Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Relaxed Awareness

Right this moment, I see that the limbs of the trees are dark and bare against a bright gray morning sky, yet I can dwell among the jeweled leaves in this photograph. My heart can open to the beauty and sensation of the curving canopy arching over the street, and revel in a sense of wonder and gratitude. Yet I am actually sitting at a computer, typing, aren't I? Feeling the starkness now of damp tree limbs silhouetted against the clouds, I begin to crave a hot cup of tea. These feelings, reactions and observations are the product of mind, my own mind! Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, speaks of the constant fluctuations of mind and offers a systematic study of human experience through yogic practices that can see beyond these radiating fluctuating waves into the core substance of being.

I live in this contemporary world, that of alternate side parking and washing machines, store bought packaged products of every kind and instant messaging. Yet my goal in this moment, and in my life it seems, is to seek out this substance of being. Sounds completely impossible but in any given moment my own breath can make this available to me. I have to pay attention. The kind of attention is something that I am actively evolving, honing, enabling. Whether through physical yoga practice, or meditation, or deciding what will be dinner, or noticing my husband's breath in the middle of the night, this kind of attention can open the possibility of relaxed awareness and access to being fully present.

Relaxed awareness falls into place naturally when the grip of judgment is loosened, so I am not attaching to outcome or object, and my mind can observe the widest range of details and all my reactions to the details freely. I see the glorious canopy above me, and the stark limbs; I feel the rising spring sap and the cold chill of snow on the branches. Do I attach to meaning? Do I hold tight to a preference of one over another? Must I put values on the sentimental qualities of longing and loss, of joy and rejuvenation? I can feel anything and all of that, yet still be free. This freedom doesn't inhibit commitment, since even that is conditional and within the context arises naturally too. It seems that commitment relates to where I turn my attention (as in a yoga posture I can focus on my ribcage or my feet and change the whole experience). Does this make me dull and monotone, without intensity or specificity? I think not. The water of the self remains responsive to the wildest sea, the choppy whitecaps, the smallest waves, the subtlest ripples in the pond; and with all of this available my experience of life is enormous!

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