Anya Devi ~ Don’t Try, Just Do
“When I go into something”, says Shih Fu Anya Devi, “I want to go 100%. I want to get the transmission of the lineage.” Anya says that’s one theme running through everything she does. “When I think about all the modalities that I do – yoga, meditation, Indian classical dance, flamenco dance, Tai Chi, Qi Gong – all require discipline, dedication and a certain humility. I’ve chosen modalities and classical art forms that require lifetimes to master.”
“It’s not about being perfect,” she says. Instead she asks, “How do I learn from the mistakes?”
“My very first dance guru said, ‘If you are not making mistakes you are not really in it.’ You have to take that risk. Her thing was take the word try out of your vocabulary. Just do. I used to say, ‘I’m trying to remember.’ My guru said, ‘Eliminate it from your vocabulary. Just do. There will come a day when you are living and breathing your dance. It will be coming in your dreams.’”
In her 20s, Anya studied and travelled in India, Thailand and Bali. She began classical Indian dance training in 1994 at the age of 26. She was considered over the hill, too old to begin a classical form. Ten years into the training she started remembering choreography in her sleep. She began remembering things that she hadn’t practiced a long time.
“They just came back to me. I learned that the more I’m trying, with conscious egoic self, the less success I have with it. Obviously we have to put some effort into our practice. But there’s a vast difference between efforting and trying and allowing.”
Anya identifies as a Type Four in the Enneagram. Type Fours are known as The Individualist.
“Even as a child I was a straight A, perfectionist, performer kid and I wanted to be unique and different. For me, the element of perfection and beauty and precision has always intrigued me. I struggle with trying. It’s a more yang aspect that is the masculine energy of the doing, instead of being.”
“Now that I’m 46, it’s becoming easier, and yet it is still every bit as challenging. When learning new stuff I still slip into that yang trying. The more I can just allow my body to surrender to the movements, I can drop into a deeper place.”
Anya illustrates this in her practice of Thai massage. Starting in 1994, she travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand to study with Ajarn Pichest Boonthume.
“Thai massage has precision. Now, I’m embarking on my next trip, unlearning technique. I’m deprogramming all I know. It’s a deeper level of knowing-ness beyond form. It’s Wu Chi – Formless Form. I’m learning to practice Thai massage using intuition to facilitate bhava, (a devotional state or mood of ecstasy) and Metta (loving-kindness) which is the state my teacher embodies with Thai bodywork AND the relationship withbhava and duende. It is the embodiment of living the practice.”
In flamenco dance, Anya says, this same state is known as duende, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. “That refers to a place that we go emotionally beyond the dance form itself. What I’m arriving at in all these forms, what I aspire to, is the space beyond the form that conveys an emotional message to both the audience and to me as the channel and conduit of the art form. And ultimately, of course, the bliss.”
Anya is pictured here at the 4th Annual ‘Golden Gate” Chinese Martial Arts Championship where she won both gold and silver medals in Open Hand and Tai Chi Sword forms. “Next time,” she says with a smile, “I want to get all gold medals! All of these things that I do are wonderful. And they are also opportunities for growth, or for more ego. I work with humility. Doing my best and then letting go of results. In the yoga path, they talk about karma yoga: Serve and don’t be attached to the fruits of the service or outcome. That is my life’s work.”
“It’s almost a necessity for me to teach. It’s the expression of how I’ve embodied the form. It is not necessarily mastery. I’m humble enough to say that it will be lifetimes for perfection. Teaching gives me the opportunity to enjoy each form and develop my communication skills by imparting it to students. I teach Yoga, dance, Tai Chi and massage.”
“Also as I get older, I want to move more into teaching, instead of just doing. For my livelihood, this feels like a good future path.”
Her advice to students? “Just to go in with a blank mind as much as possible. Do not try to figure it out. Be in the essence and do your best. Be open to receiving the information.”
Coming Home to Nevada County
Anya settled in Nevada County in 2000, consciously choosing to make her life here. “With that decision comes a lot of responsibility.” she says. “For me it’s the responsibility not only of maintaining my practices, but of using my whole life as practice. Running a business Sacred Shakti Healing Arts, creating a beautiful home, having a garden, having a wonderful social connection with the community and still carving out alone time.”
“The danger in having so many modalities is in dispersing too much energy and not being effective at anything. In India, they only do one thing in their whole lifetime, such as devotion to yoga or singing. Being a California girl, I’ve taken on four or five modalities. It is my life. My life’s love and passion.”
“My favorite quote from the Tao Te Ching is ‘The Tao does nothing and yet nothing is left undone.” It’s a total paradox to me in the human world of duality and time and space. I want to let people know that it’s a struggle. Even having all these dedications and disciplines I still struggle with that personally.”
“I believe I came in this lifetime with some specific responsibility to transform suffering and understand the human condition.”
“These practices keep me sane. If I look at what’s going on in the world situation, it is easy to become overwhelmed, scared and insecure. These practices help me maintain sanity, inner peace and wellbeing. They help me find the calm inside of the chaos.”
Thanks to Anya Devi for telling her story to Shih Fu Catherine. We’ve noticed that Body Balance students are resourceful, caring, connected people who cultivate chi wherever they go. We want to tell your story, too. Email Shih Fu Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for these stories on our blog Streaming Chi. And on our Facebook page.