What exactly is dharmaKaya yoga? by Cherryl Duncan

This Friday coming (the 9th June), I will be giving a talk as part of an online speaker series called Heal and Fuel.

Summit is for all the highly committed entrepreneurs and high potentials out there who love to give 100% for their dreams. If you love what you do and you want to be efficient and effective, you need strategies to keep your energy flowing!

It’s totally free so if you’re interested then register at https://shipwood.lpages.co/heal-and-fuel/

I’ve been preparing my talk this week, and delivering it on Friday is going to be a new and exciting experience for me, but what I am enjoying most about the process is that it forces me to very clearly define what it is that I do.

If I am to speak convincingly about yoga, and particularly my method of yoga, then I need to be very clear.

It sounds obvious, but when dharmaKaya was born, it was less ‘spark of divine inspiration’, and more practical necessity.

My style of teaching asana, and the philosophical content I was delivering was nothing that could be squeezed into any particular style, method, or philosophy I’d formally trained in.

It was rather an accumulation, integration, an all -encompassing mish mash of what I knew to be absolutely true, for me.

And it’s from that place that I am passionately committed to teaching from. In fact, authenticity is one of the anchors the method is based on, another topic I became especially committed to when I wrote Magnificently Real (Insert amazon link here)

So I gave my method a name and continued on my way.

Then things got a bit complicated and I found out that I needed to register and protect the name, and then an incredible thing happened in that other people wanted to learn the method too. So I started running teacher training programs and now we are a growing community of people evolving dharmaKaya together.

It’s very cool.

I have never claimed that dharmaKaya is a path to enlightenment. I do not know the path to enlightenment exactly, but I have learnt some pretty groovy practices along that way that have helped me develop incredible internal resilience and strength. I have overcome deep-rooted fears that allow me the courage to live a life with intensity and aliveness I never knew before finding yoga. My ability to be present, intuitive, empathetic, and available for connection is, I believe, directly related to the practices of mindfulness and meditation. And most importantly, I have changed the way I see the world, my perception is a constantly shifting process, one that goes deeper and deeper into the mystery; a mystery that is ultimately unknowable. Exactly the kind of challenge I’m up for,  one that you can never truly master. Because if we did know everything, if we had it all figured out, and understood everything, then there would be no more mystery, and to live without mystery, well, I just think that’s kind of dull. And yet, here I am, relentlessly pursuing truth with a belief that I’ll find it one day. The great paradox principle, my constant companion. Paradox, by the way, is another anchor, central to the dharmaKaya method and one of my favorites to teach. It stands in the face of pure dogma of absolute rights and wrongs and acknowledges the complexity of us as humans and the world around us. To play and accept that we are all things at once, contradicting often and true at the same time.

Having gone a little bit down the rabbit hole now, I realise how weird it is  now tell you that dharmaKaya is essentially about demystifying and harnessing the power of yoga. But it's true.  It’s about taking big ideas and making them simple and accessible. I use a lot of examples frommy own life, and from the lives of the people I work with as a way to inspire change in others. My life is often my message, my failures, my successes and my insights. I do not claim to know more than anyone else, I just share what I do know to be true- even it’s a very very small truth and that’s something.

I use the technology of Master Patanajali as part of the method because it makes sense, it has a logic I can appreciate and a practical set of tools that can have a powerful impact to raise states of consciousness. But, while I think it’s an incredibly useful text, I do not think it is the only source, the greatest source or the ultimate truth. But the technology works and I use it often in my teachings as part of the method.

Mindfulness is another of the important anchors of the method, a simple but powerful tool to be in the present moment.

I believe strongly in taking responsibility for our own lives and believe that we’re ultimately responsible, at least for the most part, for the lives we create and the last big point of the dharmaKaya method is a belief in self. I encourage students to develop their own personal and real relationship with consciousness. I do not believe this is anything anyone else can do for us and I certainly don’t believe that a guru is essential to gain access to these different states of being.

These principles are at the heart of the method and show up in every class in one form or another.

I use them in my coaching sessions, my yoga classes, my mindfulness trainings and of course we go very deeply into them in my teacher training programs.

For more information on booking a private session or signing up for a training visit www.cherrylduncan.com

The yoga practice itself can be described as a slow, challenging sequence of poses that flow into each other, with some long holds towards the end.

It is suitable for all levels – slow enough for beginners, challenging enough for advanced practitioners.

My talk on Friday will summarize the 5 anchors of dharmaKaya yoga but will speak more to using it on a practical day to day basis.

Looking forward to connecting you in whichever way we will.

Cherryl

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Now Yoga is really for everyone by Cherryl Duncan

I’ve recently been teaching a lot at the beautiful Schloss Elmau. For those of you who don’t know what or where that is, it’s a big, fairy castle style hotel right in the Bavarian Alps. The hotel itself looks onto a gorgeous mountain range and has everything one can possibly imagine in terms of beauty, luxury, relaxation, yoga, hiking, skiing and incredible food. It’s hard not to feel like a princess staying there.

I’m lucky enough to teach yoga there with some frequency, and while the place itself is gorgeous and my time there is nothing short of fabulous, what I am enjoying more and more is the opportunity to teach absolute beginners. With over 300 rooms, it’s a huge hotel which means all kinds of people will show up for a beginner yoga class. Some trying it out for the first time.

During my 15 years of teaching yoga, I have seen the amount and type of people coming to yoga go from a relatively small amount ex dancers, flexible skinnies, gymnasts and sporty girls, to more ex dancers, flexible skinnies, gymnasts and sporty girls, and then to a relatively small amount of inflexible, old, unhealthy, normal folk, including the lesser spotted man, to more and more inflexible, old, unhealthy normal folk and yes more and more of the lesser spotted man,  all showing up for a yoga class.

This is good for two reasons.

One, because it means yoga is firmly out of the woo woo zone and is recognised by health professionals for the use in preventative, curative, and rehabilitative care. It means more and more people are enjoying the many benefits of yoga, even if they just get there because of a knee injury for example. The many benefits of course being overall happier, more vital, more clear and more focussed to name just a few.

The other reason it’s good, and this is more from the yoga teacher’s perspective, is that yoga teachers have to actually teach. As opposed to calling out the names of poses and walking around the room in the latest pair of lululemons. It means having to make real connections with the students, be of real benefit to those in serious need, it means more presence, more skill, and therefore much more reward.

It separates the asana callers out from the experienced and skilled yoga teachers, which quite frankly, is a huge relief because at some point I was seriously worried that my job could and would soon be replaced by, much like the bank tellers job, a machine.

With the influx of all sorts of people coming into my yoga class, I have woken up from my slumber of teaching the already fit and strong, and now welcome the multi level, broken, tired, wounded, injured, afraid, old, young, stressed, burnt out and inflexible with a renewed sense of enthusiasm because I know today I get to help someone.

 

- Cherryl Duncan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something that was published on Recovery Yogi by Cherryl Duncan

By Cherryl Duncan

Leo Burnett, a famous American advertising executive, said, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Quoting this advertising guru as a prelude to my piece on enlightenment makes me smile at the irony, which for me is another way of saying “the humor of the great mystery,” because I was one of those people who gave up my job in advertising ten years ago to pursue life as a full-time yoga teacher, and yet here I am, quoting the great advertising guru Leo Burnett.

In any event, I think his view on reaching an incredibly high goal like enlightenment paradoxically brings me closer to enlightenment, or at least closer to something that isn’t a handful of mud.

Anyone will you tell you that if you practice something consistently and passionately, forsaking all other distractions, you will most likely succeed, or at least become very very good at this thing.

I say, true! Except for the enlightenment principle (that may or may not happen in this lifetime). The enlightenment principle I refer to here is the one made famous by the historical Buddha: the state of being where one is free from all suffering, has a complete understanding of the nature of reality, has seen the interconnectedness of all things, and therefore acts with unwavering selflessness.

I can honestly say I am nowhere nearer to enlightenment than I was 12 years ago when I started practicing yoga. I gave up pretty much everything to follow this path: my job; earning any kind of real money; time spent meditating, searching, debating, retreating, and studying different forms of the same thing including Buddhism, Sutra, and my own psyche.

I took it as far as my logical and even sometimes my illogical mind (and body) could stretch, and what I came up with was more awareness, more insight into the nature of my mind (but not reality, because who can really claim to have a handle on that?), a more compassionate heart, an ability to really empathise and connect with others, an incredibly stretchy body, health and vitality, and, I would say, an above-average ability to concentrate.

But enlightened? No.

And when I look around at my fellow yogis, they don’t seem any more or less enlightened than me—and that includes ALL of the teachers I’ve had, many of whom have been practicing a lot longer than I have. And yes, I know the convenient argument all too well, the one that goes “You have to be enlightened to see an enlightened being.” Like I said, convenient.

That’s not to say I haven’t met charismatic, clever, disciplined, wonderful people, but free of their suffering? Free from their egos? Having a complete understanding of the nature of reality? No.

I can, albeit somewhat reluctantly say, some of the kindest, most evolved people I know don’t even practice yoga.

Maybe the Buddha was enlightened. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was just a guy who said some really wise things on how to be happy and feel free. Maybe people wrote what he said down wrong; maybe they got some bits right. Maybe he did sit down under a tree for a profoundly long time until he was enlightened, and if he did, and that’s what it’s going to take, then can we just acknowledge that, and relax the goal a little bit for people doing other things in their lives like creating, earning money, and having relationships, even if said people are pretty serious yoga practitioners?

I don’t know about you, but the pressure is starting to feel, well, what’s the opposite of enlightened?

How about we find out what enlightenment means for us individually? How about we stop beating ourselves up if we aren’t perfect or vaguely enlightened within ten years, twenty years, or even on our deathbeds? Maybe there’s a way to relax the enlightenment principle a little bit so we can get onto the business of actually living. And while we’re at it, can we stop talking about it casually in our yoga classes as an actual, achievable goal?

So what am I aiming for then? I still say aim for the stars, but with a bit of sense, a lot of curiosity and a profound appreciation for something just a little better than mud.

Learning to Ride by Cherryl Duncan

Dear Friends,

I remember when I was learning to surf.
Most of the time was spent just trying to get out past the break to the place where I could wait, wait for the wave that was going to be one I would stand up on. The one I would ride all the way until there was no power left to hold me up.
I had gotten up enough times to want that feeling again and again.
 
It’s the thought of that feeling that kept me paddling out, sometimes for half an hour, sometimes an hour, sometimes to the point where I just wanted to give up.
 
The thought of riding the wave would start to feel like a dream, like it never really happened. The pain of paddling, the pain of missing the wave, the pain of the struggle would overshadow the memory of riding the wave. And then it would become just about paddling. Paddling when I couldn’t see where the break ended, paddling when sometimes I even doubted the direction, paddling when I was afraid of drowning. Paddling one stroke and then one after that, despite the waves pushing me back the few meters of progress I’d made.
 
The dream of the ride would fade, and I knew somewhere in the back of my mind why I was doing this, but it didn’t even matter. The paddling became the end game. There came a surrender in the struggle, and if you’ve ever made friends with the ocean, you will know, there is one way the relationship with the Ocean works; and that is to surrender completely. To fight is futile.
 
But, with surrender also comes great freedom.
It’s a different, more solid and enduring freedom. The kind of freedom that carves initials on your soul,  the kind of freedom that no one can take away from you. No matter what.
Everyone feels good riding the wave, and riding the wave is relatively easy, but what you learn on your way there is the treasure.
 
Friends, I hope you all are riders of the waves, I hope you never have to endure life as struggle, but if you do, if you find yourself faced with the feeling where all you can manage is just one more stroke, regardless of direction, regardless of knowledge of success, regardless of the fear of annihilation, then know this, great treasures await you, that is my promise to you.
 
This year has been my surfing year and while I am still paddling one stroke at a time, I am here, in the Ocean with you and sharing the treasures I find along with the way. Thank you for sharing yours in the way you show up for this journey with me. I look forward to the immanent wave we're going to ride together. And when we fall, we will have learnt to paddle! 
 
All my love and gratitude
Cherryl

Fear or Faith by Cherryl Duncan

The most costly energy consequences come from acting out of fear. Even when choices made from fear lead us to what we desire, they generally also produce unwanted side effects. These surprises teach us that choosing from fear transgresses our trust in Divine guidance. We all do live, at least periodically, within the illusion that we are in charge of our lives.

 

These are words from Caroline Myss – A medical intuitive and contributor to the evolution of human consciousness.

 

I have had the good fortune, let’s be optimistic, of dealing with a number of lawyers in the last few weeks. The reasons are certainly not important but the symbolic power of what they represent for me is. Lawyers, and let me briefly sate, I am lucky enough to have been dealing with the nice, kind versions thereof, are nonetheless representative of making decisions based on fear. Worse case scenario thinking.

 

Needless to say, they, the lawyers, are necessary but I need to keep checking in with myself so as not to get carried away on the rush of fear-based thinking. It’s tempting, because, as Caroline Myss says, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are ultimately in control. The kind of thinking that goes ‘if I just have the smartest, most lethal lawyer then everything will be fine and I will be safe’. I can hear Divinity chuckling to herself at the stupidity of this thinking. It’s very simple. If we were truly completely in control of everything then we could never get sick, we would never have a bad day and we certainly wouldn’t need things like lawyers. If you’ve ever tried surfing, you will know what I mean. You can try as much as like, be the strongest swimmer in the world, but if you are not able to surrender to the will of the ocean and to ride WITH the waves, tides and currents, you will fail, and quite possibly drown, to be blunt.

 

So, what is the alternative? Making choices based on faith. What does that mean exactly?

 

In almost every spiritual tradition there comes a point at which the spiritual aspirant must surrender to some kind of higher power. I’m going to go ahead and call my interpretation of this higher power Spirit. Just because I like the name and it makes sense to me because it’s something I feel, more than see.  Surrender is probably, me included, one of the most difficult things to do (more difficult than supta kurmasana) and yet, when we do, even just for a moment, Spirit is allowed to enter and magic things start happening. I’ve heard the expression but mostly ignored it because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but it goes something like ‘When you take one step towards God, God takes two steps towards you’. I would like to change that and say when you take one step towards Spirit; Spirit takes 10 quirky, humorous, surprising, delightful steps towards you. But, it’s a terrifying first step on our part, to genuinely surrender our will, our control and our fear- based strategies into the hands of something we can’t see (for most of us this is true).

 

So the question is, will you make decisions, the big and the small, out of fear, or out of faith?

 

In the yoga method I’ve created called DharmaKaya, I address the topic of Belief in Self as one of the anchors of the method and in my upcoming teacher training (see details here) we explore our relationship to Spirit. What it means for you, personally and how to get into meaningful dialogue for a happier, and freer life.

 

PS No lawyers were harmed in the writing of this blog

PPS. Sometimes acting from faith requires that you hire a lawyer (but that’s a whole other blog)

Many blessings on your path.

With so much love and faith

Cherryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan B by Cherryl Duncan

There is a certain route I sometimes take home where the bus stops right outside a little shop, which can at best be described as a hole in the wall. A hole with a white tiled floor, a shabby counter top that functions as a bar and a few plastic chairs set off to the side of a somewhat large fridge. The plastic chairs, bearing the weight of six large men drinking beer out of bottles. The name outside the shop is Plan B.

As the bus stops and I have a chance to really examine this burly group, I wonder about their lives. What brought them here? Not only to Munich (they’re obviously foreign) but to this place, at this particular time of the day (usually around 6pm)? And did they, the six men, come up with the name? And if this is their plan B, what was their plan A? It got me thinking about my own plan A. Coming to the end of the year, the impulse to reflect on ones life is especially strong, at least for me anyway, and as I look back on the past year it becomes abundantly clear that my life looks nothing like plan A. I am most definitely, undeniably living Plan B.

When did Plan A, become Plan B? I think there are very few people who can honestly say they are living their Plan A to perfection. Life happens and things don’t go according to plan; at least at some point. I too had a Plan A. Finish school, go to University, find a well paying secure job, get married, have a house, have children, be happy. Except for me, plan A would happen once I was finished doing all the things that actually made me happy.  I didn’t go to University (ok, for a year when I was 33; that was fun), I got married not once, but twice, I never had a well paying secure job because feeling owned by anyone or anything made me feel borderline suicidal and, I still don’t have children because, well honestly, there’s kind of a time limit on that sort of thing and children definitely belonged to Plan A, which I was still getting to. Even thought I was actually living Plan B, I was still holding out for Plan A, it was just taking me longer than other people to get there.

 It didn’t occur to me that perhaps Plan A was a stupid idea (for me anyway). I was still committed however and I thought 37 would be a good age to initiate Plan A. Except for one problem; I hadn’t really cultivated any of the elements required for Plan A. For someone who always believed in herself, believed that we take what we want and pretty much did whatever she wanted, it was kind of shocking to realise I couldn’t simply swing into Plan A. Plan A was something people carefully cultivated with much sacrifice, planning and commitment. Not my strong suits. But I was 37, and it was time to hack my Plan A. Not surprisingly, I failed. There is no house by the sea, no well-paying secure job, and no children. While I may not be taking myself off to go drink beer with the men at Plan B, it was however, finally time to let go of Plan A and have a look at Plan B with fresh eyes.

Plan B involves living in Germany, in an apartment, with my husband and my cat. It means doing what I love for a living, it means zero responsibilities, unbelievable freedom and time! Oh time, I have so much time, something I have always valued so highly, what with so much to do and read, create and explore, time is my most precious commodity.

It took me this year, and a challenging and gruelling process of letting go to come to this place. To accept plan B. Not only to accept it, but to realise Plan B was my Plan A all along, I just wasn’t allowed to really say or admit it, because the social programming for where I was supposed to land at this point was so strong. I had many opportunities to get on the train that led to Plan A land, but I got off every time. It mustn’t been because, if I’m honest with myself, I never really wanted it. What I wanted I got, and that was an unpredictable, ever-changing Plan B…

That’s not to say that the life I lead now has not come at great personal cost. I have paid my university fees into a painfully and critically examined life.  I have faced fears, taken risks, studied philosophies, practiced philosophies, travelled and challenged my body, my spirit and my ego, all to follow my heart and my passions and that which thrills and tests me.  Whether my life turns back into Plan A (given the changing nature of my personal plan B) or whether it doesn’t I’m living the life I actually have and taking responsibility for bringing myself here to this point, because some really strong and powerful part of me really wanted it.

As we come to the end of the year, I encourage you to examine your own Plan A, and if it doesn’t look exactly as you’d hoped it would, perhaps it would be helpful to look at some of the elements that made up Plan A, and ask yourself if it’s time to let some of them go. To look at Plan B (your actual life) with new fresh and appreciative eyes, acknowledging that you brought yourself exactly here, and to spend your precious time and energy enjoying the life you’re actually living. Give Plan B a big hug and say YES! .. all the while accepting the little loss of a lost plan A, which will inevitably show up from time to time.

Here’s to an exciting new year and a good bye to 2015.

Merry Christmas brave souls

Love

Cherryl

Wildness by Cherryl Duncan

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”  - Clarissa Pinkola Estes: Women who run with the wolves

I’m subbing some classes at the Jivamukti centre here in Munich this weekend, which means teaching the focus of the month: Wildness.

This focus provides me with the perfect excuse to look for inspiration in one of my favourite books of all time and it wasn’t long before I was spending a good few hours immersed in the wisdom of this classic. Watching the snow falling outside my apartment window, this is truly a time when I am at my happiest.

It didn’t take me long to happen upon a spot of inspiration, which led me wanting to share it with you immediately. The entire book is about returning to our inherent wild nature.  The part of ourselves we knew before we were tamed by society, by the media, or perhaps by our own fears. It’s about a return to an exploration of that which cannot always be explained, that which holds such potential for incredible power, creativity and freedom, the kind of freedom that scares us, but in a good way, much like the freedom and excitement of riding a rollercoaster for the first time.

 

What I love about this paragraph is that she (the Author) gives us a hint at how we can access this part of ourselves. If you have a scar (who doesn’t?) or an old story, or if you love the sky and nature (who doesn’t) then you have a doorway in. It’s kind of the opposite of what yoga teachers us- through constant, steady practice over a long period of time, will you gain some kind of insight. She says, on the other hand, if you’re able to look long enough at what you already have in your life; the beauty AND the pain, then you have an in. This is not to say that yoga is useless and that we should stop the practice of yoga and meditation but perhaps we can use this kind of wisdom in conjunction with yoga. In fact it’s the very practice of sitting and observing that we are more able to see the opportunities our stories, our scars and our love provide. Doorways into the desires of the soul, desires, if we are brave enough to follow and heed the call of, have the potential for such deep and profound fulfilment.

May you have the courage to stand in the doorway of your pain, of the challenges that arise, to tell your stories, even if they don’t yet have a happy end, to look at that which you love so much your heart could break, and not to run, not to manufacture it so the brain can understand, but to feel it, feel all of it, and trust that once you step through the door and live fully in it, that you will find the deepest, truest and most liberated parts of yourself. May they become known to you, may they add to who you already are, may you continue to change, and move and be shaped, because if you aren’t shedding, and rebuilding and transforming and discovering, then what are you doing?

 

Renaissance Person by Cherryl Duncan

I recently watched a TED talk by an inspiring woman called Emilie Wapnick and I felt immediately that, once again on TED, I’d found a kindred spirit. She talks about and describes the person, herself being one of them, who has a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime. She calls them ‘multipotentialites’; people that have so many interests and are pretty good at many things; people that get bored and frustrated having to focus on just one thing. Yes! A name for my disorder. Except she says that there isn’t anything wrong with me, in fact, people like us, have many good ‘super powers’ like fast learning, less fear of failure and the ability to, and here’s the good part, to intersect different disciplines to create something new; she calls it idea synthesis.

Suzelle DIY (because I haven’t completely forgotten my South African roots) is a perfect example of a multipotentialite. She took her love of acting, DIY, cooking and singing and created a Suzelle DIY, a successful brand featuring videos and most recently a book. Imagine if she tried to force herself to focus on just one of those things, Suzelle DIY wouldn’t exist, and in my opinion that would be a shame. If you don’t know I’m referring to, do yourself a favour and check her out here http://suzellediy.com/

Most recently I met a guy through a friend who asked the inevitable ‘are you also a yoga teacher’ question. (I was in the room with two other yoga teachers and he assumed) My lame response was such that he, along with everyone listening, was led to believe that either I wasn’t sure, or I must really hate my job. I then went into an awkward explanation of how I actually do many things including write books, speak publically, lead seminars on subjects that have nothing to do with yoga, I also model for a clothing brand I feel passionate about, as well as raise money for a project in Africa. Can you see how yoga teacher simply sounds untrue? But how do I say yoga teacher, writer, speaker, trainer, model and philanthropist without sounding kind of strange? Emilie has now given me a name, which, although a comfort still renders me conventionally unemployable. There are other terms for people like us (fitting that this particular group can’t agree on one name) one of which being Renaissance person, which I like the most. I’m going to try that out the next time someone asks me what I do and I’ll let you know how it goes. Of course it can’t be worse than a mumbled, non-committal ‘yes, I’m a yoga teacher’.

If you’re interested in how I’ve merged my love of yoga, writing, authenticity, training, fashion and philanthropy, visit www.cherrylduncan.com for a workshop, training, class, book, blog update and general fun stuff.

And now, to perfect my blue velvet cake- really, I also like baking, and dancing, and biking, and walking through enormously large forests, and then there’s snowboarding I’m hoping to take up again this Winter, but I doubt I’ll be adding any of these to my actual job description, but you never know.

I hope Emilie and I have encouraged you also to follow everything that calls to you. If you’re really really good at one thing and specialize in this one thing, FABULOUS, says Emilie, we need you too, but the world already knew that, what makes this idea different, is that the world didn’t know it needs people like us too.

Magnificently

Cherryl