Primary Friday: Full Moon, Blue Moon

I am resting for the moon day today.  Just taught a nice evening class and now settling into two entire days completely and totally off.  I will have homework to do, yes, but I won't have anywhere to go or anyone to speak to or anything else to do... except for my practice, and maybe an oil bath.  It has been literally months since I've had a couple of days to myself and I am so looking forward to this.  I may stay in my PJs all weekend long and wear my glasses and tie my hair in a bun on the top of my head.

It's a possibility.  That's all I'm saying.

School has begun.  It feels strange to be a full time student.  Apart from the homework, which abounds already, I hardly know what to do with myself.  Practice, unfortunately, has continued to be erratic.  Three... maybe four days a week...  These past several weeks leading to the commencement of the semester have been hectic.  I don't do hectic.  At least, I'd rather not.

In response to my prolonged absences and our reduced walks, the poor dogs have been acting out, challenging each other for scraps and eating non-edibles around the house.  I will be walking them tonight under the full moon, a blue moon, the second full moon of the month.

Hurried and laborious though this summer has been, doing the work in good humor and remaining uncomfortably honest about my priorities in both the short and long term have proven fruitful in every sense.  Now, I find myself balancing a very different load, but the principles and tactics remain the same:  patience, truthfulness, and receptivity.

Staying open is the key -- open to change, open to new ideas and other ways of being.  Open to struggle and chaos and detachment and pain.  I can let it all in, because I must.  In truth, I have no choice -- that which comes to me comes to me for a reason -- but the process is easier without resistance, without the struggle.  I am learning this.  Getting better.



by Megan Walker

Off-center.  Leaning back and to the right,
skewed by the tide that sucks the sand from beneath my feet
and weakens my knees.

I can feel my body pulling back.  Wrenching back.
Balance is the natural way.
I seek to change.

Watch me transform myself.  Watch me bathe in the coming wave.
Watch me sink so deep that every pore is purified and
even my dry eyes water with the sting of salt and sealife and pollution.

Let me recede with the water to be reborn.
Let me cease my breath and stop my heart and,
only for a moment, know the stillness that exists in space between.

Show me patience.  Show me guidance.
Show me the coolest, cleanest seas in which to bathe.
Let me lay my blame, just briefly.  Watch me walk into the deep.
See me emerge and see the change and know I'm free.


The Paradox of Self-Awareness

"Until you can make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." -- Carl Jung

   Though the benefits of a regular yoga practice are many, perhaps the most life-changing is a greater sense of self awareness.  Yoga brings the light of consciousness to unconscious thought and behavior patterns (in simplified, practical terms) by training the mind -- what lies behind the thoughts -- to observe itself.

I have been exploring my own stress reactions lately.  Observing myself fall into old patterns of behavior, and observing my mind organize my wild, random thoughts with the explosive omnipresence of a gymnast in a way that justifies my choices in the moment.  It's frightening.  Just because I've dug myself from these muddy trenches in the past doesn't mean they are not still there, just as slick and treacherous as ever.

Contrary to the incomplete but understandable conclusion that an awareness practice -- be it meditation, yoga, tai chi... whatever -- might lead to withdrawal from the exterior world and perhaps even narcissism, the paradox of deepening one's self-awareness is that it leads to the inevitable realization that we are not separate from that which surrounds us.  If we observe rather than deny the ever-changing nature of the internal landscape -- the constant fluctuation of the physical, mental, and emotional states -- our individual relationship to the world around us, on both an immediate and distant scale, becomes more clear.

If I can feel my physical body and know that is inextricably linked with my emotional state, and that my emotional state colors my mind, then I can observe these relationships, decipher more clearly the jumble that is my thought-stream, and cease the desperate grasping at straws.

At least, that's the idea.  It's not easy.  Awareness is a big step, but it's not the only one.  Clear intention leads the way, but action -- living rightly -- makes it happen.  We all stumble.  And, sometimes, we slip into those old ditches we forgot we dug, but crawling out again is easier once we know we can.

*Like this post?  Here's another:  http://www.damngoodyoga.com/2012/03/what-does-compassion-look-like.html


Primary Friday: Penance Practice

Tittibhasana C
Last week, I spent four days in Wisconsin to celebrate both the birth of my new niece, the first of her generation from my family, and my own August birthday.  For four days, I drank plentiful wine and ate nothing but cheese, meat, and vegetables primarily of the fried variety.  Somehow, a spectrum of fine Wisconsin cheeses stowed away in my carry-on luggage and I have been feasting on said cheeses for days.  For this, I have not gone unpunished.

That sense of ease I've felt for weeks in practice?  It's gone.

Practice has been hard.  Sunday, I did a quick practice of the Surya Namaskara, Sirsasana, and the final three lotus postures before my early flight back to Austin.  Monday, I spent all day taking care of neglected responsibilities that demanded my immediate attention, and then taught in the evening.  No time for practice.  Tuesday, I celebrated my own birthday in earnest.  I taught three classes throughout the day and managed to squeeze in a miserable half-Primary, but later that night honored this life heartily with more cheese, carrot cake, and a birthday cigar.

Wednesday, I got down to business.  Full Primary and Intermediate to Ardha Matsyendrasana -- no shortcuts -- plus extra backbending and handstands.   Needed every bit of it.

Thursday, it was Intermediate to Pincha.  I was sore from my long practice the previous day, and I am sore now from yesterday's practice.  My body is unsympathetic to any cause for celebration.  I must remember this next time I wish to indulge.

I am still caught in a whirlwind of work and preparations for the coming fall, and there is no rest in sight before I go back to school.  I am hoping that once the semester begins, there will be opportunity to reel in a few of these lines and channel my energy more singularly toward my own practice and scholastic efforts.

Even though I probably need the practice, I will rest for the moon day today.  However, as usual, "rest" in this instance means working all day waiting tables and teaching at night.  I hope to squeeze a nap in there somewhere.  God bless a good nap.  I'd have been a shriveled, strung out mess all summer long without them.


Primary Friday: Taking Rest

Hello!  Good morning!  Salutations, friends.

Pardon my recent absence.  These last few weeks have been nothing but one long day and one short night after the other.  Practice, as usual, has been my anchor amid the whirlwind of work and preparations for the coming fall.  Classes start in two weeks.  I am polishing my spectacles and sharpening my pencils with giddy anticipation.

Just now and for the next few days, I am in Wisconsin resting and visiting with family and friends before we disperse with the winds come September.  I am missing my puppies, but enjoying the change of scenery.  These rural hills and vallies are so green.

Last night, I slept long and well.  The weather here is lovely.  The nights are still and cool, with a soft day sun and a crisp breeze that ruffles the surface of the water, making diminutive waves that smash against the rust-colored rocks which line the surface of the lake.  Soon, I will step outside to do my practice in the grass and commune with the littlest creatures who live deep down in the shag.  Let us hope they are hospitable to me today.

This summer has flown by extraordinarily fast with no chance to sit and pause and really absorb the experience.  This need for pause is showing in my practice in the form of 20-30 minute stays in final rest.  Practice these past few weeks has left me lying on the floor, shrouded in blankets and sweat, eye pillow over my face, not quite asleep but not quite waking, either.  These rests have been so necessary and so very healing.  It is in this in-between space that my mind has found its clarity and peace.

I return home Sunday evening, and beginning Monday night, charge back into the fray.  I wish you all a wonderful and restful weekend.  Let's make the most of this final stretch of summer.  It'll be over before you know it.


Suffering, Reabsorption, and Recoil

Surge.  Recoil.  Surge.  Recoil.  This is the pattern.  I see it now.

July has been a hard, sad, beautiful, wonderful month, culminating on the 31st in a low swing down the way of physical and emotional exhaustion.  Early Monday morning after a restless night of frightening dreams, I learned of the violent death of a very dear coworker and friend.  I carried the weight of it all day, felt the sorrow growing heavy in my heart as I smiled and served pancakes and politely thanked each person to be led my way.  That afternoon, when I finally made it home after hours on end of hard labor for little pay, I let myself in, closed the door behind me, fell down to my knees and wept.

Broken hearted, I wept for him.  I wept for his children.  I wept for all and for myself.  I felt the deep, true nature of compassion fill my being and let it overcome me.  I felt it wash me clean.

After the collapse, I sat for meditation.  I kept my drishte through the tears.  My thoughts were soft and quiet, but visions of my friend's face -- of his artful, goateed, gold-toothed grin -- would briefly shine, twinkle, and fade.  

And isn't that our very nature?  The true and only purpose?  To shine, twinkle, and fade.  To be a brief, ethereal adornment against the backdrop of a sweeping, endless sky.  To be bringers of light and pure, essential goodness in a vast expanse of shadowed dark.  If yes, then to die is not to die.  The light still carries.  Glimmers of his spirit shine on just as brightly in my heart and mind, the nature of my being being not separate from that self-same sky.  

I used the clarity and strength I gained through meditation to connect, commune, and wish him well.  May his reabsorption be peaceful and his spirit ascend.

Tuesday, depleted from the previous day, my tender heart still throbbing and my intellect quite numb, ancient trauma surged and forced its way onto a poor, unwitting friend, resulting in a long, exhausting night of war stories, more pain, and eventual collapse.

Surge.  Recoil.

Last night, as we turned the page to a new month, bathed in the light of the auspicious moon, I felt reborn.  The elements aligned and the eyes of strangers sparkled as we passed under the soft, sweet lunar glow.  I felt the thread of suffering which connects us all not as burden but as enormous strength.  I realized that to hide my pain is to relinquish my hold on this lifeline to which we all so desperately must cling.

So let's play a game to help pass the time.  You show me yours, and I'll show you mine.