Sunday, April 28, 2013

Joy rising from the dirt

There is a point in March when looking around the garden and yard feels overwhelming to me. Cleaning up from the winter, re-establishing garden in the midst of the wild fields, raking the driveway gravel out of the grass, starting all over with the process of nurturing plants and watching them become food for other wildlife, tackling the ever shifting vagaries of vegetables that thrive and succumb to the myriad issues of weather, soil, attention and bacteria... Well, it feels like more than I can stand. Alone I cannot prune all the trees, dig out those rocks, re-form the raised beds or even haul all the brush. So there are relationship matters to accommodate in my spousal partnership, allowing the priorities of both parties and energy levels of each of us to be thoughtfully and non-judgmentally considered.

And then there is that moment in early April when we can watch the dry brown grasses greening up over the course of three days of sun and slightly warmer nights. All this and the compost pile is still frozen.

Still, in January I begin to contemplate the vegetable plots and their rotations and by February and early March the seeds arrive. They sit and wait patiently in their envelopes, just as I go through this churning of helplessness and interpersonal negotiations. Then, as trees bloom in warmer climates and all the yards in New York City begin popping with color and fragrance, the little corner of upstate New York begins to awaken too. Where my garden lies is in the shadow of a north facing hill, and once all the snow and ice is gone, the cold soggy earth starts sorting itself out. The birds return and start house hunting. Just putting out the bird houses is an act of faith in the dark days of March.

Though I have not yet been able to turn the soil, I must pile all the earth to the middle of the beds because the wooden forms around my raised plots have rotted after so many years. By the next week, there is new wooden framing, the plots have been turned, and yesterday the onions were planted alongside the now 8" tall garlic greens.  My pants are filthy, hanging over the laundry basket waiting for me to put them back on for this morning's plunder of the thawed section of the compost pile.  My garden maps have been redrawn to make room for the arugula, spinach, lettuce mixtures, radishes, snow peas, sugar snaps, little shell peas, carrots, chard and beets. Packets of seeds sit in my basket, still waiting for my clumsy gloved fingers to open them in the bright sun and cold wind.

For the last two nights I have woken as the waxing full moon set across from the rising sun glowing behind the hill.  My tired muscles slightly regrouped after the night's rest, I am filled with joy at the prospect of another few hours laboring to welcome the seeds into the dirt we have prepared for them.

This is the practice. Seeing what is so and accepting that all of it is connected. Developing the ability to abide: patiently acknowledging while not judging the tough times, diligently putting in the effort as one must, but softening as one can; welcoming the joy that arises from the dirt with full knowledge that not all the seeds will thrive and some will produce splendor to share even with unwelcome guests. We are not separate from this ever-shifting inner and external see saw. It is the practice that gives me balance and equanimity. Now to put on those mud-shoes and get the morning job done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Transition is a State of Mind

So much emphasis is placed on college applications that the whole last half of high school is colored by this. Once accepted, there is another phase of accommodating all the changes taking place in moving to a new way of operating, often in an entirely different location. Once there's a rhythm established, many people start taking semesters abroad or as interns, getting part time jobs and turn their face towards what happens after graduation. Even semesters starting and ending, summer sessions and work study jobs coming and going, all of this seems like an enormous sequence of change upon change upon change.

It is much the same as a child learns to move in the world from sitting, crawling, standing, that hand-over-hand cruising, to walking, running, climbing (not always in that order!). To children, adults seem complete and finished as though all the pieces are set and the patterns established. To some degree this is a way of operating that many people try to adopt, sticking to their patterns, hanging on tight to who they think they are, or want to be.

But life is entirely transitional. Right down to the cells in the body, we are an ever shifting, changing organization of bits and systems. We live only in this moment, and whether we call it transitional or not, this is that moment.

When we tell ourselves we are in transition, or classify someone else as in a "transitional stage," we are emphasizing our idea that they are developing something and will not remain the way they are now.  This reflects our opinion or impression that perhaps that what is happening now is not sustainable, or that it is only a temporary way of operating or feeling. Certainly we comfort ourselves by saying that the deepest moments of intense grief are temporary, and we warn each other to enjoy the early days of childrearing as they "go so fast." What happens in the mind when we accept that every moment is such a moment, that we are constantly developing and can not remain the way we are now?

I stopped my class in mid stream in their sun salutations (Surya Namaskar), a series of yoga asana that are strung together in a fairly routinized way, though in my class you can never figure what I'm going to suggest. Each student realized that they had not placed their body as carefully as they would have if they had known they would have to stay there ... they had defined this sequence of postures as a flow of transitional movements, and discovered that this had occurred without much intelligence, relying predominantly on pattern and habit.  Yoga is a practice fundamentally of unifying, "yoking," awareness with the actions of being.

Waking up awareness is one of the darts that I throw at the balloon of habit in the mind. Cultivating conscious attention to include even the most mundane, momentary bits of life is where the vibrancy and depth of being resides. The yoga asana practice is a mechanism that can awaken an alert body and  mind, and help develop and train this level of consciousness and awareness without efforting. It takes focused attention to see that "transition" includes every moment, and that in every moment we can be completely present in the experience. We may never visit this place again, or be 19 years old, or feel confused about this particular thing, or be as broken hearted, or as proud and happy, or whatever it is. Those living with cancer know this feeling of uncertainty as a constant, rejecting or accepting the moment in all its fullness, again and again.  Being fully present in this moment is a state of mind, and thinking that this moment is just on its way to some other moment is also a state of mind, that leaches some of the potential from "now" and projects it onto "then."

Convenient to explain uncertainty and the unknown as a transition if we are not sure of what is happening and want to grasp at the next moment (or the remembered moment) as more settled or resolved or successful, etc.  This, too, is the mind setting a scene for the story we tell ourselves. It is still only in this moment that we are here, living. Impermanence is  the way of all living beings. Just look around you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We are the fruits of the Earth too: just one, all one

Reading several different descriptions of the eight limbs of yoga, I am struck again and again by how they are inseparable. It is a strange function of our human way of using language that separates words and concepts, creates constructions for us. The moments when the mind can see this, yet not attach to it, are the openings pervaded by the essential qualities of life. For some this translates to a flow state, for others into nirvana, orgasm, or transcendence. Basically it is a unified condition, not separating into any of the this-and-that usually running our daily activities.

People are not separate either, though it sure feels as though we are if we stick with our mental configurations.  A friend passed along an article about our intrinsic mirroring neurology, that which gives us joy when we see joy in another, and sorrow when we see sorrow in another. This is built in to us, a depth of compassionate connection that can be traced to specific chemicals in the body released in specific reactive moments.  We can cultivate these in our yoga and meditation practices by opening to the flow of compassion, and allowing our feelings to rise and dissolve the barriers. We will not disappear into pain and suffering, quite the contrary, we begin to see that there is so much else that supports and nurtures us.

We are all fruits of the earth.

I brought a handful of grapes to class one day, inviting each student to take one. Some ate them right away, so I instructed everyone to eat that one, and offered a second one to observe. With the flavor and textures of that first grape in the mouth, we looked at the little dark globe in our hands. Each just a grape. Outer skin a little tough and bitter, inside juicy and sweet, and beyond that, buried in the interior, the crunchy seeds that could be seen as the purpose of the grape itself. None of these grapes looked outstanding in the bunch, yet each was so delicious. None of them, eaten by us, would come to fruition through the seed within forming a grape plant, yet each fully served a purpose, perhaps several purposes actually.

Are we not as the grapes in the bunch, each just a grape, yet perfect in our multiple possibilities and purposes? Do we not all have a bit of the toughness of that outer skin, the sweetness of that inner flesh, the potential of that crunchy seed we are designed by our very nature to nurture?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Body as Home, Breath as Being

Sometimes when you've been out on your feet for many hours, getting into the car feels like home. I've seen  people pick their noses in their cars as though there were curtains through which no one could see. The car is a vehicle, a vehicle that moves through space giving a sense of enclosure and perhaps even a sense of security. Out in the world it is our own body that provides us with that home (complete with a fabricated sense of security) but on the body we actually do place curtains in a way: our clothing, styles, habits, the stuff of appearances. We dress ourselves as we hope to be seen, within the limitations of our ideas about our self and our willingness to put time and resources into the project. This physical vehicle in which we experience life does not really have an external life of its own. We can surely be judged by others based upon it, but if you judge me by my shoes, I become invisible as a living being. It is our breath that animates us. Awareness of  our self as a living being can shift us away from this false sense of privacy or security into the truth of being fully alive in the world. The breath can help us feel and fill that space where we are authentic, alive and at home. No curtains needed. 

So often it is the metaphorical curtains that seem to fascinate us, about ourselves and on others. We use the outer shapes and decoration to tell one story after another. Our mala beads,  turban,  yarmulkas,  or veil all speak of the culture of our spiritual practices,  reveal a bit about our desires and self concept. Our fashions show our grasping at affinity groups, and hint at our philosophy to avert the worst of our fears.  We imagine physical condition as a reflection of character. All of this, like a silk wrap, falls away when we cultivate our focus on the breath itself.  There is no strategy about being who we are when we are simply being a living being. There is no style or design to it, other than the human form that uses this continuous influx and outflow. Stories we have been told, and the ones we tell ourselves or another, can also be seen as shifting reflections in the windows.

The human form has a shape and that shape has its effects. Like any point of origin, it's influence is both subtle and deep. If we find ourselves living in a female or male body, or with chronic illness, or with acute  sensitivities, it can shape us invisibly and visibly. Seems to me, though, that even these attributes are window dressing  rather than the core of the living self.  We can continue to see each other as these external forms, and ourselves as well, or we can begin to cherish these forms as expressions, and see beyond the curtains. 

The mind is like a vast loom, constantly weaving all available strands into patterns. Each strand, if pulled,  unravels only one part of this constantly shifting design. It is being, the presence of mind without attaching to the distractions of the curtains or the shifting designs, that unifies all of our life experiences into this life we live.  It unifies this life into a much larger fabric comprised of all the lives around us, known or unknown to us, and in fact to those who came before us and will follow us. We do not make that happen by fingering our prayer beads, or covering our faces, but by breathing in and breathing out. It is part of the yogic path to draw awareness within, to cultivate a single-pointed focus, and to observe the workings of the mind itself. The breath is the constant, regardless of the strands, the patterns, or the curtains we use to cover to the changing reflections.

When a thread is pulled and parts begin unraveling, we are willing to take that which remains as though it were whole. This distortion is what we think we know. Operating from this is like imagining that the window is  in fact the self,  with or without curtains. It is easy then to ignore the space within the vehicle, shaped by the breath, that offers authentic wholeness, regardless of  curtains  open, closed, threadbare or missing.  Standing on the subway underneath NYC, it is not my shoes, or my hair or skin color, or my language that define my life. I am using all of that to decorate, and perhaps convey that I am a person in a community with a task and appetites. it is my breath that defines me as a living being, something I share inarguably and intimately with every other living being on the train. It is the awareness and acceptance of this energy exchange that keeps my heart open, my mind alert, and gives me a place in which to be truly home anywhere.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Hauling the Heavy Stuff, Give Yourself a Breather

Here I am, hauling pain, anger, disappointment, sorrow, worry ... so I seek out that space where there's love. I can turn away from the bitter taste, or savor it; wash it away with a sweet Manhattan (cherry at the bottom of the cup), or paint it on both sides of the tee-shirt I'm wearing, my anguish doesn't stop. My mind is a generator that keeps on going but I have a way to unplug it.  There's only one thing I can count on for that space in which I can tolerate myself and even love being alive, no matter what crushing weight I am hauling.  I take my focus to my breath for several minutes. One or five minutes aren't enough in bad times, but 20 minutes gives me a literal breather.

Taking the load away from the center of my focus offers me a real rest that impacts on my whole body and shifts my mind too. I can see the bigger scene, and can find my place in that scene without the same piercing pain of it.

So much of the anger, agony, sorrow comes from wishful thinking. We rerun or grab for all the scenarios we want to change, or want to banish, or where we wish we could change the script. Even physical discomfort gets worse when all we can think about is getting rid of it.  Sometimes finding a way to live with it, accommodating the situation, actually lessens or even alleviates the stress around it, and just through that mechanism, the pain itself lessens.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life is not a Rehearsal: Each Moment is the Performance

Practicing, whether a musical instrument, painting, asana or other activity of mind and body, is a process of building stamina, skill, pattern, awareness, and technique. Yoga is not different in many ways from any of these other pursuits. A spiritual practice or a modality of scientific inquiry both benefit from repeating the walk along the pathways of the mind, in some ways codifying these movements into a chosen range of adaptations. We shape the way we think, our thoughts shape the way we react, act, feel. It is in this inquiry that we discover our selves and the world again and again.

Even in the practicing, though there are imperfections and sometimes struggles, it is not a rehearsal in order to get it right. The practicing is in itself the performance, but with a different audience or outcome. It is the self that performs, and the self who is transformed by the performance.

There is no moment when you are not your self. Even in moments when you might say, "I am not myself today," you are present only in that moment as the self you actually are, feeling off kilter. Our idea can shift about who we think we are, and we construct the ways in which we imagine we are seen by others.  As with playing music, it sounds beautiful to one person, boring to another, intriguing to someone and intolerable to someone else.  It exists only in the moment that you create it, and though you might record it, it lives then as a recording, played in a moment, reacted to in that moment. It is no longer your life, but a product of your life.

So with this in mind, it doesn't take much to see that what you say, the face you make, the food you put in your mouth, the way you touch another, the place you rest your eyes, all make up the life you actually live. There is no moment out-of-mind, even in the flow of ecstatic creativity that might bring out the music or the art, the breath or the dance, this is your moment. It is in this context that I contemplate the principles of right action and right speech.

Once I was in my dad's painting studio looking at some new work and he said, "Oil painting is like a rehearsal where you can keep going back and redo, or undo, or rethink, and remake; where watercolor is a performance with every stroke of the brush, this is it."

Being present in each moment is like living a watercolor, where each movement of the breath is the performance of life.  Is there pressure in this? I don't feel it that way. I see this spreads out any pressure into a general sense of upholding personal responsibility in all things, including sharing responsibilities with everyone else for the world we are making together, and accepting responsibility for the range of feelings that arise. This is not about perfection, or blocking out the "bad," but rather giving up the idea of "good" and "bad" and being here, in it right now as it is.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Asana & Mind: Twisting as a State not an Action

Don't we imagine that the goal is to twist as far as we possibly can? Of course we all begin with striving and measuring how we think we do in relation to images in our mind or presented by the bodies next to us. The next stage is our effort to identify what is happening and how it happens  and in doing that we get attached to the specifics like pressing into the thumb and index finger in downward facing dog or focusing on drawing the left ribs towards the back body or towards the ceiling in a spinal twist. But these are not the goals nor are they really the pivotal mechanisms in that down dog or spinal twist, warrior or headstand. We can only find our way once we see where it is in our self that yearns and overworks, where our energy disconnects or pools, and how our judging mind blocks our path and builds our habitual patterns. Yes, there is a building of familiarity with how the body works, and our own body in particular, but the twist is more about opening the mind, than seeing the room behind you.

Beginning,  we open our attention to new places in the body and experience our own efforts with both wariness and awareness. Once we feel the outer edge of that foot in a standing pose and discover the internal shift it takes to feel the inner heel at the same time, we can stop focusing on that and begin to follow the line up the body, balancing the pelvis between the legs, then drawing the energy up the legs and in towards the pelvis and then moving our awareness from place to place, adjusting the fulcrum of our attention and effort. In  beginning we must activate an acuity of attention and forge a balance in our awareness and effort.

Then we let that go. We are not perfecting a particular pressure of foot or angle of hip. We are not drawing the ribs around the body to create torque in the spine and a sore ribcage. More effort is not the goal nor does it produce bliss. Even worse than our habitual patterns might be replacing them with over efforting and rigid assumptions. In this process we can learn about inquiry, about our actions, our urgencies, and our minds.

Effort is required of the mind to observe and attend to the body in any moment.  Effort is also required in the body to bring the mind into an alert and informed state. It is at this point that spaciousness and ease can enter the practice. The equation shifts when we allow the body to relax into a posture of supported effort and the mind to release judging and adjusting that effort and begin to explore being in a pose. It is this quality of being that opens the box of possibilities.

It is this moment that may be missed  if our practice requires constant  motion and use of effort to keep going. though we may burn through resistance of one kind we may be catering to habitual patterns of resistance too. We can build muscular and cardiovascular strength and cultivate intimacy when we let go of the constant physical negotiation for deeper, harder, or really just more.  In the silence of being in a pose, we find our breath, we can use the mind to soften the fierceness of the body. By opening ease in the midst of all the effort we begin a new adventure of adeptly holding a posture without continuing to "work" on it. Then the work is in the energy, breath, and awareness, supported by mindful conscious alignment of bone and muscle.

At a certain point in the twist it is important to let go of the act of twisting and experience the support and clarity of being twisted.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Body as Vehicle for Experiencing Life in the Mind

Looking at this image of a pie is a way in to the way my mind works. Even if I didn't have associations with the experience in time and space of being served this pie (which I do), I react with admiration, appetite, and curiosity. This image sparks my body into hungry messages, and my feelings about diet, body image, flavors, my own pie making, and on and on.  This image of a pie is a way of triggering all kinds of information about how my body and mind work.

The physical practices of yoga are just like this pie, offering unlimited ways of revealing our selves to our selves through the experiences we remember, project or have in the moment, including feelings and all kinds of associations. The body postures (asana) and breath practices (pranayama) are available to us now in so many ways, styles, places, and tempos.  Each time we approach the yoga mat, no matter where or with whom, there is an invitation to combine the mind's attention with the body's experiences.  Teachers ask students to direct their attention to this through instructions about dropping shoulders down the back, or feeling the weight in the outer edge of the foot, or lifting the Mula Bandha to engage the deep abdominal muscles.  This is mind seeking out the communication channels in the body, literally making the connections. So many of us confuse our right arm with our left as we process verbal instructions, but that is not a problem really.  Some of us can't lift and lower only our big toe, but that is not a problem either. Yoga opens these lines of communication and invites us to let go of the judging of what happens or doesn't.

It is not for the physical experience alone that we come to the practice, and the practice will not leave us alone at that level of engagement.  Finding that we don't know how to lift those deep muscles of the Mula Bandha from the base of the perineum, we wonder how to activate this area? Or perhaps we do know how to lift the Mula Bandha but only in association with moments of sexual involvement and find ourselves embarrassed and inept at making that deeply personal connection in the context of a yoga class. This is invisible, as is the sensation of weight in different parts of our feet -- or so we think.

The physical practice of yoga is deeply personal. It allows an intimacy with oneself physically that draws out the mind, engages the emotions, and may trigger many unexpected experiences. In the classic yoga structure, Asana and Pranayama are but two of the eight limbs of yogic practice, the rest are philosophical and relate to energies and attention,  dealing directly with mind in all its aspects and attributes.  It is the physical practices that reveal to us that the body is the vehicle for experience that the mind can use to discover itself.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Walk the Dog, Even if the Dog is You (Subtitle: Making Time for Asana and Meditation)

My father died as an old man, a month shy of 90 years old. Right up until the event that hospitalized him, he was responsible for walking the dog morning and evening. This assignment got him up and out into the world, among neighbors, into the forested walkways and power line cut throughs near his suburban home, where he observed the changing seasons and configurations of wildlife, erosion and wildflowers. This established a routine which was accepted by his wife, who was cognitively impaired, because she knew that he would walk the dog and return. This open space in his morning was not part of the plan on his own behalf, but it was critical to his well being.  The evening walk was usually shorter, and depending upon how heavily dinner sat in his belly, he would take on a small uphill under the streetlights. He would notice the moon phases, the silhouettes of trees, the other passing dog walkers and again have a moment to himself. His mind relaxed and contemplated all manner of things when he was out with the dog and he might take time to relax the constant vigilance his wife's care required.  Without the dog, there would have been none of that in his days or nights.

How much we are willing to do for the wellbeing of another varies from person to person, but many of us will take on tasks of cooking meals, walking dogs, running errands, taking on jobs and all manner of responsibilities to benefit those we care about.  Can we program each day with the time to take care of our self?

A personal practice, whether yoga or meditation, requires the same approach as walking the dog. It doesn't matter what the weather is, or how late you were up last night, that wet nose is there in your face to say, "Aren't we going now?" Imagine that in your practice you are both the dog and the dog-walker. Giving yourself the time, the open space, the exercise of those internal muscles of awareness, and most of all, the care you deserve for experiencing well being and connecting to the world around and within you. And as with a simple walk, it can be a half hour in the morning, or evening, enough to separate yourself from the patterns of the day and place yourself squarely in the center of your own attention. Neither the dog nor the dog walker requires a two hour commitment that pushes into your other obligations and activities. Nor can this unspoken contract of care and attention between you and yourself be skipped without consequence. One simply cannot say to the dog, "not today."  Imagine that your health and well being relies upon that half hour, and see your self staring at you with that query of "Are we going now?"

Spring Buds - The Mind and Its Unfolding

How do we know when we see a bud whether it will open into a bloom or into leaves? Some plants go straight to the bloom, drawing in the energy and starting the fertilization process that the leaves will feed throughout the warm season.  Other plants uncurl leaf clusters that draw in the energy the plant needs to produce the buds that later produce the seeds to continue propagation of the plant.  Each species in its own way puts forth the possibilities and brings out what it needs. But there are unforeseen circumstances! Too much rain, too cold temperatures, and the vagaries of wind and location can challenge any individual bud, whether bloom or leaf.

And there are so many all of a sudden! One day of warm sunny weather and the world around us begins reflecting a burst of energy. It almost seems that the sun transfers this energy directly through its heat! Yet we might walk by the most exquisitely blooming purple plum tree without noticing any of the thousands of blooms. Our thoughts can keep us worrying about how long it will take to get where we are going, or planning out our errands, or replaying the scene we just left.  Perhaps one magnolia bloom catches the eye and for one instant we stop to admire this moment of blossoming.

Isn't the mind just like this? Some thoughts catch our attention, so many others flow past while our focus is on something else?  Each of us budding and blooming again and again, whether seen or unnoticed, we add to the world around us.  How do we know if this bud will be bloom or leaf? Must we attach so much importance and meaning, judgment and expectation upon that uncurled object?

Closing your eyes, imagine a bud. As your mind drifts away from this, just bring your attention back to the bud. As with softening the focus of your eyes, allow your mind to focus on this bud softly. Feel the presence of possibility in the bud along with accepting the idea that whether leaf or bloom, the bud is intact and complete.  Allow the bud to connect to all its sources ... water, rain, sun, twig, branch, trunk, roots.  Allow the bud to connect to all its processes ... opening, losing petals, dropping leaves, crushed on the sidewalk, washing into the street drains, composting into the earth. Keep your attention on the bud as you allow this broad view of interconnectedness to hover around the bud. It might feel a bit like staying focused on the breath while you are still aware of the sounds of the street, and the general sensations of the body.

Not closing off from the widest experiences of being, continue to bring your attention to the bud.  Releasing this focus after a few minutes (5-20), soften your eyelids, and allow them to part.

Perhaps you will continue to see the bud in yourself, and others around you. Full of potential, unattached to judgment and goal, yet fully connected to sources of energy and possibility.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

fake it til you make it: pretending to meditate

Not knowing how, or knowing that you don't know how, are common reasons to avoid a meditation practice. Thinking that meditation will solve something, cure something, liberate something is all still just thinking about your own judgments of yourself and your life and really not approaching the practice. But of course, if you don't know how to meditate, you wouldn't know that the beginning of meditation is to see that no matter what else you are doing, you are thinking all the time.

You can fake it as long as you don't lie about it.

In other words,  you just set a timer for 15 minutes, sit yourself down, align your body so that it takes the least amount of effort to stack your bones and release your muscles, and then pretend you are meditating by allowing your mind to wander all over the place while you keep bringing your focus back to one place (maybe the part of your body where you sense the breath the most). Do this every day for a while, pretending that you are taking your seat and meditating.

That timer will shock you, and you may have to start setting it for half an hour.

No matter what happens, no lying, okay?  But it's fine to fake it until you can accept that you are allowing your mind to think all it wants, while you focus on your breath for a while. You will gain the muscles of mindfulness that help you turn your attention again and again to one point. And you may begin to see the patterns of thoughts and feelings, distractions and roadblocks that your mind has been making for you.

Take a minute to turn some kind, friendly feelings towards yourself as though you were an old friend.

Be curious about what all is going on with that friend, without judging any particulars in the stories you tell yourself.

Just set the timer and take your seat. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were meditating...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If you crave certainty let death be that, for now.

If you crave certainty let death be that for now, for once you achieve that you will see that it is not the goal you imagined but just another moment passing.

Finding the middle path is not a grip on everything. It is like walking with open palms while you feel the gentle swinging of your hips. Pile up desires like clean laundry, used and cleaned for reuse. Then hang them on the line in the sun. Feel the wood of the clothespin. The tree roots, the hand on the machine spitting out little springs, the pleasure of the grip of pin to line that will hold desire as it flaps in the wind, changing colors.

How does it feel to see them there? Beautiful as they hang and flap. Separate from you. All lined up for you to continue in the endless cycle of craving.

Where are your feet, your hands, your hips now? Undressed from the layers of desire. Weightlessness of the middle path poses a paradox. How can you clutch at your foundation and reach outwardly when there is only this shimmering self, naked and aglow?

I like to use the words "find" and "allow" when I teach yoga.   I invite students to come with curiosity and acceptance. I know how hard this is and that we would rather wrap ourselves in the beautiful desires that mark us and make us resemble our expectations.  Freedom doesn't wear such specificity nor can it. As I see my outer self flapping in the sun, making its own shadows, I can feel the sweetness of being without all that.

Death can be seen as the ultimate degradation or the sublime elevation, the cause of suffering or the release from suffering. Perhaps it is a mirage we can use to teach us about the nature of impermanence and the clutching for certainty that so often run our emotional and psychological programs. Steve Jobs spoke eloquently about his own mortality as the predominant inspiration to make the most of his life.

What good does it do to accept impermanence? Well as long as we resist this idea that the moment is the truth of our life, we clutch at something else. We look back, we worry about what is to come, we contort ourselves and others with judgments based on what we think of this or that. 

Accepting impermanence softens the fear of loss, the fear of illness and eventual death. This is fundamentally where suffering comes from, according to yogic and Buddhist philosophies. If I need to be certain of something, let it be death for now. This will give me enough desire and craving to pin on the line and I will not care much whether the pins come loose in the wind.