Happy Fourth of July from the Yoga Goat! As my teacher, Tias Little, said yesterday at the end of class…Happy Interdependence Day! We are all dependent on each other for our well being. While this holiday looks different for most of us this year, let’s not forget the connections of family and friends that support and lift us up.
Of the Earth
"We are of the Earth, and belong to You. Every step that we take upon You should be done in a sacred manner, each step should be as a prayer." Black Elk, Native American spiritual leader
A dear, thoughtful friend has gifted me yoga classes with one of our favorite teachers, Tias Little. Many of his classes begin by lying on the mat in Savasana, which for non-yogis means lying supine on the mat. Beginning this way resonates with me because, with everything that is swirling around us right now, it feels nice to be grounded and connected to the earth. When I give up fighting gravity and let go into earth’s pull, I feel a sense of comfort. The earth is always here underneath us, gently spinning on its axis, and yet we are rarely still enough to try to sense it. Being on the earth can be a healing salve.
How do you know if you need to take Savasana? Here are some symptoms that might be telling: feeling ungrounded; overstimulated by events around you; spacey; trouble making decisions; restless; trouble sleeping; anxious and stressed. Feeling just one of these symptoms qualifies you for a 10 to 20 minute time-out in Savasana. Rest on the earth and do nothing. When I had a yard, I loved lying on the grass and looking up at the sky. If it’s hard to lie down, take your shoes off and feel the earth under your feet. Give yourself rest in any comfortable position that works for you. Rest from the media, rest from technology, or just rest from those around you. Allow yourself to feel the nourishment of your bones sinking down into the earth.
In “Peace is Every Step,” a wonderful book by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, he says to focus on mindful breathing. “While we practice conscious breathing, our thinking will slow down, and we can give ourselves a real rest. Most of the time, we think too much, and mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed, and peaceful. It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future. It enables us to be in touch with life, which is wonderful in the present moment.”
When I come out of Savasana, having rested on the earth, I often have a new perspective and attitude. Those few minutes I give to myself helps me face the rest of the day with a sense of ease and well-being.
Leave them better
“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will,” sings iconic musician James Taylor.
My husband and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary, and spent part of the evening listening to James. His songs remind us of the wonderful times we spent listening to him while we were dating, and are a nostalgic balm.
Earlier we had received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my in-laws. My mother-in-law, Libby, makes the effort to send us calla lilies each year in remembrance of the flowers I carried on my wedding day. She is someone who knows how to shower the people she loves with love. She has the ability to raise other people’s positive vibrations just by her presence. It starts with her southern charm, and is then fueled by her generous heart. She has the gift of truly listening, understanding what someone is needing, and finding a way to give it to them. To say that I scored big in the mother-in-law department is an understatement.
Now more than ever it seems like the time for us all to try to lift each other up and provide positive vibrations. And not just friends and family, but everyone we encounter. We are all feeling pain. It started with the coronavirus, then the layoffs and closings, and has deepened with the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Like others, I have seen normal encounters become angry exchanges much too quickly these last weeks. Now is the time to not only shower the people we love with love, but to shower ALL people with love. It’s time to take a deep breath and try to feel compassion for the person in front of you before acting or speaking. You don’t know what pain they might be feeling. With each interaction you have think to yourself: how can I leave this person better than I found them? Give a kind word or bigger smile to those we encounter. Leave them better than you found them with the kindness that lives in all of our hearts.
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.
It’s an interesting exercise to consider how much time you spend with thoughts about the future. Most of us like to do a little planning, and even wishful thinking, about what’s coming up next. But at a time like this it’s hard to say what will be going on next year, next month, or even next week.
For us, future thoughts are mostly about our daughter’s wedding in October. Planning that kind of event truly requires future thinking. Other than that we have no plans. We have things we would like to do, like trips to see friends and family. But it feels premature to make concrete plans that aren’t absolutely necessary.
The future has never been a guarantee, yet we have taken it as if it is. This pandemic has really brought home the idea of uncertainty. But what if it has also provided us a gift? What if we all took this opportunity to focus on the present, instead of the uncertainty of the future? A reboot of the brain to stay closer to the now. Concentrating on the day we are in, and trying not to stray too far from the moment The present is the gift. The gift is the present.
Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten
and so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness – one of the doors into the temple.
There is a lot of frequent hand washing these days. I think it is a practice that will be done more often even after the threat of the pandemic eases. The idea of time spent washing hands has made me think of Thich Nhat Hanh. In his book “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” he talks about making even the most benign tasks a meditative moment and a moment to be in gratitude. His suggestion for washing hands is:
Water flows over these hands,
May I use them skillfully
To preserve our precious planet
He also suggests that each time we turn on the facet to have a moment of gratitude for fresh water flowing out of the facet. It is a gift that is often taken for granted and it is life sustaining.
Another idea that he presents in his book “Peace is Every Step” is to really look at your hands and see your ancestors. He tells the story of a friend who was parting from his mother. She held his hand and told him: “Whenever you miss me, look into your hand, and you will see me immediately.” Washing hands could be that moment of contemplation. Do you have hands like your mother or more like your father? Think of all of your ancestors who have come before you to create the hands you have in front of you.
It could also be a moment of gratitude for all that we can do because we have these hands. The hands are truly one of the most amazing tools in the universe. I hope these ideas give you something new to think about the next (more frequent) time you wash your hands.
To discover more about Thich Nhat Hanh go to http://www.plumvillage.org