by Megha Nancy Buttenheim
This is the third in a three-part series on practicing authenticity in daily life. Part 1 explores authenticity through the chakra practice of Let Your Yoga Dance. Part 2 looks at authenticity through the lens of VIA character strengths. Today’s post brings inSPIRED Let Your Yoga Dance into the mix.
Wholebeing Institute’s SPIRE methodology is a wonderful roadmap for authentic living. SPIRE stands for:
S – Spiritual
Leading a meaningful and moral life and living mindfully, while contributing to the greater good.
P – Physical
Cultivating a healthy body through exercise, nutrition, and adequate rest and recovery.
I – Intellectual
Acquiring knowledge, engaging in rigorous scholarship, cultivating creativity, and fostering the love of learning.
R – Relational
Contributing to, and in turn, benefiting from other people by focusing on the role that the person plays in his or her social environment.
E – Emotional
Increasing one’s ability to experience pleasurable emotions while acquiring the resilience necessary to effectively deal with painful emotions.
I have created a new branch of Let Your Yoga Dance that embodies positive psychology; I call it inSPIREd Let Your Yoga Dance. When you join these five letters—S, P, I, R, and E—an inspiring map to authenticity, health, and wholebeing is created. These elements, when explored together, pave the way to a more authentic, joyous life.
Since SPIRE entered my life, I have begun to look at my choices from the SPIRE perspective, along with the lens of the chakras. Here’s an example of making an authentically inSPIREd choice:
Looking Back to 1984: How SPIRE Worked for Me
Back in the late summer of ‘84, I made a choice that turned my life in a completely different direction. I had been feeling inauthentic as an actor auditioning for roles in New York City. I yearned for more meaning; I wanted to be more genuine, both in my personal and work life. I chose to put my acting career in New York on hold for 30 days, and moved to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (then a yoga ashram) for the month of August, to become a Spiritual Lifestyle Trainee. Just for one month, mind you. That month became 12 years.
Although SPIRE did not exist as a concept back then, with hindsight, it is clear that I was integrating those five in-SPIRE-ing elements into my life. I was constantly evaluating and reevaluating my choice. Even though I longed to return to the theater, I stayed because I felt more real, more whole, more authentic. I felt I was doing the work I was supposed to be doing.
I felt spiritually compelled to remain there. I was in the midst of a unique, noble, spiritual experiment in living. My purpose was clear, and I was living for a greater good: karma yoga, or selfless service.
Physically, I thrived. I practiced yoga. I danced. We ate organic food. We lived in a holistic health center.
Intellectually, I was moving on a huge learning curve. Holistic teachers, such as Deepak Chopra, Ann Wigmore (the creator of Living Foods), and Swami Satchidananda (the “Woodstock” guru) visited and taught the Kripalu residents. Deepak came to us long before he was a household name. During those years of constant learning and inspiration, I was in awe much of the time.
Relationally, I was taught to communicate in new ways. As a community, we were taught to love ourselves, one another, and the thousands of guests that walked through our doors each year. As I began to teach at Kripalu, I took on the phrase: “I haven’t come to teach you, but to love you, and the love alone will teach you.” This phrase has become a core teaching in Let Your Yoga Dance. Love is my genuine teaching tenet.
Emotionally, I kept asking myself, “How does my heart feel about staying here? Is my heart okay with this choice? How do I feel?” And the answer from that not-so-still, not-so-small voice inside my heart was always the same: “Yup—hang in there. You’re in the right place. You are becoming who you truly are.” My heart was strong. It knew my choice was the right one. So I stayed put.
A Guided inSPIRED Meditation
Finding the most authentic choice in our lives is made easier through meditation. Here’s a brief visualization experience for you to try.
Take a moment to pause. Begin to take some long, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling.
The next time you inhale, tilt your head gently upward. On the exhale, tilt your head down.
Inhale, bringing your head back to center. Exhale, turning your head slowly to the right. Inhale, returning the head to center. Exhale, slowly turning your head to the left. Inhale, returning the head to center.
Repeat two more times. After completing three rounds, pause, enjoying the quiet.
Now, in the stillness of the breath, bring to your mind’s eye a genuine choice you’re about to make—today, this week, or this month. It can be a simple or large choice, but it needs to bring you closer to your own authenticity.
Now invite SPIRE into your awareness. Examine your choice through the lens of each element of SPIRE. Remember to take long, deep breaths during this inquiry. Examine your choice from a spiritual, physical, and intellectual point of view, as well as from the relational and emotional perspectives. Also examine whether you’re choosing to begin something, or choosing to end something. As you continue to deeply breathe, get a felt sense of that choice from within the framework of SPIRE. See what happens.
After three minutes of silence, take a few more deep breaths. When you’re ready, open your eyes. As you see the world around you with inSPIREd eyes, ask yourself, “What did I learn? Did SPIRE help me make a choice?” You can use SPIRE as a template for all your decisions, both tough ones and easy ones.
The Skin Horse’s Wisdom on Authenticity
I will leave you now with the following profound study on authenticity, from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams Bianco.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
This post is adapted from Megha’s new book Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance: Embodying Positive Psychology, which takes WBI’s SPIRE methodology into the body to explore an embodied roadmap to consciousness.
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Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC, and author of Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology. A lifelong singer, dancer, and actor, she is a long-time teacher trainer at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. She has led her own signature training, Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training, since 1997, in different parts of the world. Megha is the director of movement and meditation at the Wholebeing Institute, teaching in the Certificate in Positive Psychology program. Megha’s passion is to bring the dance of yoga to everyone, including special populations who feel marginalized due to age, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, and other health conditions. To that end, Megha directs Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training for Special Populations. letyouryogadance.com