Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Big and The Little Things

There is such a succulent quality in the opening up of a pose in yoga. It is the same deeply aware and blossoming feeling when you take a bite of something totally delicious, or feel your child's heart beating next to your own. Getting there is a series of steps and stages, no matter what condition your body or your mind might be in at the moment. Of course there are those incredible suddenly-you-are-totally-there moments in life, but mostly life is spent in the steps and stages. These are precious to me, and each one is like a strong light beam on the moment, on the truth, and is embedded in trust that this is, in and of itself, the practice.

For each and every person there are poses that seem totally out of reach at first. It might be that forward bending is always a struggle, or that back bends are frightening and painful, or that even lifting an arm a certain height seems to be the boundary layer of what you will ever be able to do. To each and every person I say, let it be what it is, and keep exploring what it is. If we can let go of the definitions that make this "the limit" or "the unattainable" or the "problem with me" then the possibilities will open. Perhaps that forward bend just needs something to stand on that elevates your heels... and liberates your lower back or your hamstrings. Perhaps seated hip and shoulder opening sequences will help release the tension that has historically prevented back bends from reaching out of your core and put all the stress on your back. Perhaps relaxing your neck and opening your heart will allow grace to rotate your shoulders at a lower level and the gradual strengthening that will find your arm moving with your breath. In each case, you need not aim for the most advanced posture first, which is what many people seem to do.

When I begin going to yoga classes, I used to present myself with the idea that Ustrasana (Camel pose) was what I had to do to be "doing a backbend." In the beginning of my practice I couldn't do them at all and who knows but that I may end up not "doing" them as time goes by. Thank you to all my teachers who helped me understand all the little things about opening the spaces, and lifting from the root, and relaxing the unnecessary effort, and taking the small stages that make the "big thing" appear like just another small step in a process of exploration. Ustrasana has led me into other places that I didn't think I would ever go. And even in the course of my exploring, I've had injuries from other things that brought me new layers and stages of awareness. These also open into the "big things" about the body and its strengths and weaknesses, about the mind and its judgments and expectations.

Each part of the path is the path. Understanding this is one of the most marvelous ways of learning how to let go of the hierarchies I impose on seemingly everything. It is obvious to me now that this level of awareness continues to open not only in spite of all the particulars of my specific body and mind, but because of those particulars -- and that is true for each person and all their "big" and "little" things.

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