not do to handle these fears? What is the experience you have when those fears are happening? What do you say to yourself or others to explain your emotional reaction and/or those body sensations?

With this beginning list of fears, we were asked to journal that evening on the day's events. The following day we began inquiry on our pretenses, what are we hiding and what does it cost us? The next inquiry session focused on us creating a complaint list, what it costs us and what the complaint is about (being specific). These inquiry sessions were spread out throughout the week's events, each session building on the previous sessions' work.

The takeaway I had from the inquiry work was the full understanding that the voice in my head (the internal narrator/critic) is a liar of the worst kind. It is human nature to make stories about the things we observe/experience. This does not make these stories fact. They are just stories (lies). Each and every one of us struggles with an internal narrator who tells us such things as "I am no good", "I am alone", "I am unloveable", "I am unwanted". The list is endless and the list is complete bullshit. Thing happen to us, we make assumptions, crate a story and then cary this story with us as an trophy/albatross as a reason/excuse for why we are the way that we are. The fact is, if we change our minds/stories that anything is possible for us once we stop living behind the towering fortress walls of our stories/lies.
Photo Aug 11, 2 43 39 PM

Each of us has a "hidden truth/secret", kept from others because if they found out this truth, they'd leave us, wouldn't love us, wouldn't accept us and we'd be alone. These "truths" are often "I'm not good enough", "I'm not smart enough", "I'm bad", "I'm a loser", "I'm a failure". These statements are lies and are incredibly self-limiting. Our earliest experiences shape (restrict) our adult selves, but letting the hurting six year old child within each of us run the emotional control board of our meat covered skeleton made of space dust is a guaranteed recipe for misunderstanding, resentment, frustration, loneliness, anger, etc.

The connection oriented sessions reminded me of some of the games I've played within the Authentic Relating Community in Austin Texas. There are many cities across the United States and Canada that have communities similar to that of the Austin Love Juggernaut. I encourage you to do some research and see if there isn't an AR community in your town! The events are small-ish gatherings (less than 30 people typically) where people come together out of curiosity and engage in person-to-person relating experiences.

To ease the group of Level One attendees into relating to one another more fully, we were asked to engage in eye gazing for one minute with each partner we paired up with before we entered into the teacher/student training portion of each day's Level One training. Each morning Baron asked us to generate "Good Morning" with our community and have us greet our community one by one with a hearty "Good Morning". After three days of inter-relating connecting games and sharing experiences, the handshakes that had originally accompanied the "Good Morning" exercise spontaneously evolved into hugging on the 4th morning. It was a beautiful thing to behold!

I am deliberately excluding full descriptions of the connection oriented events that we engaged in so that I don't ruin the surprise and discovery for anyone embarking on their first Level One trip!


The Nalanda Conference Center is a beautiful, spacious room with lovely views of the woods out each of the windows. The Baptiste Institute had hung posters on the main wall of the studio for this event. Each banner listed different aspects of the Baptiste methodology - The Centerline, True North Alignment, The 10 Tenets of Teaching Baptiste Yoga etc. I have transcribed the contents of the banners here:

WITNESS
THE OBSERVER SELF
MENTAL REALM
THOUGHTS, ATTITUDES, DECISIONS, BELIEFS, IMAGES OF THE PAST
EMOTIONS
BODY SENSATIONS
ACTIONS/NON-ACTIONS
RESULTS 
(all of these things = WHO I CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE)

THE CENTERLINE
The centerline is the place between the right and left side of the body. From the skin to the muscle to the bone PULL INTO each bone... then, all the engaged parts of the body pull into the centerline and core to PRESS & EXPRESS OUT.

THE PRACTICES & TECHNIQUES OF BAPTISTE YOGA

1. Physical (Asana): Journey Into Power as an access to vitality, power & freedom.
2. Meditation (Dhyana): As an access to getting present & awakening.
3. Inquiry (Niyama): As an access to discovery & new possibility.

TRUE NORTH ALIGNMENT
1. Ground down like EARTH
    FEET
        Both feet at 12 o'clock
        Ground down the 4 corners of the feet
        Stretch the toes out on the mat
    LEGS
        Inner ankles back, outer ankles down
        Outer shins in
        From the skin to the muscle to the bone, hug in
2. Flow like WATER
    1. Soften the joints
    2. Keep the pelvis neutral
    3. Lift the front of the pelvis as the tailbone descends
3. Build an inner FIRE
    1. From the skin to the muscle to the bone, hug in
    2. Pull the pit of the belly in and up
    3. Draw the front ribs together, expand the mid-back
    4. Expand from the inside out
4. Soften like AIR
    1. Thoracic spine draws in
    2. Upper arm bones back
    3. Shoulder blades move towards the spine & press into the body
5. Create SPACE for something new
    1. Draw in to create full expression out!

THE TEN TENETS OF TEACHING BAPTISTE YOGA
1. Come from we are connected
2. Drop what you know and listen
3. Teach from the methodology
4. Fill the space
5. Leave people in their greatness
6. Speak into each and every
7. Listen for how your words are landing in people's bodies and hearts
8. Create the listening for contribution
9. Look for and speak to what is missing
10. Generate inspiration

THE 5 ORGANIZING PRINCIPALS OF TRUE NORTH ALIGNMENT
1. Be Intentional: in creating the physical foundation of the pose & being up to something bigger than yourself
2. Balanced Action: Create Sthira Sukha
3.  The Five Pillars: Put in and keep present Drishti, Ujjayi, Bandhas, Tapas, Vinyasa
4. Total Body Integrity: PULL IN, PRESS DOWN & LIFT UP to integrate... create muscle to bone connection (pull into centerline & core)
5. Total Body Expression: PRESS, LIFT, MOVE & fully express out (move out from center & core)

THE FIVE PILLARS OF THE BAPTISTE POWER VINYASA YOGA PRACTICE
1. Drishti - Gaze
2. Ujjayi - Breath
3. Foundation - Core, Hands & Feet
4. Tapas - Heat
5. Vinyasa - Flow

THE ART & MASTERY OF PRACTICING & TEACHING
1. LOOK: For True North & what's possible. Put your drishti ON the areas you want to transform.
2. LISTEN: Your listening makes the difference and not your knowledge.
3. GIVE TOOLS: That make a difference right now

THE 3 THEMES OF BAPTISTE TRAINING
1. Be a YES: As a creation, not a concept. Put your attention ON what you feast to have happen and be for it.
2. Give Up What You Must: Bring into view & let go the fixed drishti's (perceptions) & Tadasana's (positions) that thwart and constrain you.
3. Come From You Are Ready Now: Move, breathe & have your being from "Right now is all I've got." Make the higher call at each step.

THE THREE SOURCE PRINCIPLES
1. Physicalness
2. Possibility
3. Empowerment

The words we were taught for cueing True North Alignment differed somewhat from those on the banners. The banners were dated 2014, so I can only assume that these are the new verbal cues Baron wants us to use to teach True North Alignment.

New cueing words - 2016 Level One
Feet on 12 o'clock
Lift the 10 toes
Spread the 10 toes
Press the mound of each big toe down
Press the center of each heel down
Lift up
Turn the inner ankles back
Pull the leg muscles into the bones
Pull the outer shins in
Lift the front of the pelvis up towards the belly button
Pull the pit of the belly into the spine
Pull the shoulders up to your ears
Expand out across the chest and upper back
Pull the shoulders straight back
Press the thoracic spine into the chest

The full sequencing of poses for the Journey Into Power are as follows:

Child's pose
Down dog
Ragdoll
Mountain
Samasthiti with three OMs
Sun Salutation A:
Extended Mountain
Forward fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Step or hop to the front of the mat
[repeat 5x]
Sun Salutation B:
Thunderbolt
Forward Fold
Half lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Right Foot Warrior 1
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Left Foot Warrior 1
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
[repeat 5x]
Sun B Variation - Flip dog /side plank [on last down dog of last Sun B]
Flip dog on Right side
Transition to side plank on left side
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Flip dog on Left side
transition to side plank on right side
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Sun B Variation with Crescent Lunge into twist:
Step or hop to the front of the mat
Thunderbolt
Forward fold
Half lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Crescent lunge right side
hands to heart center
twist to the right
open up to Warrior 2
transition to Extended Side Angle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Crescent lunge left side
hands to heart center
twist to the left
open up to Warrior 2
transition to Extended Side Angle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Thunderbolt prayer twist (once each side)
Fingers to toes forward fold (feet hip width apart)
Palms to toes forward fold (feet hip width apart)
Crow Pose
Eagle Pose (2x each side)
Standing Leg Raise
Airplane
Half Moon
Dancer's Pose (2x each side)
Tree
Sun Salutation B - variation with triangle
Forward Fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Right Foot Warrior 1
Open Up Warrior 2
Straighten front leg, Triangle
Side Facing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Namaste Front Facing Forward Fold
Twisting Triangle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Left Foot Warrior 1
Open Up Warrior 2
Straighten front leg, Triangle
Side Facing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Namaste Front Facing Forward Fold
Twisting Triangle
Locust (x2)
Floor Bow (x2
Upward Facing Dog
Camel (x2
Bridge
Wheel (x6)
Supta Baddha Konasana
Dead Bug
Scissor Legs (x50)
60/30 Lift (x10)
Abdominal Twists (x50 [25 each side])
Boat Pose (high to low x10)
Half Pigeon Right Side
Downward Facing Dog
Half Pigeon Left side
Double Pigeon (x1 each side)
Frog
Seated Single Leg Extension (x1 each side)
Seated Forward Bend
Table Top
Fish
Shoulder stand / Head stand/ Handstand or Waterfall pose
Plow Pose
Deaf Man's Pose
Supine Twist (x1 each side)
Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Savasana


 The Journey Into Power sequence with the intention for each of the eleven sequence sections is listed below:

INTEGRATION
Child's pose
Down dog
Ragdoll
Mountain Pose
Samasthiti with three OMs
AWAKENING
Sun Salutation A:
Extended Mountain
Forward fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Step or hop to the front of the mat
[repeat 5x]
Sun Salutation B:
Thunderbolt
Forward Fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Right Foot Warrior 1
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Left Foot Warrior 1
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
[repeat 5x]
Sun B Variation - Flip dog /side plank [on last down dog of last Sun B]
Flip dog on Right side
Transition to side plank on left side
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Flip dog on Left side
transition to side plank on right side
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
VITALITY
Sun B Variation with Crescent Lunge into twist:
Step or hop to the front of the mat
Thunderbolt
Forward Fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Crescent lunge right side
hands to heart center
twist to the right
open up to Warrior 2
transition to Extended Side Angle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Crescent lunge left side
hands to heart center
twist to the left
open up to Warrior 2
transition to Extended Side Angle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Thunderbolt prayer twist (once each side)
Fingers to toes forward fold (feet hip width apart)
Palms to toes forward fold (feet hip width apart)
Crow Pose
EQUANIMITY
Eagle Pose (2x each side)
Standing Leg Raise
Airplane
Half Moon
Dancer's Pose (2x each side)
Tree
GROUNDING
Sun Salutation B - variation with triangle
Forward Fold
Half Lift
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Right Foot Warrior 1
Open Up Warrior 2
Straighten front leg, Triangle
Side Facing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Namaste Front Facing Forward Fold
Twisting Triangle
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Left Foot Warrior 1
Open Up Warrior 2
Straighten front leg, Triangle
Side Facing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Namaste Front Facing Forward Fold
Twisting Triangle
IGNITING
Locust (x2)
Floor Bow (x2
Upward Facing Dog
Camel (x2
Bridge
Wheel (x6)
Supta Baddha Konasana
Dead Bug
STABILITY
Scissor Legs (x50)
60/30 Lift (x10)
Abdominal Twists (x50 [25 each side])
Boat Pose (high to low x10)
OPENING
Half Pigeon Right Side
Downward Facing Dog
Half Pigeon Left side
Double Pigeon (x1 each side)
Frog
RELEASE
Seated Single Leg Extension (x1 each side)
Seated Forward Bend
Table Top
Fish
REJUVENATION
Shoulder stand / Head stand/ Handstand or Waterfall pose
Plow Pose
Deaf Man's Pose
DEEP RELEASE
Supine Twist (x1 each side)
Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Savasana
I uploaded the pictures I took while I was at Level One to Flickr:

Created with flickr slideshow.