Saturday, April 10, 2010

Exploring the Body I Live In

It amazes me how different my body feels one day from the next, one moment from the next. Yoga gives me a way to honor those differences, rather than trying to create something uniform out of my asymmetrical parts. Working with asana, I can encourage more openness on the stiffer side, I can explore the flexibility on the more open side, and I can find a sense of balance without having to either ignore or judge what may not be or what may be my condition at the moment. In my practice I am learning to listen to my own inner teacher. The one who says "wow see how tight that is!" is the same one who says "release around the shape of your breath" and "drink from the well of space beyond this thought of tightness." My human curiosity asks, "how will the other side feel?" and my natural mind notices small changes and differences in condition.

The key word here is "condition." My body is not a finite thing, nor is there a perfect set of ways to be in my human condition. We each live in a body with a mind that tells us all about that, pretty much all of the time. Using the mind to explore the body in any given moment can reveal so much about how the mind works and how the body works too. Using the breath to explore the body, gradually, if judgment can be released about how it should be, ought to be, used to be, etc., there is a sense of unity of being. The breath continues to rise and fall, to open and empty the body. The breath can be counted on to do this for the body and for the mind. Mind can rise and fall too. You can see the thought or judgment and move beyond that. I sometimes use the analogy of clouds. When a cloud catches the intense light of the sun and appears quite dramatic, it draws our attention. Thoughts can do that too. But all clouds eventually dissipate, continue in the cycle of forming and releasing their moisture and particles, transferring to other ways of organizing these materials, and literally transforming continuously related to the conditions in which they exist. Our thoughts can do this too, and through my yoga practice, I am finding that the body can also.

It no longer makes any sense to me to define myself by the elements of this hip or that kidney, by this thought or that gender or age. I know that these elements are like the particles and moisture of the clouds, forming and reforming, transferring and transforming. By discovering that I can breath slowly and relax around that breath, my headstand is a constantly changing state of being, my firmness of footing in Virabhadrasana III (I think of this as flying warrior) wavers and still supports me. That experience is a strong encouragement to stop judging and pre-determining what I think I am doing, who I think I am becoming, and how I think I ought to live. In this way, I can just be. Just being, I can see more clearly, act with more energy, live more fully without grasping for constancy of conditions.

A little discipline helps in this exploration. Not the kind that dictates "do this, must do this!" but the kind that allows me to act rather than excuse and to explore rather than follow a routine. The inquiry itself is encouraging. Today I may fall over trying to find my flying foot in Virabhadrasana III, or today I may fly with my foot in my hand. Am I failing if I try and fall? No, I don't think so any more. I am totally happy to discover the body I am actually living in at any given moment. I am so grateful to feel this way after nearly a half century of judging this body in order to rank it in some way related to its past or its future or someone else's body or someone else's idea of it. What a waste of energy!

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