The following blog is the third in a series detailing IDEA Editor-in-Chief Sandy Todd Webster’s firsthand experience at the 2008 Inner IDEA Conference.

I was reflecting last night as I fell asleep that I was at cross-purposes of the very message I was supposed to be absorbing here. In my earnestness to do a good job and capture all I could for readers, I was missing the moment-—or at least I wasn’t fully present for many of them. In running to so many sessions yesterday, I was not in a full state of awareness, I was merely surviving. And, as Patrick Gentempo advised in his keynote Thursday night, when we are merely surviving, we are purposeless. So, today, I took a completely different tack.

Today, I gave myself the ultimate indulgence as an editor: I spent half the day operating as an attendee. I did what Sandy Todd Webster wanted to do. I opted for the the silent breakfast and didn’t network (a real no-no when you’re supposed to be out there meeting and talking to people). I attended only one session in each of the morning timeblocks, when normally, I probably would have been in and out of a dozen. I took it down a few notches. I became a participant rather than an observer. I stepped into the game and lived it. Metaphoric for our busy lives, yes? Although there was a patina of guilt on me from 7 AM to Noon, I forced myself to slow down and smell the roses. And you know something? The world didn’t come to an end. I enjoyed it and let the day imprint itself on my memory. I have some really rich and focused reporting as a result. It’s probably the best decision I made all weekend.

First, I kept the promise to myself of trying Nia for the first time. It somehow seems auspicious that my inaugural experience took place on the 25th anniversary of Carlos Rosas’ and Debbie Rosas’ creative brainchild. The class moved me and filled me with joy. I felt the integrative fitness loop Dr. Pam Peeke talked about yesterday unleash itself inside me and flow the magic of neuropeptides all around my body.

Nia-Awakening the Sacred Athlete Within wasn’t necessarily about being an athlete in the literal sense (although the title is what drew me to the class), but about the fact that we’re all athletes in this game called life. From the physical to the intellectual to the spiritual, we have many daily opportunities to recognize and celebrate the sacred moments that construct the quilts of our lives.

Contrary to what you might think, the sacred moments aren’t the ones when we score goals or get past the competition to win the race or the contract, they are the moments when we’re off balance, when we fall and when we get beat. They’re sacred because when you recognize them, you also recognize the gift of being able to improve, grow and get better. As I danced and faltered on some of the trickier moves, I saw them for what they were. I wasn’t so quick to chastise myself for not being better at it. I found myself smiling-&mdashlaughing out loud, even-&mdashat my own mistakes and weaknesses.

It’s the most powerful take home message I collected personally at the conference (to forgive myself and to laugh at myself as I journey onto becoming a better, more powerful person). Carlos put it simply and succinctly: "Expectations are overrated. Awareness is the sacred moment. Sacredness is beingness—being within yourself and having awareness when you experience a sacred moment.".

Next, I spent another full time block in the Future of Pilates panel discussion. Facilitated by Kathy Corey, the panel of Rael Isacowitz, John Garey and Mari Windsor was one for the books. The group discussed everything from whether Pilates and the fitness industry are a good match to whether there should be a single organization or governing body that establishes and oversees standards for the industry (and everything in between). It was two hours of passionate, from-the-gut discussion that shed tremendous light on the modern-day leaders who are as determined to respect and preserve the integrity of the work as they are the legacy of Joe Pilates, "the elders," and the teaching lineage. My hat is off to Kathy Corey, who kept things focused, on track and, at times, very funny. She summarized things neatly by saying, "The essence of the work does not lie in just teaching the exercises, but to know how to make these exercises appropriate for the individual body. The passion for the work sets it apart. We shouldn’t all teach the same way, but we should all teach with the passion, joy and respect for the basic principles."

Last word on the panel: It was inspiring to me to listen to the viewpoints of the panelists (who, at times, respectfully disagreed with each other) and realize how much they’ve thought about and care about the issues. IDEA will do a feature article modeled from the panel discussion in the near future. It’s one you won’t want to miss!

Next up, I attended the lunchtime presentation featuring Lorna Francis, PhD, speaking about Awakened Presence. In Lorna’s words, Awakened Presence (also known as awarenenss, consciousness, beingness) can be defined as liberation from the sense of self. The most significant quality that points to the nature of Awakened Presence is the loss or the dissolving of the sense of self which in turn results in:

  • a sense of connectedness or oneness to everything
  • a sense that all is unfolding perfectly
  • a sense of stillness and effortlessness
  • a sense of the ordinary being extraordinary

I have to be honest: This topic put me out of my depth. It was one big "sacred moment" to me, from which I was determined to learn more. I saw Lorna was scheduled to speak about it later today and marked it as a must see. I’m going out of order of my day here, but I went to that talk-—the last of the day-&mdashand ended up thinking about it almost my whole 2-1/2 hour drive home. I may have been even more confused when I came out of the class and have been contemplating it ever since. I guess the one thing I really am struggling with is if you lose all sense of self, what happens to the mind-body-spirit connection? Perhaps it’s because I define "self" as closely related to "soul" or "spirit." If you lose connection to that, what happens? Where does the feedback loop go? Where is your holistic balance? Also, if there is no suffering or judgment when you let go of self, is there also no joy?

Lorna said that "the sense of self often gets in the way of brilliance. It’s unfortunate, but it just happens." Perhaps that’s what my problem is on this one! My self is blocking my brilliant absorption of the material! Lorna—are you out there? I have questions!

Another great session I attended was Embracing the Differences on the Reformer (Kathy Corey, Michael Fritzke and Tom Voogt): The trio demonstrated and discussed the variations of exercises in the Pilates repertoire. "There is no right answer or wrong answer to the way you teach. It’s all experiential," she said.

I’m going to wrap it up for this conference. Thanks for your attention and presence as I relived these moments for you. I have many rivers to cross, as Bob Marley once sang. But the journey is grand and fun, isn’t it? Over the past few days, I’ve taken my first step of 1,000 and am looking forward to what comes next.

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s publications.