Current mood: tired
Category: Religion and Philosophy
We try so hard to hang on to the teachings and "get it," but actually the truth sinks in like rain into very hard earth. The rain is very gentle, and we soften up slowly at our own speed. But when that happens, something has fundamentally changed in us. That hard earth has softened. It doesn't seem to happen by trying to get it or capture it. It happens by letting go; it happens by relaxing your mind, and it happens by the aspiration and the longing to want to communicate with yourself and others. Each of us finds our own way.
--Pema Chödrön, Start Where You AreI have been learning the truth of this in my yoga practice. I often find that the best way to reach my mind is through my body. I have been doing a "gentle yoga" practice, which, on the surface may seem "easier" than a basic yoga practice, but what I have come to really enjoy about it is the depth of the practice. I have been learning to let go. To trust my body to do its job and hold me up. The bizarre irony is that when I let go of my muscles, stop trying to control everything, gravity and bone are there to hold me, their presence revealed as though someone abruptly pulled back a curtain.
When my muscles are grabbing they are not working. They are tense, rigid, imbalanced, unfocused. My legs and arms shake, fear enters. But then, with the gentle guidance of my teacher, I learned to direct energy through my legs, engaging the muscles without causing them to grab. Directing my weight through my bones and into the ground. Grounded. Stable. Strong. Fearless--even though falling is still certainly an option.
This doesn't happen all the time, but the "a-ha!" moments have started to come more often, and some difficult poses have become more relaxed.
More importantly, what I have gotten out of this class is the ability to begin with the body that I have, as it is, with gratitude for its strength and compassion for that which is does not do so well. Learning this has been the greatest gift to my soul. The ability to sit and be where I am--no expectations, no judgments. Those who know me know my critical mind--it is exactly what you want when editing a paper, but it is a formidable enemy when turned inward. A sentence can have perfect grammar, but not a human life.
Finding balance in Warrior poses, figuring out how to "engage my arms" in Bridge pose--"use your arms for support"--letting go of my lower back and trusting my legs to hold me--learning in a tangible way that I am supported. Even with all its imperfections, my body holds me up. Bends and reaches as best it can when I ask it. Treating it with gentleness and compassion has begun to soften it.
And so the triceps and quadriceps teach the mind to soften, to let go, to ask nicely--to let the rain sink in, slow and deep.