Most days a small act you happen to be fully present for can be all you need to make it feel like a really good day. The above photo reflects that moment for me today. I took it while waiting for my boys at their surf lesson in Sopelana, Pais Vasco, Spain. The beach was not very crowded today so people were spread out a bit farther than their usual, sardines packed in a tin can distance. I barely noticed the sweet couple above who were sitting 20 feet away from me, until they started to pack up for the day. It was like a beautiful dance as I saw the couple gently sit up from a reclined savasana position, laying completely flat on the sand, to a slow seated posture. Mind you, I very rarely see anyone over middle age sit directly on the sand anymore, so this was something in itself. Then ever so slowly the beautifully adorned woman gently made her way on to hands and knees as if in a yoga table pose. Next, with tenderness she leaned her hand onto her husbands shoulder, the other on her thigh, and ever so steadily she took a deep inhale and exhaled on the press to stand. The two to three minute process was with concentration, thought and great attention to breath and body awareness. Her husbands assist was sweet, kind and fully present. And then, it was his turn. The floral bride widened her stand to a little more than hip distance and put a tiny bend in her knees. The grace came as she offered her knight a firm hand to assist his rise. From a camel prep position the man raised his bent knee to a thigh parallel with the ground and foot firmly planted next to the woman. There was a pause, a small exchange of words, and a brisk change of legs to prepare for the assist. The man took a few full breaths, looked lovingly in to the woman’s eyes, and with matching inhales he rose to standing with ease. I was awe struck! I really wanted to go hug them both and tell them how much grace and love I felt in their presence. Unfortunately I still struggle as a foreigner to posses genuine emotion in my bumbling Spanish and I actually sensed they knew, by my gaping mouth and bright eyes that my day (and much, much longer) had been made.
Sometimes I wish I knew a little more of others stories or history. This was one of those occasions. But with just pausing to witness their tender connection I think what they revealed to me was all I really needed to know.
Be present, be patient, tender and available.
To be on route, to walk the walk, buen camino are all common phrases in Norther Spain as pilgrims move from Southwestern France towards Santiago de Compostel, Spain. It is a beautiful landscape full of rolling hills, sweet towns with field stone churches, vivid greens and blues and rustic pillars of brown. The walk is difficult and yet exhilarating. The comradery is comparable to a class reunion, meeting familar faces for an overnight or short trek again and again, wishing each other good walk at each encounter and learning while safeguarding the reasons for walking. A pilgrimage on the full camino can average the length of a season. It is a commitment that requires patience, endurance and faith.
My admiration for those on this trek is enormous. I truly love witnessing someone elses fullness of spirituality, whatever route or guide they may choose. Some of my favorite moments in life have been in the company of people celebrating a service, mass, or religious festival other than my own, or even what I know nothing of. The excitment and effervescence in song, common spoken word or dance is unifying, contagious and inclusive. For those on the camino, theirs may not seem like a celebration but there are still those moments of conragious joy that pull one in. Currently I feel that even though I am not walking anywhere I am on a spiritual journey as well. I wonder too if others I meet can feel the richness of it in my presence. I truly hope so.
Devotion to a higher being elevates acts of courage, trust & faith for me. As I come to my asana practice, and even come up against difficult or questionable situations in my life, I often have to rely on one or more of these traits. The willingness to allow these traits to come in to play is grounded in devotion. I have become devoted to my inner voice and a higher being. It takes some practice not to always fight back or use my inner fire to assume I know best. When I have the courage to trust in a higher power I am often led to a better place. The higher power for me has no gender, no form or name but is the essence of compassion, humility and grace.
Asana with Marc Holzman on YogaGlo…http://www.yogaglo.com/online-class-339-Strong-Flow-to-Explore-Devotion.html
Many times this month I have been put in the drivers seat, so to speak, of showing folks around my sabbatical city. Yesterday I actually drove! The first time in 10 months and a standard car no less. Most of my touring with company has required no more than a metro or bus ride, or a very sweet husband physically behind the wheel. Yesterday, I faced a huge personal fear as I physically got behind the wheel and drove through windy hilly streets, highways and byways, and even through a raging summer thunder and lightning storm. And you know what, everyone survived, no one was injured, and the rental car even made back without a scratch or dent. Those things I think of being as great fears are really just minor stepping stones to becoming whole. I appreciate the fear factor, for it keeps my heart racing and my spirit alive. Now to go kick out some boat poses and build core strength to face my next fear, surfing.
The information that arises as one sits in meditation is extraordinary. The desire I have to understood more about how it works, and then be able to offer that to my young yoga students, will surely be a major part of my 108 days of yoga immersion. This morning as I practiced asana in an attempt to empty my physical body and prepare for meditation, my thoughts became quickly focused and centered. There was however a reoccurring thought, how to balance the effort of strength & relaxation in the poses. As I moved from pose to pose I really considered this “tuning in” I was doing to be the infamous beginner student mind (I have only been practicing for 16 years after all).
As I completed my asana flow I moved in to seated meditation and the thought of effort still lingered. The irony of this was, I was so relaxed. As I came out of meditation I began to understand. Life requires effort. Even as we breath, our breath is still moving the physical body in a sustaining effort to keep our vital organs healthy. Our emotions and desires drive many of our efforts, but relaxation does as well. In my own teaching and in the thousands of classes I have attended there is a common mantra that goes something like, “let go of your attachment to breathing and let the body breath you”. I may be late to the game for I finally understand, their is a power over me that can actually take the weight of my mental effort away and all I need to do is trust and relax in the higher power, no effort required.
The photo above is one I took on a recent trip to the UK. I love the balance of the hard and the soft. The seemingly contained bars around the flowers give the wildness of the flowers a form to be kept within. How ironic that we plant nature and than provide perimeters for which it is to abide by. If we trust, how far would it flourish on it’s own.
1/4! I am 1/4 of the way in to a wonderful 108 days of yoga immersion. Wahoooo! Numbers don’t usually mean a whole lot to me but for some reason this is powerful. I have noticed the noticing I am doing. I am steadying my thoughts more often when they begin to try to double talk their way in to my life. I am being waaaaay more compassionate to people and things that used to get my Taurus nature ticking. I am committed to this practice and hopefully by the time I reach the “glass is full” stage I will not need the number system to guide me towards these traits and better habits & it will be my new nature. As for now, I’m a 1/4 full!
“TRY TO LEARN TO BREATHE DEEPLY, REALLY TO TASTE FOOD WHEN YOU EAT, AND WHEN YOU SLEEP, REALLY TO SLEEP. TRY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TO BE WHOLLY ALIVE WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT, AND WHEN YOU LAUGH, LAUGH LIKE HELL. AND WHEN YOU GET ANGRY, GET GOOD AND ANGRY. TRY TO BE ALIVE. YOU WILL BE DEAD SOON ENOUGH.” – Ernest Hemingway
Today’s yoga practice included a beautiful 2 hour walk along the coastal path in St. Maria de Getxo, Spain. The above photo was taken by me along the walk way @ Playa de Ereaga.
It is a sunny afternoon in Northern Spain today and I am happy to have the warmth and healing light in my life. My spirit has felt so exhausted with worry for my child as that sweet soul regains strength from a recent traumatic event. May the rays of sun so plentiful here today find their way across the sea to my lovely kid. My prayer is that this event will not define or limit my child from living a big and beautiful wandering life.
This photo was taken by me in Las Arenas, Getxo, Spain….a mid spring bloom!
Todays yoga practice was an Asana by Jo Tasla on YogaGlo and readings from The Yoga Sutras regarding meditation.