Monday, March 8, 2010

A Shape Around the Breath

Last night I was teaching yoga in my sleep. My dream self said that yoga is simply understanding that I am a shape to contain the breath. It seemed so clear and simple! My sleeping mind explained, for example, how moving from the breath I won't hurt my shoulder, as opposed to muscling my arms out towards some external goal. I watched and felt myself stretch my arms out using my breath (ahhh), and then push my arms out into an extension (ouch!).

I love this way of learning about myself. Not only am I teaching yoga in my sleep, but I'm teaching myself yoga in my sleep!

The idea of moving from the breath is not new, but every time I remember this and keep it at the core of my awareness, everything changes. It isn't the words that change awareness, but they can help draw attention in such a way that experience does change. That is what I hope my words do for my students. Sometimes I feel like too many words can clog awareness, and at other times there is such a visible response to my words, that I know it has drawn attention just as I hoped. I also use my own body, just as I did in my dream, to share what I'm experiencing. Every time I suggest to my students that they can release their shoulders, I release my own. I think this example is useful in showing that teaching yoga doesn't put me or my practice on a pedestal where everything I do is perfect. I like sharing my imperfections and make space for everyone to be whole and empowered.

This ongoing exploration celebrates everything it reveals, and keeps me in that state of discovery where I really am teaching myself about being. I learn bits and pieces about teaching, about frustration, about appetite, about love, about hip joints, about imbalances and balances, and about incorporating all the defined things in to the undefined open spaces of consciousness. What is a hesitation made out of? What can joy illuminate in the dark? Where does sorrow inform action?

Living in the breath itself, I feel myself expand and contract all the time. All the time, when I remember that is. Moving with that, exploring within that range of undulation, I am unifying the layers of my physical, breath, energy, and witnessing self. That is where bliss seems to be, in that unified self. That is a self unbound by the constraints of definitions, inhabiting a body that is just a shape around the breath. That shape is my home, and one that I tend and nurture, encourage and decorate, but understand in some deep way that it is transitory, truly changing with every breath. This acceptance of impermanence has a profound effect, not releasing me from responsibility in this moment since everything is always changing, rather it highlights the moment as the ultimate responsibility. My breath sustains me no matter what else is going on in my head, or even my awareness. I am very grateful for that and to my inner teacher who keeps tenderly and enthusiastically drawing this to my attention even in my sleep.

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