In the end
you won’t be know
for the things you did,
or what you built,
or what you said.
You won’t even be know
for the love given
or the hearts saved,
because in the end you won’t be known.
you won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light;
what did you do to be known?
You will be asked: Did you know it,
this place, this journey?
What there is to know can’t be written.
Something between the crispness of air
and the glint in her eye
and the texture of the orange peel.
What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this:
a memory that beats like a heart-
a travel memory, of what it was to walk here,
alive and warm and textured within.
Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life.
You are here to pay attention. That is enough.
Rain; for the first time in over a month. March has been a blessing of warmth and spring bloom. The flowers in my garden that I planted with my ma back in late autumn are revealing their surprises, one after another. Tall daffodils rose like the sun and set soon after, fading and falling over within the space of a few weeks. Almost immediately, as if they had been waiting in the wings, Slim tulips started twirling there pink and white petal skirts, opening in the morning and closing for the night. I have also had a little robin red breast visiting and pottering about, hopping from twig to twig and nose diving for the seeds splashed on the paving stones by the squirrels who recently took off with the bird feeder but didn’t forget to leave some behind for the birds.
These reflections occur at the end of a heart opening practice, which unfolded as a result of first noticing, and then finding, some space to undo the tension taking up residence in my upper back, at the back of my heart, these days. A physical manifestation no doubt of a feeling of loss and disappointment in my romantic life and not yet finding a healthy way through, or a still point to allow the feelings to arise and take their leave.
I began to notice I was caving in at the chest, presumably to protect my heart and yet, the irony is that in doing so I am at the same time depriving myself of love and breath and feeling. Looking to get in order to replenish, rather than to give from a place of fullness.
It felt lovely to be able to breathe deeply around a sequence of asanas, moving my body in a way that resourced that deepest calm and soft strength at the centre of my being and heated these stuck parts through, melting away the tensions and knots from inside out. Like the rain outside soaking through the thirsty soil, breath permeated my body, and my soul lapped it up.
How easy it is to push up against these knots and blocks of unresolved emotion. And instead of turning inward, to grab outward for some comfort or relief. Today’s quote from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche makes a lot of sense:
“We live under threat from painful emotions; anger, desire, pride, jealousy and so on. Therefore we should always be ready to counter these with the appropriate antidote. True practitioners maybe recognised by their unfailing mindfulness.” Something to aspire to!
Next time I feel the restriction in my back, that familiar sinking feeling – a consequence of the cutting off – and the intense longing for a warm hand on my back, may I remember to reconnect to my breath and body, from where I can move into balance, fullness and expansion from a place of contraction, longing and limitation, finding consolation from within and flowering outwards with all the joy of Spring.
Today was a big day for me – my whole world opened up for one timeless moment. I felt a great thrill and sense of achievement after i finally cracked a posture that i’ve been attempting for a long time…
I have been incorporating handstand – specifically jumping up into handstand with both feet together – for nearly 18 months and so far i have only been able to hop halfway. But I conscientiously set my target as i was advised by my teachers, and just kept practicing, patiently.
Abhyasa Vairagya means dedicated studentship, or diligent practice, together with non attachment to outcome. The non attachment to outcome is key. Yoga is not about the glory of getting the pose, nice as it briefly feels. Yoga is the proverbial journey, not the destination. If we are too attached to the arriving, to the getting the pose, then we are no longer in the Now, which is the richest source of being. We have lost patience and trust and are standing in our own way. However, it is in the seeking of that pose or place that we are invited to make the journey and to learn the lessons along the way. Our dreams and desires and goals bring us to the mat and become, in the words of Ram Dass, Paths To God.
Having the vision or setting our intention gives us a direction, a vessel for our energy and the momentum to proceed. It’s the far away land, the idea of which inspires us to make our journey, the light that beckons us. But at the same time we must surrender that desire to something bigger than ourselves. The pose becomes the offering. We give it up to the fire – Swaha!
In terms of deepening our practice, Abhyasa Vairagya requires we determine to revisit the tricky poses and the dense places again and again, breathing space into the tight spots, and tracing over the patterns until they start to take shape through the opacity.
This is the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell writes of: carving our own path through thick forest, encountering terrible beasts and, at the crucial moment, daring to throw down our arms in the face of demons, to find what we have been looking for, to find the Holy Grail.
On and off the mat, Abhyasa Vairagya requires us to be kind to ourselves so we can let the light of understanding in. It requires we be committed to clear goals and at the same time allow our intentions to flower as and when they are ready. Not giving up, navigating the fluctuations of the mind, the vrittis, our deepest fears and obstacles…returning to the mat – our intention – again and again and again, no matter what.
In my own determination to get this particular pose, the vrittis have often crept in. I have found myself gazing enviously at those around me, popping up into handstand effortlessly. I have felt frustrated and irritated by fellow students who have said my only obstacle was fear when I felt sure it was a matter of technique.
So what happened? Does it matter? To finally break through to the other side feels amazing and it’s a moment like this that takes our entire practice up a level because of the deeper lesson learned.
As soon as there is a breakthrough with a pose, you can bet there will be a breakthrough in life. Or is it the other way around? Or does it happen simultaneously? Ah, the wonder of yoga!
Here the lesson for me is in my understanding of Abhyasa Vairagya. How it resonates… The message is keep going; keep looking inside; keep facing the truth of your wanting with eternal curiosity, patience, kind attention, gratitude and… non attachment!
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there is doubt true faith in You
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we are born to eternal life
…thanks to Daniel Illabaca for the inspiration.
After much grinding of teeth and tensing of the sternocleidomastoid muscles (they are in the neck!) over the last few weeks i finally found some space between my ears and thoughts, landing with a bump on the magnificently liberating phrase… “Deeply Challenged.” The only way through here is self acceptance and love. If you don’t shine the light of compassion on yourself, how can you do that for anyone else? We are all one and the same anyway, right? Different expressions of the same consciousness. Self doubt, abandoning ourselves and refusing to love and accept the shadow get us stuck in despair, separation and pain.
That’s why I was so relieved when the concept of “Deep Challenge” broke through the quagmire of my mind. That amused and delighted me. I could understand that. It enabled me to take a step back, get a different perspective and laugh at myself – at last!!! The fact is I LOVE being challenged, because that means there is an opportunity to grow and learn and expand. So why the resistance? This has helped me allow those insecurities to arise rather than try to stuff them back down, give them some love, listen to what they have to say, and let them go… Next time perhaps I will remember to stay present to whatever arises, however uncomfortable it may be, rather than blow a gasket ;o)
So this brings me to yoga ON the mat. How do we handle the challenges? The aches and tension, the hot emotions that sometimes come up, the boredom and impatience? Softening, breathing, small adjustments in the body and mind and full bodied attention are helpful. What is not helpful is bracing the body, gritting the teeth and holding the breath. Practice Light Enjoyment and conscious breathing on the mat, and apply to your daily life!
In Anusara yoga, the power of the Kula is central to the style. Call it your tribe, your community, your family (both biological and non-biological), or simply your circle of closest friends, there is something divinely nourishing about being with people you have a natural, heartfelt affinity with. The Kula magnifies the power of One. Can the boundaries expand to encircle the whole world? As 2012 flies along, i’m feeling the urge to connect. We can gather together strength and inspiration in community as a global shift in consciousness shakes and wakes us up. What do we want to co-create? The vision of a new era where we can all thrive is an inspiring one.
http://www.thrivemovement.com/ Check it out.
What is yoga? Some say it’s stilling the mind; others that it’s skill in action. Sometimes people say it’s union, or connection with the divine…whatever! This evening with John Stirk, any preconceptions about what yoga is were irrelevant and pointless. there we were, just moving – rhythmically, gently and repetitively with “Light Enjoyment” and an invitation to “not make it mean anything…” Probably the biggest challenge of all. It was simply resting; dropping into the space between the exhale and the inhale, that unknown intelligence that is beyond control and beyond getting it right. Allowing those primordial, preverbal, fluid motions to work their magic, unravelling tension and changing, over time, conditioned patterns in the body.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
It’s an exciting few days with the veil between worlds so thin that so they say you can reach out and touch those who have passed over. Maybe my imagination is playing over time but it does feel as though all the ancestors and spirit guides are right beside me, a supportive and reassuring presence. Today I made this pumpkin and set it aglow in honour of all those on the other side… It is a wish for peace – within and without. It feels like an amazing opportunity to set intentions for the coming darkness of winter…the seeds we plant now will flower in the Spring : ) My friend in Washington DC James Foulkes kindly made a couple of suggestions for ritual. Either dance like a wild woman and celebrate, or burn some sage, sit quietly and look inside to see what comes. I chose to sit quietly and reflect. Happy Halloween everyone…and may the special and sweet spirit (or spirits!) of Samhain be with you x
While the content of these two interviews, and the gifts and concerns of the interviewees are quite different, it’s amazing how similar is the passionate plea for humanity to get over itself and do something great. Amazing to see people so creative and inspired.