In the last blog, we discussed ways of cultivating intuition and leadership within ourselves as a way of making global change on a local level. To follow up, we’ll take a closer look at the people that have inspired me directly- my tribe. This is the first in a series of IntuiTalks: interviews that are designed to provoke and inspire… and our chance to understand the many different forms and people through which the splendor of the universe is expressed.
I first met Les in Bali, where he currently lives and teaches yoga. I had heard about him through various friends and upon meeting, I could instantly understand why a smile follows every time someone mentions his name. His joy is empathetic, unapologetic, and infectious…
You are known for your unapologetic joy. Nature or nurture- where does it come from and how?
My joy is unapologetic. I live my life with purpose and unapologetic. It comes from the pain, trauma and abuse that I wandered through for many years. It is this dark force in my life that I never want to forget. It reminds me that I could have died many times, many years ago. I’m still alive and life just calls out to be enjoyed and treasured and to pursue dreams and to expand as much as we can in many ways. My life is not without challenge but it’s this perspective I get, especially when I see my part in what I showed up for and participated in. To me that is joy because it’s never if a challenging life situation comes around- it’s when it does… and I can still be like, “Huh, what just happened? Who did that (to me)?” So, I choose the happiness and I choose to challenge myself to help others challenge themselves in this very same way.
Praise vs. criticism. How are these different and how are they the same?
Praise feels nice if I am going to be honest. Criticism can be rough for a guy like me, especially when people start off with, “Please don’t take this personally, but…” I do have this huge heart and I don’t compartmentalize or separate – let’s say business and personal – so that means everything is just me and my heart, thus personal. How are they the same? Praise humbles me. I don’t do anything to seek it out or create an environment to ensure it comes my way and it is actually challenging for me to receive at certain times, especially if I am in a huge flow of giving, providing for and helping others. I want the focus to stay on them and not switch to me. So, it offers me a chance to be humble and be included where maybe I would not necessarily include myself. The criticism piece is also humility for me. It’s a chance to hear what others have to say about me and remain a student of life and this practice. It’s an opportunity to make a choice and say thanks and yes I want to make these changes. And also be responsible and say thank you for your input and to recognize that maybe no change is required at this moment but I don’t have to make a big deal out of it. But, both of these are ingredients to why I teach – to help others, similar to how I was gifted yoga and recovery.
You’re meditating and you feel a mosquito land on you. Or you hear the sound of a snake. What do you do?
The mosquitos don’t seem to like me – so I let him or her do their thing and enjoy the blood buffet. Something happened moving to Bali. I can’t kill anything, nothing. I know I do everyday, every step I take and I see so much death everyday from geckos to ants and dogs and people and dreams. I watch people give up on their dreams. It’s so hard. What if that’s mama mosquito and she’s out looking for a thimble of blood for her babies and that’s her dream? Who am I to say mosquitos don’t belong here. Ok now the snake – this is a tough one, especially because I used to be such a snake. I don’t like things that can shift directions and harm me without any notice. I am terrified to be bit by a snake and I have been told with all the snakes we see in our backyard, that since they are small, we should just know that bigger mama snake is close by. So, if I hear that sound of a snake slithering, stillness and acceptance have been great tools in my meditation practice so far. I think I’ll continue with those and see if the message is to shed some things as I am practicing in my life today too.
“Rules are there ain’t no rules – it’s pinks you punks” (from Grease, Grease Lightning – Thunder Road baby.) But really – I’d love to abolish passports, visas and borders. As an individual, if I feel that screws are being tightened and rules are being placed upon me without any discussion, I rebel and usually begin to separate and pause that piece of the dream. This is actually happening for me in my teaching right now and the word that has come from this and the new ingredient for my life that has not been a part of my vocabulary is expansion. I was filming in Seattle this week and I tried it on in a conversation and it felt and fit pretty good and so I write it here and put it out for all the world to see, proclaim and declare my expansion as a teacher and a student. So, my only rule would be this – more a suggestion – I see so many teachers, teach and drop their practice as a student – stop that – NOW – we found teaching because we were and still are passionate students.
What is compassion to you?
I could answer super simple and say to me, it’s huge. But I want to provide my experience with it too. It’s that piece where I have to dig deep when I am on that path and no matter what direction I turn, there’s a wall – miscommunication, misunderstanding, anger, fear, all of that and that I can communicate that or someone can communicate with me and we can even decide to shift gears in how we are, in whatever kind of relationship it is: work, friends, family, lovers… but that I do the digging to see that the intention underneath is for love. Sometimes it enriches the relationship and sometimes it separates it all. But to be able to turn around and say thank you for the reflection; that also opens up the side of things where I need to have compassion for myself when I say and do things (usually from fear.)
What inspires you to give? To share? To teach?
To give – because so much was given to me in the beginning when starting my yoga journey – it provided me this tremendous foundation to safely explore who I am and what my purpose is. For me this was a healing transformative time. To share – because as I grow older and see and feel the impact of what I am doing and witness how what we all do and say and how great the effect can be on someone else’s life – how could I possibly maintain that life of selfishness that I used to live? The more I share the more I seem to receive – for example, watching the community of teacher trainees share with each other in their Facebook groups their first days of teaching classes and workshops and what their experiences are around all that. Well first it reminds me of my first days of teaching but to see others have that same bright light start shining brighter – amazing. To teach – well sort of just said – but also partly because I feel the call to give back and the best way I see right now is to travel around the world and open up space for everyone to live a life filled with dreams being turned into reality and harms transforming to healing one breath at a time and holding that pose for just one more moment to build all that courage and trust in oneself. So, I guess to sum up about inspiration – all 3 of those come from a place that I never thought would be an experience in my life: inspiration to give, share and teach comes from watching others, taking suggestions for my own life.
Les (www.yogawithles.com) is one of Bali’s (formerly of Yoga Tree San Francisco) most beloved yoga teachers. Having trained with Ana Forrest, Tias Little, Seane Corn and Max Srom, Les’ vinyasa classes & workshops are steeped in the Forrest tradition and filled with technique and alignment cues for all levels. Variations and longer sequences will also challenge and inspire seasoned practitioners. You will have the opportunity to heal your heart, laug, cry, dance, sweat and just let go. Les teaches classes, workshops, trainings and retreats at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali and around the world and is also the auther of his new book Two Lifestyles, One Lifetime (available on amazon e-book or hard copy.)