Enjoy PART 1 of a two-part interview with The Mud & The Lotus: A Workbook and Guide for Students of Yoga author Courtney Denise Butler.
What is your favorite pose?
I can't say that I have a favorite simply because I look at postures as healing and balancing for whatever is going on in my life. Therefore, postures are more prescriptive in nature, and I appreciate the balancing power in all of them.
What is your favorite place to meditate?
Wherever I am. At home, I have a bonus room with a meditation cushion, and in the nearby window I have some meaningful items that make me feel peaceful. I often sit facing this window with its lovely view and meditate there with my little tokens of love and beauty to focus my energy and attention on all that is beautiful in the world. It’s so easy to be taken with all that is painful in this world, it's important to have a place to go to that consciously reminds us of love.
Would you share a mantra that soothes you?
What sorts of challenges did you encounter in writing The Mud & The Lotus?
I am very self-disciplined and motivated when I feel passionate, so motivation to write came easily. Being interrupted was a challenge because I had four teenagers living at home when I wrote the book, and four animals in the house. Another challenge was living on my savings and working only part time. I saved for a year to be able to work part time in order to have time to write the book, then I scheduled days and blocks of time simply for writing. In totality, the book took two and a half years from beginning to completion.
Once it was complete, my challenge was reading and rereading it over and over again, always wanting to make changes. I suffer from a learning disability that causes me not to see mistakes very easily—my mind reads the word as I think it is on the page and not as it may actually be. I’ve never been diagnosed, but others in my immediate family have dyslexia and dyspraxia and I’ve experienced symptoms that align with those diagnoses. It helps to put text in various fonts and color backgrounds, and to print out the work several times so I catch things. I also am fortunate to have had wonderful proof readers and a great editor to assist me with these challenges.
Especially if you have a learning disability, but really no matter what, it’s scary to put yourself out there in print, online, and in person. I try to remember that it’s okay (and human!) to make mistakes. For every person that may find something to criticize, it is important to remember there are many more that we are hopefully helping—even (maybe especially?) by sharing our flaws and admitting our vulnerabilities.
What are the parts or pages of your book that you look at and think, "Heck yeah!"
I am so grateful for the cover art. It makes me happy every time I see it. When I read the blurbs by people who mean so much to me it makes my heart so full that people have been so benevolent to me and my work. Really the fact that this book was a team effort with proof readers, friends who helped, the editor and publisher, the graphic designer, the photographer. The hand-drawn illustrations make it really special . . . it was my concept, but the team that worked with me to bring the concept to completion. Well that makes my heart overflow with gratitude because they took my ideas and made them even better.
There are many I could give, but a specific example is the way the layout designer, Amy Ashford, and editor, Erin Wood, took my cautionary notes, personal stories, and teaching tips, and organized them, integrating them into the layout so that they have their own graphics and are easily identifiable throughout. I hope these sorts of details will make the text a really useful resource for readers.
You make a lot of yoga being a lifestyle (versus a workout or a religion), and about it being for everyone. What do you mean?
The word yoga means to "yoke" or "bind" together. It can mean joining the mind to the body through practice (breathing, asana, meditation, or our actions in the world), and/or joining yourself with nature or the God of your understanding, and being connected to the greater world beyond our own little world.
Doing postures (“asana”) is simply one way of making this connection. Postures can help to balance the body; However, postures are not the only way. When you conserve resources you are doing yoga, when you pray for others you are doing yoga, when you help someone without expecting anything in return that is also yoga. Living yoga as a lifestyle likely means your days are filled with your actions and behaviors aligning with the principals of connecting to your inner self, the God of your understanding, or to something bigger than yourself, and connecting your actions to your love for others. It also means when the “little you” takes over—the Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Greedy you—that humanness we all share provides us with the tools to get back on track. When we become conscious about these natural human tendencies, we can recognize them for what they are and return to a balanced state. Yoga provides us with countless possibilities in many forms (breathing exercises, postures, meditation, service work, and on and on) for balancing out the inevitable imbalances in our lives.
Stay tuned for PART 2 of this interview with Courtney Denise Butler, in which we’ll talk about perceptions of her as a yoga practitioner in her small hometown decades before yoga became a household word, what all those crazy letters after her name mean, and what it was like to be among a handful of yoga therapists worldwide to do beta testing for the new standards of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.