Thursday, February 7, 2013

Changes Moment to Moment, Practice & Life

coleus the day before freezing temperatures

Arms swinging softly from side to side as I strode down the street, I was thinking: "hips moving, shoulders moving, how lucky I am." I waited for the light to change, crossed the street, began up the next block and my feet went sliding on a sheet of black ice. My spine twisted one way and the other, my knees bent, and I straightened up to find myself standing solidly on the curb, one hand on a parked car. Wow. The other side of the street was bathed in sunlight, a dry, clear sidewalk waiting. I walked carefully across the street, taking stock of my formerly sprained ankle, scanning interior spaces for pinches, pulls or any other signs of distress.  All in one moment, an injury can change a busy life of teaching yoga into a deep practice in acceptance and letting go.  I had been grateful just a moment ago for the fluidity in my joints, the sweet synchronization of breath and body movements. A moment later, any part of me could have been significantly damaged.

I arrived 20 minutes later to teach a student who had herself had a near miss just before our session. She had been talking with a friend, crossing a street, turned and in a split second was actually hit by a cyclist. Being a cyclist herself, she was utterly astonished that she hadn't seen that coming, nor could the cyclist have predicted her hesitation and uncertainty mid-stream in crossing the street. Again, neither person was injured, though both were rattled by the turbulence in the steady pace of the day.

How many times do we take for granted the moment we are currently experiencing? I would guess most of the time. It doesn't have to be the small stuff, sometimes it is the enormity of life and death that shifts in a moment. From going off to work and handling the myriad aspects of daily family life, to signing one's life partner up for hospice after imagining that the endless uphill struggle would result in a view at the top of that hill, and a vista of an endless life of the quotidien. How on earth can we prepare for this roller coaster drama in which we all live?

In the practice of yoga or sitting for a moment to watch our mind in action in meditation, we can strengthen the muscle of mindfulness, becoming more aware of our way of operating, and more at ease with who we are. That strength of self knowledge helps focus our attention in that slippery moment, when the heart sinks below the horizon and the mind cannot close in around the ramifications.  Watching the moment, just as one watches the mind in meditation or observes the distribution of the breath in an asana, there is a real possibility to remain present, ready to accept and adapt to what is happening.  This is a baseline of practice, standing in a warrior pose (Virabhadrasana I, II or III), or twisted in a revolved triangle pose, or meeting the gaze of a grieving friend, we practice to bring the self fully present in that moment,  not fuzzy, nor lost in projection. It enables us to hold steady,  not confusing presence for control, or judgment for reality.

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