Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Past/Future Union

I heard a quote recently that went something like this: "Your body lives in the past, your mind lives in the future, and yoga joins your body and mind in the present." Except I think it was a little more beautifully put. The quote has echoed in my thoughts constantly over the past few days. I've returned to this quote over and over: when my knee pops as I'm walking; when my mind races to plan all I need to do before I go on vacation, I think of how true the quote really is.

It's a constant challenge for modern life to live in the present. As yoginis and yogis, we can find that fusion of body and mind on the mat. But where does that mindfulness go when we're off the mat? For me, it still seems to evaporate as fast as any moisture on a hot dry Australian summer day. How can we harness that mindfulness cultivated on the mat and express it in our daily lives? Practice, of course.

Little pieces of practice we can do anytime, anywhere: A moment of peace and breathing on the train on a stressful day; A stop for a freestyle free-standing yoga pose when a stretch is needed; A quiet thought or meditation in the office to bring the mind and body together.

I'm certainly not enlightened. I don't have all the answers. But as I practice mindfulness on and off the mat, I'm noticing more and more changes in how I react to things. I notice people who look uncomfortable in their skin, and I respond by sending them thoughts of compassion. I notice myself running for a train when I know there's another in a few minutes , and I respond by slowing down and offering compassion to myself. I notice learning in my yoga students, and I respond by offering joy and friendship out to the world.

And most crazily, last Friday, I drove an hour and a half to have a root canal, went through the pain of the root canal, had my car break down, waited for a rescue van, waited for a second van to come fix the car, paid several hundred dollars, got home several hours later than I thought... and I smiled and joked through the whole thing. Two repairmen that came to my rescue separately commented on how happy I seemed throughout disasters. And I realized they were right. I wasn't worried about the work I was missing out on doing, the yoga class I wouldn't make it to; I was accepting the situation, making the best of it, and being fully present in the place that I was in.

These instances of mindfulness and peace are not continuous. But the fact that I can even recognize these instances is proof of mindfulness in my life. Proof that didn't exist before. So, I offer my scientific mind this proof: practice, both on and off the mat, cultivates the ability to be mindful in my daily life.

And so I return to practicing my breath, my meditation, and the joining of my mind and my body.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Body/Breath over Mind

I'm a thinker. I've always been a thinker, which is probably why I spent gazillions of years in school. The phrase "mind over matter" resonates with me; I know I can do anything if I put my mind to it. And I feel I've proved it several times. But what happens when I'm in my yoga, and I need to have my mind take the back seat, allow my breath to take over, and let my body experience itself through my practice? Well, sometimes my mind gets in the way.

And so that has been one of my greatest challenges: listening to my body, feeling what is happening, experiencing it as it is, and being at peace with these things. I feel that I've made great strides over the past 10 months. I've been able to notice more when my mind is over-thinking. I've taken steps to be more present in everything I do. I've begun to try to live in the fullest version of myself, offering my most heartfelt self to my life and those I encounter.

But there are still times when my mind just won't shut up; when all I can do is listen to my mind rationalizing, explaining, and planning. Which is probably one of the reasons I've been so drawn to yoga: when I found the peace that I could experience in my breath, that's when I was really hooked; I had no trouble creating a regular practice and making more and more time for yoga. But sometimes, even in my practice, my mind keeps taking over.

Tonight I took a class with Kelly where she suggested that our bodies had way more wisdom than we knew (as she's finding through her pregnancy right now!); in fact, that our bodies had infinite wisdom. I internalized that thought and consciously tucked my mind in my back pocket for the class. I let my body take over, as my breath flowed through it. I experienced the class. Twice during the class I got nervous about a pose and began to lose it. But I was able to immediately return to my breath, feel my body, re-hide my mind, and go back to the practice.

My mind was so tucked away that I didn't even notice it was quiet until I got on the train after the class. I was sitting on the train, looking for my phone to call Billy and tell him I was on my way home, when my mind started working again. And I was like WOAH! What is going on? And then, I realized that I had been at peace. And it had even lasted 15-20 minutes after class. It had seemed so easy cheesy. Body over mind. Or, I suppose, breath over mind.

And so I go back to practicing. Trusting my body. Quieting my mind. Not so easy for a thinker, but I know it's possible. There's samadhi on the other side of that rainbow.