Vinyasa flow master and Off The Mat, Into The World partner Seane Corn discusses her OTM initiatives and yogic experiences.
Hey Seane, thanks for taking the time to talk to today. I know it’s Yogis for Haiti Day, which is very cool. How are you spending the day?
Well its funny actually just when you called I was about to post some more information online about it to encourage as many people to get involved as possible and continue to raise awareness. This is going to be the launch of Off The Mat, Into The World’seffort to support the continuing efforts in Haiti with our Seva challenge for this year so we are really excited just to get the message out and to encourage people to want to continue getting involved because unfortunately when there are crisis they become the “effort du jour”, people rally around it and get really excited but what happens next year and the year after that? There are still millions of displaced people as a result and we want to continue supporting the organizations.
What is OTM’s New Year’s resolution for 2011? Or what’s yours?
At the end of every year we get together, the six of us, and we talk about what worked and what didn’t. We discuss things that we need to work on on an individual personal level and within the organization to reinforce some of our ideals, check in on areas that we feel like we compromised or that were not in alignment with ideals, and make new commitments to ourselves and to each other to be even more in integrity. This year, we want to focus on placing trust in this process and the work that we are doing. Off The Mat, Into The World is bigger than the six of us, and it’s our job to stay in integrity, be organized around this, and be completely on board as we do this important work. At the same time, we have to allow this (OTM) to grow beyond what our vision is. To have faith and trust in that process and be organized in our work, without burning ourselves out. To continue to find more sustainable ways to be involved in our communities, without forgetting to nourish ourselves.
What yoga pose or position most inspires your seva?
There isn’t a pose or yogic action that inspires me, but I have three non-negotiables every day and those are yoga, a healthy diet, and prayer.
You’ve done incredible things in Uganda working with children and families, and making strides in the movement to spread awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis and provide care for patients. With all that the people of Uganda, particularly children and particularly in the bush, have to fear socially and politically, did you find it challenging to focus their community attention on health?
We do teach yoga, but that’s not what we’re there for. Mostly we use it as a tool for relationship and community and to break down any division between us and them. When you go into these environments, they need food and shelter… those priorities must come before learning how to meditate or do a great trikonasana. It’s all about what the needs of the community are, but if there is a cultural gap, then yoga, like dance or music, help to bridge that gap. We go in there and play, and that’s how we offer yoga. First they need to eat, survive, and eventually get to meditation.
With all the hard work you did, did you get a chance to connect with the people you worked with spiritually?
Yes, definitely. In Cambodia and especially in Uganda, I don’t know what it is, something about the spirit of the culture or the individuals… but we would go in and in such a short amount of time, there would be such a welcoming from the community. We’d be getting kisses from the moms, and playing with the kids, swinging their babies. And nothing helped us connect like music and dancing. There’s always a little cautiousness from both sides, you know, they aren’t sure what we’re going to do there, but Suzanne would whip out her drum and music would bring everybody together. Music is such a way of uplifting spirits and souls and telling stories, and it brought us all together.
Speaking of your connection to music…Michael Franti is booked to play Wanderlust Festival in VT and in Tahoe. I know you guys have performed together before. What is it about Michael’s music that you connect to and how does it expand your yoga practice?
Michael’s music is steeped in relationship and consciousness. It spreads a message about unification and peace, and he’s not afraid to put a melody onto words that are politically provocative or spiritually motivated, and he doesn’t separate the two. His music is thought-provoking and fun, and he as a human being is very committed to wanting to engage in a conversation, to rally the troupes and get people excited about creating social and political change. Michael wants to use his gift as a way to express change and encourage people to want to be leaders in their own communities. He’s a stellar musician but also a first rate humanitarian who isn’t afraid to connect peace, love, and truth with harmony and to make it something that is accessible.
You have studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Barbara Soloman and Mona Miller… incredible spiritual leaders. With such a list of teachers to follow, how did you carve out your own path to become the leader you are today?
I have been really fortunate to work with teachers who have inspired individuality and self-responsibility. The people that I work with have encouraged me, if not forced me, to look at my own shadow and learn to embrace all the different aspects of what it is to be a human being in the world today, both light and dark. They taught me that the more I can do the work on myself and on my life, the better I will be able to help either guide or support someone through their own process. The leaders I have worked with have taught me that I cannot have the arrogance to wait for someone else to make a difference and stand back idly. It is my job to be committed every single day of my life to help uplift, guide or support, my family, my community or my nation, and to use my platform to do so. They have let me know that my platform, my authority, is a privilege, and I cannot take it for granted. I have an opportunity to shift the attention off of me and put it on things that are vitally important. That would allow me to truly stand in my own power, support other people in developing theirs, without it becoming something that will create division. It’s about a shared experience.
Thank you very much for your time Seane!