It came to my attention this week that most of the metaphors I use in my teaching are related to food and cooking. Hey, we're supposed teach what we know, right? Hold out your hand like you're holding a pizza. Imagine relaxing the feet and palms so they spread wide like a baking cookie. Reach your arm like there is a piece of cheese just out of grasp. While these work for me, and I know my student was mainly kidding, it did get me thinking. These metaphors can easily push someone into a serious dinner fantasy ten minutes into class, which isn't necessarily helpful. One of my takeaways from recommitting to meditation this month has been learning that I can't meditate on an empty stomach- not unless I want to spend twenty minutes dreaming of a breakfast sandwich. Part of why we practice paying attention is so we can spend less time pulled from the present by desires and fantasies served up by the mind- to be more conscious of our patterns so we have the option to choose something different. In my teaching, I am now aware of a pattern and can consciously look for better alternatives that may be more accessible and more helpful for my students.
Instead of food, let's look at the (mostly living) plants in my house. I was not born with a green thumb. Luckily, I have learned from my mom and sister that the best ways to keep plants healthy and happy are deadheading flowers and pruning the dying leaves. Cutting the parts that aren't working allows the plant to redirect energy into what is still growing and green. At times I don't notice for weeks- which doesn't bode well for my plants. That first step in pruning- seeing what needs to go- isn't any different for us humans. This awareness can provide a better handle on what needs to be cut from our lives to make room for something different. This could mean putting down the phone to be more present for your kids, choosing to have your meals not in front of the television, or looking around while walking down the street and really seeing. We all have habits that aren't helping us live our best lives. We're human after all. The first step in growth along this path is just paying attention so if there are things to change, you at least notice them! #thisiswhywepractice
How much of human life is lost in waiting? - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lately, I've found myself going through the motions in my asana practice- five breaths in a pose and then onto the next one, never actually landing. Waiting on each pose to be done, with my head moving steps ahead of my body. It wasn't a huge leap to see this playing out in my life. With my job and relationships a bit unsettled, much of my thinking has been spent in the future- when 'xyz' happens, I will be happy. This type of thinking pushes you forward and you miss out on the now. Life is a string of transitions, but not waiting is hard! So how do we stay present during transitional times on and off the mat? How do we stop wasting time waiting? In my asana practice, the missing ingredient has been curiosity. To pull myself back into the moment, I have been trying to approach each pose like it's new. Some questions I have been asking myself that have been helpful: How does the breath feel in this shape today? How do my feet land? How does it feel to take up space in this shape? Where do I feel comfortable?
And when the urge to move on arises, I try and stay curious about that, too. Where is that coming from? Can I breathe in a way that soothes the agitation? How am I being here?
So this month, my practice and classes are a *bit* slower than usual, and it can be frustrating. But this approach can make a pose that you've practiced 1000 times feel fresh, and build an appreciation for the seemingly mundane parts of life. How can we all land better in each moment? Can we recognize the urge to jump forward and get curious about now instead?
This quote from Marianne Williamson is one of my favorites, and one that I come back to when faced with senseless violence and acts of hate, which sadly, has been far too often in our world. In the wake of a tragedy like last night's attack in Las Vegas, I feel so insignificant, helpless and small. I know I'm not alone.
One of the basic tenets of yoga, ahimsa, requires that we do no harm. This can feel relatively easy when we think of harm as physical violence, as most us are not violent by nature. But choosing to love- in any and every situation- can require energy and a force of will that isn't always easy to muster up. We must continue to stay the course, and love others hard, even when, especially when, the gut instinct may be to shut down or push away. This can be something as small as letting someone in front of you in traffic, having patience in a long checkout line, or being present and listening to your partner in a difficult conversation. Remember to show that same love for yourself when your best intentions go awry.
Keep practicing. I'm so grateful to be starting a new Meditation class tonight to create some space to practice being less reactive and more present. It is in this space that love can grow. I don't mean to make this into an advertisement for this class- I just feel better knowing that I have these 20 minutes tucked away today to regroup and process. If your budget can't swing it, my treat today.
5:40-6 pm tonight at Bow Street. $5 drop-in.
About this blog
This blog, together with the occasional newsletter, will be an active space to share thoughts about yoga on and off the mat. Please let me know what you like and what you'd like to see more of. And as always, thank you for the gift of teaching!