between the yoga classes and countless miles walked since saturday, my body and brain are fertile ground right now for thoughts, fears, emotions, pain, worry to all come shooting through the surface like the first day of spring. the discomfort level brought on by moving to a new place has heightened my awareness around balance and what that looks like for me in my life, as it is.
particularly in yoga, when we talk about balance, there's a lot of this "masculine/feminine, light/dark, body/spirit" talk, but as regular ol' humans, sometimes i think that that particular kind of languaging gets lost on our ears and we still feel "bad" about fear and sadness and loneliness as very real aspects of ourselves. or is that just me?
this all started in a class the other day when, after juicing up with lots of twists, in the middle of practicing side crow (not easy or comfortable), the instructor said, "so, you do the steps to set it up and you breathe, and some days you can do it and some days you can't." and i laughed out loud because that is exactly the way i've been feeling about my life recently. some days, most days, i'm capable of huge amounts of love and lightness, and some days i'm not. some days i'm patient, some days i'm pessimistic, and some days i'm angry. usually, just for a spell, though, and that’s what has to be remarked on: we're constantly in flux, and it's uncomfortable. it's kind of annoying, actually.
there are these hemispheres of love and hate and light and dark, logic and intuition, cleanliness and sloth, trust and confusion which constantly rotate around the axis of our consciousness and come in and out of the light, our awareness. we don't question the earth moving from day to night (although i am guilty of cursing the sun for rising on a perfectly beautiful night on occasion...), and our own passage from light to dark is just as natural, just as relentless, equally beyond our control.
the next day, i took another class which brought it all down, right here, to the ground level. the instructor said over and over again, "sit well, align yourself so that we can do good work here, we are practicing techniques so that we might live well." the practice became so pure with that instruction. what's so often lost in yoga is the intention behind it. i'm not practicing handstand so that when i get cut off in traffic i can pull over and do a handstand to prove how patient and strong-willed i am. warrior II is totally irrelevant when it comes to being a good person. i practice these postures to be strong and free in my physical space, so that what flows through me is pure, and not low blood sugar-induced hissy fits or clogged arteries or kidney stones.
the practice of yoga asana (postures) is difficult as a training tool for life. just yesterday, as i was recounting my story of moving to a friend, describing my experience as "uncomfortable," she so gently reminded me that we could all use a little more time being uncomfortable. and she didn't mean walking around on a sprained ankle or eating cookie dough three meals a day, but the kind of uncomfortable that causes a shift in awareness, uncomfortable in the interest of growth, not self-punishment. uncomfortable, like holding a pose for seven or eight extra breaths. uncomfortable, like going somewhere completely new for the first time and making new friends. uncomfortable, like loving someone impossibly and hopefully over more miles than seems fair or reasonable. uncomfortable, like allowing change to take the time that it takes.
in finding our "balance," or pushing into those spaces that bring up discomfort, we arm ourselves against the unexpected, fortifying our hearts to live this very brutal life of a human being. like the rugged and raw landscape chögyam trungpa rinpoche describes in his "eternal ground," we are as the earth: violent and life-giving and beautiful, constantly dying and constantly giving birth. our work is not to stop that process, but to participate in it. pema chödrön talks about the peace that’s found in accepting our humanness, and when discomfort arises, we don’t push it away, we look at it as a means, “of ventilating it, of loosening the tension around it, of becoming aware of the space in which the discomfort is occurring.”
by holding ourselves up to the light with no expectations, we can just do the work instead of judging and wondering why we’re not perfect. if you were perfect, there’d be no point in you being here. as humans, our aim cannot be to make ourselves perfect- we already are, that is our essence: pure potential. it has nothing to do with capability or physical beauty or intellect, but rather, i believe, with vulnerability, persistence and love. when we practice intentionally, with the aim of keeping focused on our individual balance, we nourish the collective. through generosity in your work, by focusing on your own healing, you make it possible for others to heal. it is damaging and cruel to think that any of us is a lost cause. practice for yourself, practice for your loved ones, practice for strangers, practice for people you think you know and let them surprise you.
so, live well; not accidentally, not apologetically, not in secret. there is nothing we can't rectify if we choose to. don't give up.
*special thanks to bryn chrisman (http://yogamayanewyork.com/?p=282) and carla stangenberg (http://jayayogacenter.com/about-us/teachers/carla) for the inspiration and support.