The truth is, I see the Katonah theory in everything I do. Every time I lose my bearings, I turn to an aspect of the theory to come back to myself. Some of you know that four people have died in my husband’s family from SARS-CoV-2, and it was only about 3 years ago that my husband was in the hospital for 2 weeks battling an aggressive pneumonia that almost killed him. In the midst of circumstances like these, we get spun out and lose ourselves. Yet, there is always a way back into the body, back into this moment with myself. And the same is true for you.
Sunday In class I said, “this practice is infinitely hopeful”. I believe this completely. When we look to Great Nature to see the intelligence and pattern repeated time and time again, within it we get glimpses into how we can learn from our circumstances. This takes us deeper into the knowledge of and relationship with ourselves, over time realizing that we are only one piece within the web of Great Nature executing its patterns over and over again.
nature . pattern . intelligence
We talk about these concepts a lot, but what do they really mean? I personally use the term Great Nature as a stand in for saying the Tao. The Tao is a Chinese philosophical concept of the essential organizing principle that is underlying every aspect of existence, it can also be translated as a way or a flow which should be followed.
My favorite way to conceptualize this is the pattern of the day.
When the sun rises, get up.
Complete most of your high energy activities before the afternoon (if and when possible).
Start to quiet yourself down as the sun begins to set. Relax and sleep when the sun is set.
I love this as an example because it highlights just how simple it can be to take cues from Great Nature and how out of sync our society can be.
Just like in practice, if we take a simple pattern and observe how we either move with or against it, we can see a little glimpse into our unconscious and what is motivating us to move through the world. Thus, using the pattern of Great Nature and repeating it, knowing that the patterns of Great Nature imply intelligence.
The practice offers us opportunities for inquiry and insight at every turn:
What is it about moving forward into a lunge that is blocked for you? Do you find it difficult to step up, step forward, put yourself out there? Does it feel more familiar, less risky to hang back?
Do you hate plow pose? Are there aspects of yourself that are too linear and rigid?
Or are you becoming more familiar with ways to contact yourself that feel safe?
In this way, I see Katonah Yoga interfacing with contemplative practices. In fact, I propose that Katonah Yoga is contemplative.
In general discourse we tend to think of these as seated meditation or prayer practices and that is certainly true. In the context of Katonah, we learn technique, form, and theory in class/trainings. This context allows us to ask clarifying questions, to feel the patterns in our body, and to learn things like the right leg is the paternal root that motivates us to step out into the world, and the left leg is that maternal root that helps us to hold our ground and learn willpower. Over time we internalize this information, this theory, and we work it for ourselves. It empowers us to move deeper into how our physical body is always showing us pieces of our psychology, because the two are intrinsically linked. (If that sparks your interest check out The Body Keeps the Score.)
Formal practice empowers us to move into the inner world.
Just as a good therapist acts as an object of transference for us to project all of our issues onto, to act as a mirror for us to see ourselves, so too does the formality of the practice. This is the primary function of using maps, and we use a lot of them.
You may have heard their names:
The Magic Square
The Wraps for Rapture
The map of the clock or the compass
The Body as a House/Plant/Car/Musical Scale/Garden.
Every single one of these and more allows us to work with an aspect that exists within Great Nature, the macrocosm, finding it within ourselves, the microcosm. Often these realizations are very personal and often can set us on the path to shift our lives in ways we could have never thought of. It is the reason I am back in school, the reason I went from being a shy timid person to being less afraid to speak up and use my voice, the reason I went from never wanting to leave NYC to not moving back.
Making the unconscious conscious
The formality of the practice holds us accountable to ourselves. It makes us realize that we are powerful and autonomous. This practice is meant to revolutionize the way we relate to ourselves and the world, putting forth organized and purposeful effort so that ultimately we receive an experience of harmony within our lives. And, it only works if we work it, repetition leads to insight.
“Where can I read more?”
I get this question a lot. Katonah Yoga is essentially an oral tradition and every single person has learned it from coming to class and taking trainings, over and over. Within the context of class the teacher will mention home practice at some point, and as you dive deeper into the theory you will learn that Home Practice is really where all of the information comes alive. A Katonah Yoga practice without some version of a Home Practice is truly only ever a portion of its potential. You have to put the material to work within your life, and in doing so the theory unravels into a web of interconnectivity to everything else you know and experience. If you want to practice this theory, participate in the world, read literature, go see art, watch the sun rise, participate in your community. Look for the patterns that you see all around you and you’re setting the stage for moments of insight. Or keep showing up and the beginning practice makes your body feel really fucking good. But isn’t it amazing to know that that is only the tip of the iceberg?!
Suggested Reading List:
Staying Healthy with the Seasons
The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe
Tao te Ching