A Letter to the Community
“Vikalpa is a Sanskrit term referring to one of the five types of thoughts, or activities and motions, within the mind. These are called vritti in Sanskrit and the great sage, Patanjali, references them in his definition of yoga: yoga citta vritti nirodha ("yoga is the silencing of the disturbances of the mind").
Vikalpa is referring to imagination, fantasy or illusion. It can mean thinking of situations from the past and imagining different results, daydreaming, thinking of things that do not exist or imagining future situations and events. It is an idea that does not exist in reality.” Quotation from Yogapedia.com
A wonderful example of Vikalpa is the classic rumor. A rumor is essentially a thought wave that results from one person’s (often cloudy and incomplete) analysis of a situation, which is transmitted through our language and passed around. The energies of rumors can be quite intense, they can evolve and change, they can have helpful effects or unhelpful, even violent effects.. The energy of the original person’s judgment is transmitted as a type of knowledge that looks and feels very much real to the recipient, but this knowledge is not Vidya or truth, but only a clouded reflection of the original stimulus.
We can understand the difference between Vikalpa: fantasy, and Vidya: the unclouded truth, by imagining a dark room. Vidya is like taking a candle into a totally dark room and lighting it. Instantly, all that the light touches is illuminated. You see for yourself what is in the room. To share Vidya, you must take your friend by the hand, bring them with you into the room and light their candle so the darkness recedes. On the other hand, Vikalpa is like taking a candle into a dark room, lighting it, and then drawing a picture of what the room looks like in your sketchbook. To share Vikalpa is much easier, simply hand your hastily drawn sketch to your friend outside the room and say, “this is what the room looks like.” Worse still, Imagine then your friend draws their own sketch from your picture, then passes it to a new friend and says, “this is what that room looks like.” And so on. You can see what the problem could be….
Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodha: We practice yoga to clear what is covering the truth away, we practice yoga to allow our discernment to be clearer and supported by loving compassion— the two are inseparable as we need stronger hearts to face the truth about ourselves and others.
It has been brought to my attention by many this week that there is a rumor circulating in our sweet community that Om Shala is closing its doors.
This is pure Vikalpa, and there is not truth to this rumor. Please be at ease.
Please come sit with me and lets light a candle to shed a little light. Om Shala changed hands on the summer solstice of 2017, it had been lovingly tended and stewarded by Peggy Profant and many others for 9 years. I knew when I took over as steward that this would not be an easy road, but I felt dedicated to service and to sharing yoga and participating in this incredible community. When I came on board there were about 20 teachers, 15 work trade desk attendants, and 3 managers. What I would like to point out is that this is an incredibly massive staff for a yoga studio. I come from a simple yoga shala in Norman, Oklahoma where we kept everything on index cards—I literally took yoga classes from the same teacher and studio for over 10 years—I had little to no experience working with a more modern studio with such diverse offerings and complex computer systems.
I was terrified!!
We knew exactly 2 people when we moved here, and on of those people was Peggy Profant, who had faith in me, who trusted me with her beautiful community and gave me so much encouragement. Over the past 2 years I have tried my best to continue steering the community from a simple owner seat, it was not my wish to come into this studio and fire everyone, take their teaching spots and do things my way— that was inconceivable to me. I have observed and listened and then I made a few important changes so that I could continue to be in authenticity with my own values.
First, I felt it was important that anyone who worked for me and interacted with clients, was paid a living wage.
Second, I felt that it was crucial that our offerings were financially accessible to a large range of people.
In conjunction with these structural changes, the local economy suffered deeply in 2018, and Om Shala was not immune. We suffered a 60% drop in revenue and attendance in the fall quarter of 2018. I lost a huge portion of my personal savings. I was very much asking myself if I had made a big mistake in coming here. And then I wasn’t scared anymore, just determined. I sat down and I made a set of decisions and pacts with myself— I determined to use my creativity, my engineering skills, my big old bleeding heart, to adapt beautifully, to not only save the studio but grow it, and grow it in alignment with my values. I knew it was going to take a creative approach.
In the last six months we have reduced our losses by 90%. Attendance is up over 10%. We are now getting over 3500 unique visitors from all over the world visiting our website every single month. We have opened our class pricing so that all types of people and incomes are welcome. We have added Aerial Silk hammocks for therapeutic classes and events. I have completely overhauled our website and online marketing and have added a virtual component that aims to have online classes and workshops from the best Humboldt County teachers available world-wide. Both our weekend format and summer intensive advanced trainings were a beautiful success. With Samantha Akers, we have added a 300 hour training program and are finally moving toward my dream of an advanced training institute that welcomes students into a modular program that fits their life and budget, and allows them to go deeper into yoga, finding a place where they can really commit to their evolution and learning, where there is opportunity to study for many years, not just several weeks or weekends. (You can check it out here actually.)
The Budget and Hands On Service
In the process of trying to grow this community, I had to sit down with the numbers. I know, its like, the yogi’s least favorite task. I spent not days, or weeks, but months with these spreadsheets, payroll records and income reports. It was a lot like working a really infuriating jigsaw puzzle, and that is partly because Om Shala is a giant beating heart of generosity and care for each other. It was built by many different loving hands. I tried and tried to find a way to support all the people who currently worked for us.
I realized this spring that in order this studio to maintain our commitment to accessible yoga over the long-term, I needed to do something I really didn’t want to do, and that is re-structure the way we manage the studio. Now we come to the little kernel of truth at the heart of a very painful rumor.
The story of the Bhagavad Gita takes place during the epic Mahabarata story— on a hilltop over looking a vast battlefield.. The great warrior Arjuna is looking over all of those assembled ready to fight and die, and across enemy lines he sees many that he knows, his own family members. He falls apart and laments to his beloved Krishna that he cannot do it, that he will not fight his family members, how can he?
Kirshna then delivers one of the most moving and encouraging texts known to human beings, some people get up and recite the entire thing before they even have breakfast.
Essentially he says, “You must act. You must do your duty even when it hurts, you cannot allow higher knowledge to keep you from performing your service.”
So even though it broke my heart, I decided to take on the daily tasks and management of the studio myself, letting go to the majority of our hourly paid employees, the non-teaching positions. Keep in mind, these are some of the dearest friends I have in this community, and I am blown away by the love that has been shared through this process, the positivity, the encouragement, the incredible grace and understanding of all involved.
I have tried my best to take the best care of them all as I possibly can, and frame this process as a re-imagining of what is possible in our Yoga community. I did it for the well-being of my family. I did it for the teachers who share their gifts so selflessly. I did it for you.
So please know—there is no truth to the rumor of closure, we are current on all of our obligations, we are not late on rent or any other debt. I do not even carry credit card debt. There is absolutely no danger of the studio closing its doors, and in fact the opposite is true, we can now look forward to more abundance and stability. I am looking forward to knowing you all more intimately, to being able to serve the community with my two hands and my heart, daily.
Please pass this message on to any that may have received a cloudy snapshot of the situation, and I want to cordially invite everyone to our Cacao and Ecstatic Dance this Friday for Arts Arcata. We are turning it into a celebration of community and evolution, a “Shala Re-Imagining Party” to honor everyone who has made Om Shala what it is today, and to express our love and thanks to our incredible staff. There will be a vegetarian potluck starting at 7:30, followed by dance and fun. Hope to see you all there.
Shala Re-Imagining Potluck, Cacao, and Dance
Friday June 14 7:30-10pm