Mark Alan Lilly

Mark Alan LillyAuthor, Founder of Street Yoga

For Mark, yoga is an everyday survival skill, and one of great joy, a practice he has shared with thousands of youth as founder and president of Street Yoga, a Portland, OR based non-profit. He still lives with the tremors of traumas past, and realizes the delicate line between suffering and awakening. His teaching emphasizes cultivation of the best within each of us, the authentic stories and experiences that illuminate our being and drive our teaching to places of deep truthfulness.

He is also the author of The Boy Who Fell, a father’s account of the near-edge of death and survival in Pediatric ICU.

My personal practice is…….

My personal practice is on-going. It never stops. There is nothing else. To drop out of my practice is to forget, and it is ignorance that breeds suffering.

I breathe as mindfully as I can remember, and sometimes I have to start again. In starting my practice anew, time after time after time, I make it mine and it becomes everything, which it already is.

I walk briskly, and pray as I cover ground. I notice everything I eat, and forgive myself for those times I eat foods my body doesn’t want. I dance to feel exuberance, and every day I sit quietly. I practice short bits of asana throughout the day, enjoying tadasana on the sidewalk or warrior pose at the community center, where I also swim and do Zumba.

I know there is nothing but my practice, which is 24/7 everything. With a nod to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, my practice is “innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.”

How did you discover your practice?

It reveals itself. You do it, and it opens itself to you, and as the ignorance recedes wave by wave, you are thus able to glimpse the Grand Truth of All Love with greater and greater surrender, awe and humility.

Why do you practice?

How could I not? There is nothing else to do.

How frequently and for how long do you practice?

Constantly, until I forget, then minutes may pass, then I come back to it. In returning, I breathe in gratefulness that I remembered again!

What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?

Desire for specific things gets in the way. When I want a certain person or me to do or behave or feel in a certain way, or where I want a particular outcome to come to pass and I attach myself to any of those, my practice suffers. My relationship with my practice is a constant wrestling match between my higher and lower selves. Fear-based, separation-seeing bodymind desires appear and distract me from being present, and when I recognize that, it’s the signal to return to practice.

What supports you in staying committed to your practice?

The desire for Happiness.

What role does your practice play in your work?

There are no differences between my practice and my work.

Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.

Tons of people inspire me, but they wouldn’t necessarily be yoga people that you might know by name, though there are some delightful folks I know through Street Yoga and the Yoga Service Council. All those people are lovely, true and deep. But usually I get inspiration from people who overcome severe hardship, torment or trauma, and who surmount it with grace, power and Love. I have seen that over and over at the hospital, or in drop-in centers for homeless youth, or at the Street Yoga trainings where we task ourselves with building safety and trust, and usually pull it off. I have many privileges, so what inspires me is people who demonstrate kindness when their body hurts, their lease is running out and they have nine dollars in the bank. I have a lot to learn.

A practice I’d like to explore is….

Walking the St. James and Compostela pilgrimages. I’d like to learn Mandolin and I want to have a big greenhouse for all kinds of plants.