Thursday, December 22, 2011
Applying the Practice
I look out the window and see the bare hills, the dark leafless trees, the bright gray cloudy sky. Birds are busy at the feeders, and though I am North now, I know that there are roses still budded and blooming in Brooklyn. Today the winter's day will shift into the longest winter night and from here on the daylight grows by tiny increments. Mild temperatures and moisture could fool me easily into imagining it is early April and Spring is around the corner.
But that is not so. Choosing an image for a season's greetings, my husband and I agreed on a deeply snowy image.
My elderly mother-in-law is no longer traveling and so, my closest clan of four will transport ourselves to spend this next weekend together with her and my sister-and-brother-in-law. This makes me feel happy and grateful even as I pack a bag and try to organize for departure. Convenience and ease are not the reasons I exist on earth. I am acutely aware that there is no knowing what comes next, and there is virtually no point in imagining what the next winter solstice will bring, snow or blooming roses.
Sadness washes through my system with regularity these days. I feel a turning of my gaze towards the faces that are no longer here with me, and the small actions of preparing for the ritualized holiday season bring up the softly dark spaces once occupied by people dear to me. Last year I did not know they would be gone now, and here in this moment, I can allow the feelings to arise, see them for what they are -- love and longing, appreciation and gratitude -- and go on about putting candles around the house. I do not try to push the feelings away, ignore them, or feel sorry for myself. I simply feel the feelings, as energy arising around my heart and filling my mind with memories that add a dimension to everything I am doing.
In meditation teaching I often say that we are not trying to erase or stop ourselves, correct or change ourselves. We are making the space to see ourselves, experience our self and begin to explore possibilities that are otherwise drowned out by the constant shifting and noisiness of mind and reactive nature. On the mat, the yoga asana flows from physical effort to an understanding of energy and attention.
At this time of year, it seems these practices come directly into my every day moments. I am not on the mat, I am in the kitchen preparing for a family meal, remembering turning my hands towards other meals. I am not quietly sitting on a cushion, I am sitting in a zooming crowded car on a busy interstate highway. It is even more amazing to open up my awareness and focus my attention in these contexts. I feel the sadness, nod at it and let it slide past like the blur of exposed tree limbs. I am glad to be on my way, and there are roads I no longer need to travel. It is complicated to understand this delicate balance of love and loss. The first aspect is to go ahead and feel it, notice it, see what it is. So I use my asana practice here too, to be present in body and energy, connected beyond the reactive state of mind and filling with joy.