The corners of the sky glow pink and red as the last of daylight slips away.
I’ve just come through one of the more difficult parenting months of my life. The months ahead do not look less difficult, but perhaps unknown light will emerge around the edges of the darkness. There is, in any situation, always room for hope. Whether fortune or foe, who is to say, goes a familiar Buddhist teaching.
“Barn burned down, now I can see the moon.” Mizuta Masahide
What is tethering you to life today? Perhaps it is the caw of the hearty crows outside your window. Perhaps the quality of light at the end of February, which reminds you spring will soon come. Perhaps it’s the way you experienced the feel of your bare feet on your mat this morning, coming to life in ways you’ve never before encountered.
I am on retreat this weekend. For me, it is the all these things tethering me to a world in which the awareness of our groundless state can strike at any moment. While important to acknowledge the groundlessness, we still must find ties to this world.
This weekend, I’ve also been anchored by music from the album, Migration, by Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai. It’s not a new album (in came out in ’92, I believe), but it is new to me. It’s the kind of music that allows one to ground down and fully inhabit the space around them. It goes well with the cawing of crows. It goes well with the practice of writing. It has beautifully accompanied my ashtanga practice; although ashtanga is usually done in silence, it’s been nice to break up the typical silence of that routine when the rest of my days on retreat are filled with so much quiet.
And finally this: I’ve been nourished by the delicacy of the snow gracefully alighting atop the heavily rooted trees found in this northern destination where I am residing for four days. Sometimes, spring bursts forth on the wings of snow angels.
I’m not teaching yoga at this time. It is difficult for me to both teach yoga with dedication and write with the sort of dedication that writing requires of me. But I’ve recently come to recognize that it is my yoga practice that makes my writing practice possible.
While I’m practicing, teaching moments still echo through my head. When that happens, I’ll set them down here in this blog. In this manner, I can still teach yoga in the way that works best for my introverted, empath self.
In yoga, I personally work at staying with my discomfort and encourage others to do so as well. In the end, avoiding discomfort (or avoiding short term pain or vulnerability) typically only causes more suffering. I love this article by Leo Babauta because it expands this concept of staying with your discomfort to so many areas. As Leo points out, even eating vegetables is just too uncomfortable for many of us and so in spite of good intentions, we easily revert to the comfortable foods that we know, giving up the opportunity to provide our bodies with the phytonutrients that our bodies need.
If you begin, however, to embrace whatever is causing you discomfort, you’ll soon find that a spaciousness opens up around the discomfort and the discomfort often changes to something more pleasurable. But it takes time. For instance, I used to hate broccoli but now it is a favorite of mine. I even enjoy the preparation process, which used to seem too laborious to undertake. Each weekend, I simply buy whole stocks of organic broccoli. At least 3-4 nights per week I wash one stock and divide up the florets. You can also strip the thick outer covering off the stem and you’ll unveil the most delicious part of the broccoli, a delicacy even in its raw state. Steam the florets and skinned stalk for 5 minutes, squeeze fresh lemon over the broccoli and lightly cover with himalayan sea salt. It takes twenty minutes (tops) to prepare and one head of broccoli will often serve as the bulk of my dinner, at least a number of times per week. I like to stick to the axiom “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” although I shake it up: “breakfast like a princess, lunch like a queen, dinner like a worn-out mamma who hasn’t enough time to eat before she runs out to teach yoga or attend class.”
Please read this excellent article by Leo Babauta on learning to embrace discomfort. It may change your life.
December 2, 2012. A day of swirling white. A cozy fire inside. No place for any of us to go. The roads are not fit for travel. So we stay together, with love for one another in our warm home. It feels like a holiday and so I make an apple pie. And I can see the boys shoveling in our front yard as I ski around the nearby park. Huge snow flakes fall on my eye lashes and I don’t try to brush them away. Instead just observe the flakes melt. Coming to my breath as I go around and around the park. Not wanting it to end. Any of it. The beauty of the fresh snow. The joy of being together. The knowing we have managed to feed and shelter our family through the storm. This is my yoga for the day.