Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Frontier

Whether we are new or seasoned practitioners, our objective in practice is always the same: to step up to the the comfortable relationship with our edge. That invitation to step to our edge is so provocative! It suggests leaving the comfort of what we know and move toward our yet unknown greatness.

I like the word "frontier." In my mind, it conjures images of rugged people working with the land and wrestling with the unknown, growing and learning and being present with a life that is bigger than them but in which they play a part. The word "frontier" suggests perhaps our edge, our limit of experience or ability. It is the place which we have never been.

I think that whether you are working at a frontier of mindfulness, spirituality, or physicality, to place yourself at that edge of your experience is to truly live. Being at the edge isn't always easy but it is always real.

Simply being at our edge, we become stronger, literally in the case of asanas, but in every aspect of living, we find ourselves more and more able to sit in the heat of our own growth and the inevitable unfolding of the unknown. Because we have to be observant at that edge, we will notice the miracle of what we've created by being there. It's the miracle of watching our frontier, limitations we thought were so fixed and immovable, recede away from us. So that where we find ourselves is no longer the limit of our experience or ability. I could only touch my knees when I began practice, now I can touch my toes. I could only focus for a few seconds when I started, now I can stay in rapt attention for several moments. I barely understood myself before, now I see a divine creature unfolding.

As this edge recedes, we are again provoked by our own potential to take another step closer toward that edge. And again we find ourselves at the familiar relationship and distance with our frontier. Periodically, we may look back to see all the ground we've covered. That growth is a nice reminder that we're moving in the direction of our intention but ultimately secondary to what's real and present and constant--our commitment to be at the frontier. Our commitment to growth.

Until one day we realize that this is where we've set down our roots, in the paradox of constant movement as we chase our frontier, the eternal growth toward our highest self. We have arrived as we witness our own evolution.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Step Before the Light

A few weeks ago, I began my run looking for inspiration, revelation. I was searching for a greater understanding about darkness, about how to find the deeper parts of me.

I love to run up City Creek canyon. It's small, few if no cars, it has trails if I'm in the mood for trails, mile markers for the OCD part of me, occasional restrooms, and wild enough to keep you on your toes. They see cougars up that canyon. I guess that makes me excited and a little freaked out at the same time. I imagine myself running faster if encouraged by a cougar. Yes, morbid. I'm okay with that.

I parked in the aves and ran to City Creek entrance. Already I was hoping for inspiration: to see or to experience something that would open me up, something that would smack me in the face. I decided not to force it but rather just try to stay in the moment and let it come.

Mile one: the scenery was nice. The day was beautiful. I could hear the brook, smell the earth coming back to life. It was beautiful I was feeling good but no revelation.

Mile two: uphill. Lungs full of air. Muscles working. My feet pounding a rhythm on the pavement in some relation to my heartbeat. No revelation. Just let it come. Just be present.

Mile three-four: elevation, no revelation.

At four and a half miles, I turned around and headed back down. I felt good. The sun was in my face. Suddenly, I could see so much more than just my feet on pavement. My mind opened. I saw a mouse scurrying to put her house in order after a long winter. I saw the sun. I saw all the faces of bikers, runner, walkers (bipeds and quadrupeds), saunterers. I saw trees and sky. I felt alive.

A single ray of inspiration came just then. My own voice came into my head that said, "What is the most obvious thing you can sense right now?" I raised my eyes and was met directly with the sun. "Oh yeah, this week is the week of the spring equinox. Of course! What does that mean?" And for the next few miles, my mind just opened and allowed all that spring and finding balance meant to me to warm my mind.

This was all still prep work. I wondered why I didn't get any inspiration on the way up. It seems like it's usually on the way down that I get the inspiration. Maybe because on the way down, we're not trying so hard. Maybe its because the softness about the experience has set in, creating that vital chemistry between effort and ease, now perfect enough to illuminate the soul. Or before that moment, like The Smiths say, "you just haven't earned it yet, baby."

Then, right as I was passing through the gate, the floodgate of revelation opened up in my mind. And in rapid succession, several things I'd read, scripture, poems, lectures, thoughts, all linked themselves together to form one long chain of brilliant revelation.

It said:
You only receive the witness after the trial of your faith. (Book of Mormon scripture)

Faith is walking into the darkness, willing to keep one foot moving in front of the other with nothing but hope ahead. (me)

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight.
And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
To know the Dark by Wendell Berry

It's like stepping out of the boat into the darkness, onto the water.

And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes! . . .
So that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them [our true love or True Self] we find, everything holds us,
and everything confirms our courage. . .
And you'll walk across any territory,
and any darkness, however fluid,
and however dangerous to take the one
hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours
True Love by David Whyte

Faith is walking onto surfaces that you know will not hold your weight as you walk toward your True Self, . . . "the stranger who has loved you/ all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart." --Love After Love by Derek Walcott

Because it's this True Self that recognizes:

Why call
those random paths
Everyone who walks
like Jesus
on water.
* by Antonio Machado

And . . .

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order... the continuous thread of revelation. Eudora Welty

As I ran, I thought I need to start running with a pen. I found that the answers often come on the way back down the mountain, on the way home and not at the summit. Maybe well after the odyssey, maybe when we're 80 years old, rocking on our porch and wondering if it was all worth it. Yet, we have to be willing to climb and sweat and bleed, to show our willingness, our faith, before we are perhaps humble enough or open enough to pull out the light that was already there. . .(Just hiding in the dark 'cuz it's scared--The Cowboy Junkies) or asleep.

As I was rubbing my jaw, having been smacked so beautifully and fiercely from this revelation, decidedly deeper than inspiration, I realized that the run up was to show the Powers that Be that I was willing. I was running into the gate of the temple, not out, when I received my revelation. It was the craft necessary to invite the muse upon my shoulder. I found that darkness is the step right before the light.

This, in part, is what our asana practice is all about. It's the step, "very arduous and humbling and joyful,/by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,/and learn to be at home." A Spiritual Journey by Wendell Berry

It's the step before the light.

See you in class!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Open the Windows and Air Out Your Soul.

Get out your running shoes. Put away your snow boots. Put away your thermals. Find your swimsuit, or at least a pair of shorts.Put away your heavy coat. Start saying your goodbyes to the the ski season. Go to Contender and tune up your bike. Store your snow shovel. Open the windows and air out your soul after a long winter of hibernating. This is our last week of a long, cold, winter.

This Friday, at exactly 11:44 am, the sun will make its grand appearance at exactly half way up the horizon. It's a foreshadowing of the hot months to come. This Friday, we will be blessed with as many daylight hours as nighttime hours as the sun rises directly east and sets directly west.

The spring equinox is one of those cosmically sacred times of the year that marks an exact quarter-turn around the sun. It's a time for us to pause and thank the Powers That Be that the sun is coming back. The warmth of brightness and hope and resolve is rising.

The spring equinox It's a great time to remember our intentions we made at the beginning of the year and see how things are progressing. If one of those intentions was to do more yoga, kindly get your asana to class.

Winter is a great time to hibernate and meditate. To make intentions. Find stillness. But now it's time to balance the mindfulness with with movement. Let's get some fresh air! In yoga, the balance between activity (Rajas) and stillness (Tamas) is called Satva. It is one of the qualities known as the Gunas. This week, I invite you to reflect on your intentions you made at the beginning of the year and asess. Make adjustments if you need to.

Come to yoga and let's practice some of this balance into Satva with a little movement, breath, and mindfulness. Let's put some action to our mindfulness and air out our soul.

See you in class!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Power of Intention

Several months ago, I decided to move to a different place in town. I had been looking for a place to live for a while and had even committed to leave my old place by February 21st. I looked and looked and looked. Nothing. Nothing that made me feel comfortable enough to move. I soon found myself with 5 days left to find a place, sign a lease, and move and I had no real prospects. Needles to say, I began to get a little nervous.

Maybe its because I'm a slow learner but it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I wasn't finding what I wanted because I didn't even know what I wanted. So, I took literally 30 seconds and wrote down about 12 things that I really wanted in a place. I didn't compromise, I didn't hedge what I wanted. I just laid it out: how much money, how much space, where, architecture type and era. Everything. Why not?

The very next day, I found it. Not just something that sort of matched what I was looking for. Everything I was looking for, down to the neighborhood, price, and even charm factor. Oh, and it had to be clean.

I was certainly pleased but not terribly surprised. Things like this have happened to me before. One dear friend says that if I really wanted a taco (perfectly Random), all I have to do is intend it and watch as my comsic taco appears from the sky. Now I'm not so nieve as to think that I get whatever I want from life, I have my share of dissapointments, but I do see the effect of regularly setting intention manifest itself over and over in life. I feel that prayer and meditation is simply a concentrated form of setting intention.

I don't believe that I'm particulary charmed, but I do believe that it's being brave enough to ask the Universe or God for what we want. I think it has something to do with what we feel we deserve.

What do you deserve?

In yoga we call this Sankalpa. It is the practice of setting an intention like planting a seed or finding a star by which to navigate your ship through this existence. This Sankalpa is one of the ways by which, I believe, we have commerce and conversation with the world that is bigger than ourselves.

Try it out. Plant your seed of intention. Choose your star. Then devote your yoga practice and your practice of everyday living to this intention and keep your faculties of attention accute.

Whatch out for falling tacos.
I'm gone this week. I'll see you next week.