Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yoga Using the Body

Two days ago I stubbed my toe and it drew my attention like a rocket exploding across the sky. I could almost say it shook me to my foundation and took my breath away at the same time! From that instant this simple change in the way my foot reacted to everything has served as such a deep reminder that everything is subject to change and that the feelings and meanings, stories and responses are not who I am, they are just conditions. At this point my toe only speaks when I push on it, but it has helped remind me to soften my feet in every Asana, and highlights how my balance and my movement are related to breath and a rising core energy, and my relationship to the earth whether I am noticing that or not. The toe made sure I was noticing. What a gift!

Yoga practice is not a routine. Pratapana (preparatory movements) and Asana (postures) can be repeated daily and even in the same sequence (though that is not my style), yet the practice is unique to the moment. Each day that I open my eyes, the light astonishes me. Even thinking that I know which hip will be creaky, what is actually happening in the moment is something specific and can only be experienced with awareness in that moment. The instant I stubbed my toe, my body reacted and my mind reacted; my breath reacted (that sharp intake!) and my feelings both physical and emotional jumped in. Each time I settle on the mat, my body sensations and my inhale/exhale can take just as much attention. Can an ordinary moment, of transition from inhaling to exhaling, of resting in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I standing posture), be as fully engaging as the moment I stubbed my toe? Yes, it can if I allow myself to choose to focus fully upon it. Through the body and its senses and reactions to conditions, the reactions of voluntary and involuntary muscles and nerves to the mind's directions, and within the patterns learned, I can literally find myself intensely and completely sitting on the mat breathing in and breathing out. My body gives me a laboratory in which to experience my self and the world, both internal and external.

What is the point of this intense presence? Is it some release into higher consciousness or trance-like tranquility? Well, not really for me at this point, though it may sometimes go through a stage like that. I think of the Asana practice, the practice of yoga through the body, as a stage in waking up. Allowing myself to observe so closely, to experience more fully without attaching to the experience, brings me to a new level of equanimity, while simultaneously integrating my energy into my entire being. I am at whatever level of practice this is, that I can more easily be clear and awake through the yoga practice, even while withdrawing from my sensations and becoming more and more of an observer, using experience and reactivity to help me see and be my self.

The ache in my toe brings my inner awareness to what I can release more fully into the experience. Releasing into the experience demands letting go more fully of the "idea" of the experience. Sitting or walking meditation starts in the same way for me it seems, using the breath or awareness of gravity or light. I guess this is just where I am on the continuum of cultivating consciousness, that I use my body as a prop, a processing plant, a playing field upon which to see and play the game of being who I am. After all, I am experiencing this life in this body, so I might as well use it with gratitude for all that it gives me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Namaste: Gratitude to My Students for Everything

The plan is to be everything you need me to be, offering tender care for your joints, your breath, your energy, your critical mind, your hidden sorrows, your deepest yearnings. The plan is to lay bare the floor below you and the air moving through you. The plan is to give you everything, even those aspects about which you know nothing and those aspects which evaporate when you touch them.

This is the plan. It happens whether you are with me or not.

As I wake on a very rainy, misty gray morning, I find my heart beating, my eyes softly focus on the rain blurred world. It seems there is only my own body to inform today with a yoga practice, and yet every breath I take turns out to be for you. Does it matter if I am cutting melon for the fruit salad or responding to facebook posts? Does it matter if I am sitting in Padme (lotus) or curled in a soft chair? Turns out none of this cuts me off from you.

When I was at Kripalu for my teaching certification, one of my team leaders said quite matter-of-factly that once you become a yoga teacher you are a yoga student for life. It is true in a circle of experience that enfolds the yoga student in me forever into the yoga teacher in me. Of course my own experiences are in my own hip joint or my own meditational spaces, but what happens there belongs to you.

The only way I can thank you for all you have done for me is to continue my practice in all directions, to offer that which I am now, have always been, will ever be, and continue to let go of any fears or mind chatter that keeps me from you.

In Sanskrit we say "Namaste" and as the words leave my lips at the end of my classes, I explain, "acknowledging the grace, the beauty, the wisdom, the compassion in you, and honoring that in all living beings." These words escape from my heart, effortlessly giving everything. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beginning, Middle & End - All Part of Practice

Lately I've taught a classes with a different shape to them. One was part of a menopause group's activities. One was part of a teen health awareness program. One was an early afternoon chair yoga class. As strikingly different as these groups might seem on the surface, they are beginning in the same place, the present moment, this inhale. Throughout the practice attention wanders and returns to the breath, students sometimes watching me, sometimes turning totally inward, sometimes gazing at each other. And by the end, all in the same place, releasing the grip on the body and the mind, finding that the breath can take them into a place of peace, acceptance, ease.

As the teacher I lead them, I join them, I follow them. This is my practice. My practice carries me into and out of each day with an awareness of the way the heart moves the breath and the breath moves the heart and investigates all the spaces in which that might happen. I ask my students what they are doing here, and admit that we don't have the answer to that question except to say, "being present." I urge my students to accept that this is the body in which they will be living their life and that the exploration, celebration and joy of that unfolding experience can continue as long as there is breath.

Sometimes when I teach mat-based classes my students fall asleep in Savasana. How could I love them any more than I already do? Feeling the gentle breathing all around in my crowded chair sessions, I keep my eyes closed and lean my own breath across the room to hold all the sweet drifting hearts above the water level, until awareness returns to the fingers and toes and they can swim on their own.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Attachment to What Is, or Not?

A gust of wind thrashed in the upper branches of the tree across the street from my 4th floor window. I watched the dance of the leaves, and the light, the grace and vigor of the branch in its responses to the moving air. What do I see? Is it the world as it is in this moment, or is it a change from what I expected to see, or from what I saw a moment ago? In other words, is this moving, thrashing branch being measured against my idea of the tree holding still? Could it be that my idea of "tree" creates my concept of "tree in the wind?" If I simply see the tree, whether stationary or in motion, I can experience this moment without assigning meaning, without defining any dualistic value. The moment is reactive to conditions, the conditions are in the moment.

What is change without attachment to what was, or the measurement of what is against something that might have been or might yet be? Is that at the core of my human understandings or might I be masking something else by these attachments?

Maybe letting go of those meanings, that identification with the object as the defined object, would shake my view of the world. Perhaps the inner core of my being does not require that a tree hold steady as a shape against the sky or produce firewood or shade or even oxygen. It is shocking to think that every cell has an atomic structure, smaller than the eye can see and difficult for the mind to imagine without physical models in exaggeratedly large sizes. Yet they exist in the same way that planets do, now that we have created an exaggeration of our own vision in the form of powerful telescopes. Aren't these fundamentally acts of imagination?

I'm sensing that what we see and the meanings we give are really still in the realm of myth and story. The story changes as the teller accommodates new possibilities, and the exploration continues of the illusions around us, defining and explaining to make it easier to function here, or understand what we think. It is natural human behavior to attach to what we think and what we think we know. Isn't much of anger, disappointment, violence and harm coming from exactly this attachment? How much energy is spent trying to convince others that one opinion is right and another wrong, or one action is just and another hateful, or one concept is correct and another incorrect, one god is true and another false.

I attach so much of my own being to these details of memory, training, and meaning. In my yoga and meditation there are moments when there is a sense of a conscious witness beyond these attachments, watching the person I am go through these patterns of attachment. This awareness is detached from the assigned meanings, values, shapes and histories. There is much compassion in the observation, a sense of kindness and lack of judgment in this way of knowing about being myself. That in itself is deeply comforting, enabling, spacious.

Functioning in the world is not a detached condition! My feelings soar and plummet, my thoughts zoom around, my head fills with details and observations, critiques and comparisons. Even my body continually sends a variety of messages, never to be exactly as I might expect or assume it to be. Even without really detaching, I can watch this happening and actually function with more equanimity while the whirlwind whirls. That tree branch is still thrashing out there, yet has not changed the tree. Even if the limb falls, the idea of tree can remain or the idea of tree can include limb-on-the-sidewalk. This is a state of mind, rather than one of the tree itself. My attachment to meanings and definitions is not required for that tree to continue in its relationships to the conditions around it, the wind and the sidewalk, to photosynthesis and the air I breathe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Right Here, Right Now

A clump of preschool children were cluttering the sidewalk today on my walk to teach. There was a group of three or four of them hunkered down in squats picking at leaves with little sticks. There was one going back and forth through the standing legs of a supervising grown up. Several others were drifting near a large tree trunk. Two were poking their fingers through an ornate iron fence. What were they doing there? The three women in charge of them were standing in relaxed postures and chatting. Is this mid-block stretch of sidewalk the destination of the group? Weren't they on their way somewhere? The most marvelous thing was, the kids were quite clearly present right there right then. A pause in the group's travel became the place they had traveled to be.

I was walking along. At each moment I was right there, too, on the sidewalk, moving in the world, just like the children. My gaze moving, feeling the movement of my hip joints and my shoulders, exploring the textures of the sidewalk under my sandals. Breathing in and breathing out.

Perhaps the destination is always simply being fully where we are right now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Deepen at Any Point

When people ask me about the weekly community class I teach, I say that it is a beginning class, but that every body is welcome. It is okay to be a person who has no experience of yoga or a life long practitioner. The inquiry involved is that of being present no matter what level of experience one has. I've been teaching this "beginning" yoga for a year and a half in the same little neighborhood studio. Every class introduces fundamental aspects of yoga. There are patterns, or sequences, or ideas that come in the door with me, some of which become the core of the practice, some of which dissipate once the practice begins. It is becoming clearer to me as I go along that the deepening of practice may mean building the stamina to hold an asana longer and thereby gain new experience of the self, or it can mean picking up on the more subtle inner questions about movement in the breath that directs a flow or asana sequence. It can be the stillness of Savasana (corpse pose, or relaxtion), or the openness of Savasana, or the sheer sensation of shoulder blades on the mat below the heart in Savasana that allows a person to simply be or to discover their own observing witness self for the first time.

A neighbor and sometimes student of mine asked me this week how to cherish the experience of every step if her feet already hurt. My first response is to accept the experience of the steps as evidence of presence in the moment. If you can let go of the attachment to the emotions that come up with the soreness of the step, in other words, the feeling sorry for oneself, or the story about how tired one is, or the fear over what might be wrong with the big toe, or the judgment of having bought shoes that don't fit... well, if you can detach and actually experience the steps, it is more likely that you can find a way of stepping that is less painful. It can be more interesting to allow awareness to explore the walking with discomfort without all that baggage, and, in fact, it can refocus attention enough to actually be less painful. Deepening the practice might include breath awareness, or bringing alert attention to alignment of the knee with the hip and ankle, the exact placement of the feet. These layers can also help alleviate the sensations of stress and sometimes even lighten the step, perhaps allowing the experience to transform discomfort and aggravation into an exploration of the way one functions in the world.

Watching the self go through an experience is another layer of practice that is available at any moment, whether you have a yoga practice of one week or several years. I have a feeling that even the most revered practitioners alive today have moments when grasping and attachment must be revisited. We each find depth as we go along, and it is wonderful to accept the practice as it is in the moment and use this moment to deepen the practice.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blueberries: A View of Human Development

I couldn't help myself this morning as I picked blueberries. Their beautiful range of color and size, ripeness and tinges of not-quite-ripeness kept reminding me of the stages that human teenagers go through. I could feel the attraction and intensity of the darkest ripest ones, and the repeating superficial trick of those that seem ripe but on closer inspection are tinged with red and still not ready. The eye goes to the larger riper looking ones, and yet the tiny ones are delicious and sweet. Usually in a clump of translucent green berries there is one totally ripe one and occasionally one is so ready that it falls off the bush. All of this seems to represent to me the way of our own growth in the years between childhood and adulthood.

In any group of teens one often will ripen first. And there is an opalescent beauty and seductive potential in the clumps of not-quite-ripe ones, just as there is in the teens who are still half in childhood. The ones that seem ripe, but are not, are so like the teens who want to seem more mature than they actually are, and the adult tendency to pay attention to taller mature looking teens seems just like the magnetism of those larger ripe berries, yet the flavor in the ripe small ones may be even more succulent. I also love the way they grow in clumps of various sizes, with a few that are attached separately to their own twigs. So it seems with teenagers, some seem to grow and travel in small groups, while others find a more solitary way or have one or two companions on the path.

It doesn't bother me when the birds or the bugs or even the chipmunks manage to get a few of the berries. We throw netting over a brace to help keep a few for ourselves. With berries there is enough to go around. But it does bother me that the developing ripeness of teens is so often picked off before they are ready for the fullness of the forces that fall on adults. Berries can take a lot of sun and wind, though they can shrivel without enough water; and teens can take a lot of outside influence and roller coaster like ups and downs, with enough support and love. But it is much harder for teens to tolerate the the range of their own development as a shifting set of conditions while it is happening. They often don't have the equanimity of the berries to be true to their nature no matter what happens to them, and sometimes adults cannot offer the support to fill in that space either.

Perhaps it is the tenderness of picking each berry, one at a time, gently plucking from under leaves or from among the bunch of not-quite-ripe ones, that seems so consonant with contemplating the handling of young humans. How they may appear riper in the shadows of the branches, or stand out in the way the blue blush deepens to that perfect point of ripeness. How to support and nurture the young humans as they, too, slowly swell and develop into the lusciousness and fullness of being who they already are. Blueberries have a tendency to tartness mixed with the sweet. Peelings are resilient and the seeds are embedded in a soft inner core. The green of the inner flesh turns purple when cooked. So, too, do human children mix the tough with the soft, the ever-hopeful with the desperately undone. Able to imagine almost anything, and yet unable to think their way out of an emotional situation, human teens could use encouragement to allow themselves to accept their own stages as they actually experience them. Let them ripen in their own time, among their peers, but still attached firmly to the branches that bring them support and nourishment. And I wish for them all over the world to have enough of what they need to celebrate each stage without falling off the bush too soon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Exploring Respect: Right Speech, Right Action

How to have respect, and show respect without judgment is a serious part of my yoga explorations. I can feel my urge to "inform" others of my point of view. It has been difficult at times to live through the effects of what feels to others like "telling them what to do." I have come to accept that my observations are totally tainted by my own experiences and that can put me off the mark in assessing what is happening.

It is especially important in my yoga teaching to truly treat the student as the expert in their own body experience. Though I may have useful insights to give them, it is their own integration of this that makes any sense or has any purpose. As I recently mentioned to a friend, my first experience in a yoga class of being instructed to "relax in child's pose" was such a case in reverse. I know that this pose is not relaxing for many people in a physical sense, but for me it was not physically obvious...it was the reference to my childhood that brought discomfort. That began a very serious inquiry for me, not necessarily a bad thing, but not the teacher's intentions. So in this, I am learning to ask, to observe, to suggest, to invite the modifications. My role as a teacher is to make the space safe for students to explore, and to offer as judgment free instruction as I can, and THEN offer what I know as a possible option, not a directive.

Respect may, in this way, also require figuring out deep hidden attachments to patterns or judgments. Enjoying a conversation with someone who holds different views is possible in a non competitive, non-proselytizing way if there is an open space in which to speak and listen. Respect can make it possible for people to share deep feelings about things without feeling that there must be agreement. Word choice goes way beyond political correctness, but that concept is similar. If we speak in the language of inclusion, using non-inflammatory words, in other words speaking non-judgmentally, it feels respectful. Really meaning what we say changes the tone as well. Verbal interactions in relationships can cause pain or give joy. Sometimes it is not speaking that will do the most good, making the space for another person to do something their own way without commentary, to feel accepted, make a discovery, or explore in their own way the relevant cause and effect of their words or actions.

Beyond words, respect is embedded in action. Choosing where to meet someone, weeding in the garden, catching a chipmunk trapped in the house, or deciding how to travel or what to eat are all actions where our choices have embedded assumptions, and values are subtly or not so subtly assigned to other lives, to others' feelings, to the conditions we create or within which we live. Staying in someone else's home, or visitng another country can high light these inner threads of behaviors with which we tie ourselves to unintended outcomes. Bringing this to consciousness, observing our own way of acting, making the first step one of seeing the pattern leads to understanding that there are choices to be made that might have very different results. Respecting our own need for freedom can lead to authentic respect for others in our actions towards others as well.

I remember reading a conversation with the Dalai Lama about Ghandi, in which he was asked about acting to stop a violent act or being passive. His response included the concept that first, passivity is not the same as peace, and then went on to say that if one is able to see that another person is about to act against their karmic best interests, it is right action to prevent that act... not simply allowing oneself to be attacked, for example, since that would also bring harm to oneself and the other person. This really struck me as interpreting active resistance in that case as an act of deep respect. Imagine thinking of oneself as part of the other, or the other as part of oneself in that context! Yet that is an underlying concept, that we are not separate from the results of our own choices, nor from the conditions that impact on others.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Foundation in the Breath

Sometimes we lean too hard where we think the support is and throw ourselves off balance entirely. This kind of interaction wastes energy, and ruins relationships. No one else can give you the map, but teachers (and fellow beings) can help you with your map reading skills. I believe the map actually begins to draw itself as we as make our own inquiries. It is convenient to begin with the body, since we each live in one through which we accumulate experiences. I have taken plenty of yoga classes that felt like they were all about the body.

When I started going to yoga classes, I had trouble communicating with my toes. I'd ask them to leave the floor and spread wide and they just looked back at me until I laughed. The same thing happened when I wanted to move my rib cage in small circles, or lift my legs in anything resembling Navasana (boat pose). I could make a long list of what wasn't happening and what was happening. The mind woke up to the shock that I was living in a body I really didn't know, even after all this time and all we'd been through together. There were flexibilities I never realized, and abilities to match the inabilities. There are ways of hearing that internal voice that wants to share who I really am, and allowing stillness, along with unifying movements helps develop the level of consciousness where the inner voice can speak.

In my own practice a shift began as I realized that it is not strength or will that lifts the body, but the ability to allow energy to rise from a foundation of support. It may seem hokey, but even holding oneself on hands and knees and lifting one hand will help inform the body about where the support is really coming from -- the core and the breath. As awareness turns the light on, the body can release and relax all the other clenching muscles and allow the core to use the breath. This lift makes the weight resting on the knees and hands actually lighter. Yes, lighter. So it is not always a matter of pressing down into the earth with one or another body part. I suggest softening the foot into the floor and drawing core energy up the body as you lift the other leg into Vrksasana (tree) or fly a bit in a elementary standing version of Balikakasana (crane) and you may find that balance is no longer a struggle.

There is a significant athletic aspect to yoga in this day and age, in this place, and among many students, but really in my view that is not even half the practice. I, too, admire strong, lithe bodies that can achieve amazing things, seem easy and fluid, and exude grace. I have not felt that I lived in one of those, but I am coming to find those attributes exist even in my aging, asymmetrical lived-in-half-century body. I attribute this to my explorations of yoga, which have definitely not been approached as any kind of physical training in any athletic sense, but truly is a methodical opening of the communication and energy channels inside me. The practice helps me learn theinner languages and more fully understand the messages.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beyond the Distraction of the Mind

Taking one more breath to focus my attention on the present moment, I am releasing the temptation to attach to thoughts and judgments. This morning it took all my focus in my second Sirsasana (headstand). My mind kept trying to tell me what was going on, when my breath already knew all about it. It is like having something distract your attention by running across the road ahead of you. Your attention is immediately pulled and all systems begin to go into alert, even though your own path is not actually affected by the action of the other, who has already gone from one side to the other. Meanwhile, you fall out of headstand because your mind is too full of muscle work and fear and thinking about balance and strength, instead of just breathing along the spine and lifting from the Muladhara (the root chakra). The same thing can happen in any moment of practice, hijacking by the head right out of the moment into some idea or feeling or criticism.

Don't give in! Just observe that the mind is at work and continue with the breath. Maybe you are approaching the edge of what is comfortable for you and the mind tells you to push through with muscles and will power. Back off and breathe into the place that is threatening you... perhaps it is the hamstring or the memory of the hamstring.. either way it is so much more interesting to find that you can release that to sustain yourself, rather than push that to make something happen.

Trying things that are new, or that seem difficult, often brings up this kind of mental chatter. Back-down-or-push-through thinking comes from the dualistic mind: either/or, strong/weak, can/can't... dualistic. When released into the breath, it is possible to simply experience what actually is in that moment without judging it, without turning it into something. I like to use Ujjayi breath in this kind of moment to draw my attention, to give even the sound of the waves as support for my focus. I can feel the breath gently grating through the back of my throat, like a whisper of love while I notice my muscles burning with the contraction or my spine lengthening in an inversion. When I go from Padangusthasana (forward bend holding toes) to Utthita Hasta Padangustahasana (standing up extending one leg to the side holding the toe) there is a moment on one side when I can feel my mind tipping my balance. It is the strangest thing, yet I also know that I can pull my breath from the floor through my standing leg and exhale out the other leg. This is an energetic connection of the breath throughout my body, my being, that has nothing to do with the balancing act my mind is chattering about. If I allow the distraction, I feel the separation of bending and standing, the dualities of balancing and falling, of folding and stretching. All of these concepts tend to knock me out of the asana. When that happens, and it sometimes does, I watch it happen like a fly on the wall witnessing the whole comedy of errors. And it is this witness consciousness that seems endlessly compassionate, willing to see it as comedy rather than tragedy, ready to accept whatever is happening, including the process of aging that my body is experiencing.

The practice of yoga includes the watching mind, the falling body, the laughing and the disappointment. It includes the feeling of awe and wonder as I rise from a full forward bend attached to my foot and elongate into that right angle leg-hip stretch. Even though I know that it is my muscles and bones that are in the asana, it really is my breath that gets me there. And even more important, my willingness to let being present take priority over whatever else my head might be telling me. It is then that my head gets the best gift from the practice, the open space to see itself, to really be more and more of what it can be, of finding me, expressing the human being I am. There is no point in projecting what will happen or aim for a particular thing, in my opinion. It is always just this intense quality of being that makes yoga infinitely interesting and engaging to me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Absorbing What I Already Know

Cutting the grass again
Only this time it is in answer
To my need to be engaged
Doing something
Moving with only my energy
And the lay of the land to guide me.
Walking in a loop
Preferring to find all my corners rounded
following the circles of my thoughts.
Around and around they cycle back
Making an extended
Concentric web
Of love
Around Emmett
Our 4-year old cat.

Yup, going blind
All the way and fast
Says the doc.
Not quite there yet, though.
Still seeing about 20 percent of light in one eye
Or so he thinks.
Following sound and smell
Gently maneuvering with whiskers
Brushing the sides and edges of things
Cold wet nose touches my leg gently
Before he rubs his full side body.
Emmett purrs in his never-very-loud voice
Just to be in the same space
Where I am sitting on my yoga mat.

What is it to be a cat with no eyes
Yet can still catch a fly – if it moves.
Must be the sound that tips him off.
Since he was very young he descended gradually
Paws reaching for what might be there below him
Though did not stop climbing onto desks
Or up into trees
Or on top of refrigerators.
Lately he has given up the refrigerator.
His world darkens, or does it just become gray?
The doc couldn’t say.

Mourning for a life he will not have
My husband reminds me
That Emmett gets the life he gets
Just like we do.
And he does have us
Here and now
Weaving this web of love
In every space in which he finds himself
Giving him as much freedom as he can bear.
Today we agreed to let him continue going outside
Only in daylight and when we are near.
Besides he can go in and out by himself
With our neat swinging door
Until he can’t.
And that day may come too.

In Savasana sometimes I offer images
To students whose eyes are closed
But whose minds are open.
Perhaps for Emmett I can do the same.
At times when he is in his car box
I bring up images of the grass where we are going
Of the way the light filters through the leaves
Of the sounds and smells from the porch
And he purrs from the back seat.
My practice will be with eyes closed this evening.
Feeling my own feet on earth
Finding my heart beating,
Listening for my breath.

Cherishing this opportunity
To offer all there is of love
What changed today was in the mind
The heart has been here all along
Making sounds
To guide the blind.

Lilies & Emptiness

My husband and I have a daily mid-summer ritual of deadheading the lilies, and use that time and intimacy to acknowledge each bloom that will last only one day. Yet at this stage, on the first of July, I am surrounded by budded stalks of lilies from those still hiding in the leaves to those that stand tall as though their presence is the whole point. Slender or thick, singular bud or uncountable multiples, round or spiky, the green buds stand erect and stunningly beautiful in this moment of development. They might seem plain, nothing flashy. The brilliant colors are invisible. Their light fragrances, the graceful forms, all that is out of sight. But to me they are exquisitely and fully present. I know that in some years the deer eat off the bloom ends of this or that one before they open. Each year there are possibilities of those urgent hard summer rains beating down just at the moment when the blossom opens, battering and discoloring its one day expression.

These green stems with bulbous bud forms help me recognize and separate out from expectations and projections, and celebrate the moment. I find the beauty in the elegant grassy leaves and the buds that are luscious in their curves and clusters, embodying possibilities held within. This brings up a feeling of emptiness in me, a sense of fullness so vast there is nothing to it, no boundary and no need. If I should never see the bloom, I would still be filled with this awe and acceptance. If the bloom is a color I have never imagined, I will still be grateful for the drying brown leaves that hold the place for that lily all winter long. All of this is intertwined without a beginning or an end.

It is hard to describe the emptiness that includes everything. Being separate is like how it feels to look into another person's eyes, and realize that one minute I am focusing on one eye, and then the other eye... never seeing both at once. It leaves me bouncing between expectations and judgments, measuring and grasping, reaching for something defined by the mind as "looking into someone's eyes." Emptiness of the sort I'm experiencing is as though the gaze is wider, as though the focus of the eye itself opens to hold a wide swath just as clearly in a focused gaze. This view takes in the whole face, in fact the whole being, of the person in one gaze, not just the eyes as if they were a separate gateway into making connection. Expectations or definitions fall away and there is no need to separate the eyes as an endpoint. It is not an unfocused feeling, but one of clarity without boundaries.

It is wonderful how there is nothing dreamlike about those lily stalks emerging from their leafy clumps, pointing their energy up from the earth towards the sky. They are vividly present like silent guardians, standing ready in firm collaboration with gravity and light, really making themselves happen. Some few are already swelling, showing bits of color, nearly ready to open and offer themselves to bees, birds, rain, the wind, deer and me. Letting go of what they are now, not needing to be lily buds, or flowers, or seeds for that matter, they take their vibrant stance in the sunlight, making magic just by being. They seem to offer me one more possibility of being aware, and being present, of finding that emptiness where dualities drop away.