Friday, March 5, 2010

Pre-Dawn Yoga: Shoveling in Deep Snow

The outside world seems to present me with reflections of my inner self. Surrounded by a deeply snowy landscape in Upstate New York, I can feel the sequence of events, like a 3-part (Dirgha) breath. As with the breath, I can take it either way top to bottom, or bottom to top. I can move from the top surface light powder that overlays a heavy crust, below this is two-to-three feet of soft moist snow, resting on the underlayer of crusted ice that presses on the wet and yet solid surface of flattened greens holding tight with their roots in the semi-frozen ground. Or I can begin from underneath taking the reverse: the slushy greens softening under several feet of fluffy blue-white yet heavier-by-the-day snow, compressing at the top edge by the weight of a slick hardened crust and topped with a dusting of delicate bright white snowy filigree. As I shovel, I run into all of it.

Sometimes I penetrate from the top, cracking the crust before shoveling in stages through the deep snow, and finally ramming the shovel below the deepest crust into the softening mush in an effort to clear the surface. Sometimes I begin at the bottom, wedging my shovel's edge as deeply under the whole thing as I can and try to remove the support of the deep half-frozen slush so that the whole depth begins to loosen, crack and fall in chunks that are manageable to lift with my shovel.

Early morning yoga practice is sometimes so much like shoveling this nearly 4 feet of snow from the edges of the curving, sloping drive. I want to clear a wider path, make movement possible. I know there is more here than I can deal with all at one time. My perseverance, breath and lightness of heart will help me. There are layers that resist, sometimes crumbling in large chunks to reveal the deep softness within, only to find that there is another hardened layer made by hidden melts and freezes and solidified in the darkness. My back is already getting worn from the efforts. Yoga shines the light there. Turns out there is slush below that. And with careful, mindful breath, I just might find the effortless effort that loosens that deeper crust, reveals the vivid green lushness of grass and wild weeds long weighted down. What happens next? Savasana takes me deeper still where I rest, leaning on my shovel, reveling in my beating heart, eyes watering and blinking in the sun's light on the snow.

And lest anyone think that this has to be all about physical effort and endurance, I have found it even more challenging in my sitting meditation practice! That soft layer runs right into the crust of my open mind wandering mind in either direction, so my focused one-pointed shovel of attention must be steady in its work.

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