06 November, 2007

no. 2: expansion on a yoga meditation

I skipped yoga last week. Actually, I think I skipped yoga the past two weeks. It's not something I'm too pleased about, but sometimes things just come up and inhibit ones ability to a) concentrate on yoga or b) fit yoga in to the rest of the weekly demands. So I skipped it. As a result, returning to it this week was very, VERY good for me. Despite my shaky beginnings, I was starting to feel more confident in Warrior poses I and III as the class went on. Warrior, being one of my favourite poses, always makes me feel good, but it also always challenges me. Warrior I is my least favourite of the warrior poses, arching my back is never the funnest experience, admittedly. But it is good to challenge yourself, and to do things you dislike now and again. I like to think it teaches perseverance, patience and a greater relishing of that which one does like. Warrior II, which we didn't do today, tends to be my favourite, though III could usurp, we'll see.

II has this way of centering me, of making me really focus on the here and now, but only because I've become conscious of its potential TO do that. I am the kind of person who likes to dwell on things, and likes to daydream. My head is either stuck in the clouds of what could be or what has passed and why I didn't do things differently. In Warrior II, one is supposed to, figuratively, be in the present - centering the head and body over the hips, in the center of two planted feet - and I'm always skewed in one direction or the other... unless I'm paying full attention. II is much like my thoughts: unless I am paying absolute attention, my mind is bound to wander in one direction or the other at the drop of a hat, and I am constantly having to pull myself back to center from the 'past' or the 'future' to think about the here and now. Warrior I doesn't have that complex challenge of balancing the past and future while staying rooted in the present. For me, Warrior I is all about the present, and III was all about flying.

Anyway, that is not my intended point of discussion. I intended to comment more on what came after the evolution of Warrior poses during class, during Savasana (corpse pose) and the subsequent seated meditation. Our instructor has us think on a couple things, meditating on each one at a time and then "letting them go" into the stillness of our minds. [It has taken me four years of practice (wavering, faltering, unbelievably unfaithful practice) to attain the tiniest modicum of stillness, and it is something I cherish.] She asked us the following today:

What do I like?
What am I thankful for?
Who am I?

Now, this SHOULD be easy. "What do I like?" I don't know. Lying there, supported by the floor, I was awash with... nothing. Images of leaves falling, water rushing over rocks, fresh air swept by but nothing solid came of it. My mind often fails to connect the tangible with concrete ideas. I'm sure the other people (we'd been given a little lesson on the "what do you like about your practice" angle earlier in class) were thinking "I really like downward dog" or "I like having chocolate cake for dessert," meanwhile, all I thought was "there are leaves falling." "What am I thankful for?" was admittedly easier, but I had to force myself to come up with something. My mind had a tug-of-war with intention. While I was being directed to think about thankfulness, my mental images were moving from falling leaves to water and breezes blowing off the water, through the grass and into my face. Eventually, we (my mind and me) came to the conclusion that friends (just the ones I truly love) and family are worthy of being thankful, setting aside the breeze and falling leaves, at least for a moment or two. And then the final meditative question, the one she leaves us with every class, and the one I always seem to come upon with a blank: "Who am I?" I am... falling leaves in a light breeze? Torn between the past and my future? She, in addition to the three questions she asked today, often has us center ourselves on our true being, that piece of us that has always been the same, never changing through everything we've experienced, from birth to present-day. That me is a little hellion of a smiling girl, obstinate and grinning widely as she races along.

But who I am? I don't know. Am I falling leaves in a light breeze? Am I a failure to turn thoughts into a tangible reality? Now THAT actually could make sense. Or maybe I'm just a cowardly student, nose pressed too tightly to the books to notice the world around me, and the opportunities I'm being presented. I am a masters student, I study trees, one particular species of tree, under very specific conditions, but trees all the same. And I do that, and I work on teaching ecology to other people. I say "work" because there's no way I'm good at it the way I am doing things right now. What else is there? I am a knitter. I like to think I'm a decent friend (though, of late, that's come into question as I become more and more cranky and hermit-like). I don't know. It's more than I could ask myself in one yoga session, perhaps more than I could ask myself in a year of constant yoga. Who am I? A fearful optimistic pessimist? Someone in need of a good talking-to? In desperate need of a change?

My conclusion for the meantime: A stubborn, obnoxious little girl still stuck dwelling on the past while I mull over options for the future, forgetting all the while that the present needs to be lived. I think I need to work on my Warrior some more.

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