Friday, May 28, 2010

Controlling the Scene

When I was nine years old, I went sailing with my dad on a lake in the city of Seattle. We were living there for a year, and he was studying for his skipper certification while working on his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University there. We had a remarkable moment together, when, with a sudden wave activity from some motor boat, our little sunfish began rocking dramatically. He was new at this, and had his littlest kid with him, while his two older kids (all of 14 and 15 years old) were off in their own boat. He was panicked, trying to be in charge of both boats, shouting instructions to my siblings off in the distance, and as our boat began tipping, he jumped out and began thrashing while shouting instructions to me to hold on and such... until he stood up to find the water was just barely above his knees. Obviously, he was relieved, held on to the boat and looked to see that my siblings were doing just fine in their boat, in fact they began sailing circles around us.

I tell this story because it resonates with my yoga practice. The enormous effort we all make to try to control the situation, or to make it into something specific that fits what we think or feel, this effort is, in and of itself, inhibiting us from finding out what is going on. I laughed back then as I watched my very serious dad realize his own situation, but he did not. His good watch was ruined and he felt foolish. Still, the best part was that everyone was really fine... and in fact the two teenage kids in the other sailboat had done quite well on their own, about which they felt pretty good.

There are times in an asana or in meditation when it feels as though the waters are too rough, or the breath just can not be enough to support me, or when I see a little too clearly how my fear inhibits me and it paralyzes me. If I could just slip off the boat and stand up, I would realize that I can find out how deep the water really is, and if it is shallow enough I can walk my boat in. If the water is actually over my head, I can at least dog paddle until I figure out which way to swim.

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