Last week marked the beginning of the holidays for many. Traveling far and wide, or nesting at home, many of us gathered with friends and/or family to share a meal, mingle in conversation, and take time to be with each other. For most of us us, this is a break in our daily routines.
Some of us lucky enough to get time off, time to rest and relax, eat good food in just the right amount, and indulge in meaningful conversations with people we adore and love.
That all sounds quite dreamy. If that is not what your holiday was like, perhaps it was more like this… a step out of a comfort zone into what may feel like a “fire” zone, stepping into conversations about politics, morals, or values with family members that just might push some of your buttons or rough your feathers. You ate too much, drank too much, and felt tired and cranky. Perhaps you felt like you were simply walking through the motions and counting the hours until you could step back into your normal routine, have your space, eat your own food.
Whether your holiday was seamless perfection or held a bit of drama, the reality is that there will always be some kind of shift, change, or challenge during the holiday season that will most likely pull you from center, be it physical, emotional, spiritual. Once pulled off center, that is when the real interesting work begins. How to maintain balance when the tides are changing, the wind is blowing, and life is happening around you.
How we choose to behave, respond, and show up in these situations is really quite interesting and telling of how grounded we are on our own path to wholeness and the path of a yogi. Peter Rhodes states that, “The important thing is what we do during an active negative state, not just when we are reading and contemplating spiritual books or listening to a dharma talk (or practicing asana).” The work we do when the boat is rocked is the real work guiding us back to a place of peace and ease.
Can the practice of yoga help us to find inner peace and space even in the darkest of conversations, interactions, and densest moments? Can the practice offer more joy and lightness into our lives? Can it help us to be more consistent and maintain more balance in all that we do? Can it help us to be more present and truly enjoy the holidays?
The practice of yoga has been evolving in my life for over two decades now and I can say hands down that “yes” the practice of yoga can help lead a more balanced and aware presence in this life. The rich philosophies that support the path of the yogi keep teaching us that ultimate freedom in this life is the ability to know and believe that we are all connected to spirit. When settling deep into this idea we can release all disillusions that we are anything less than, separate from, or better than. Truly believing this, we can begin to watch the trickery of the mind and skillfully discern what is truth. We can practice to reside in this part of our selves that is at its core into the essential of what is, full of love and joy, know and trust that this space is always present and always available for us.
“Inside the skull there is a place where the essences of creation play and mingle – the ecstatic light of awareness and the awareness of that light. The divine feminine and masculine sport with one another in that place. The light of their love-play illumines all space. Rest in that light, ever present, and gradually awaken into the steady joy of that which is always everywhere.” – Lorin Roche, The Radiance Sutras
This remembrance sounds quite lofty and perhaps when life happens, seems quite untouchable. But, as many of my teachers have shared, “yoga is not easy.” Douglas Brooks cites van Buitenenen from the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga is always of somebody, in something, with something, for some purpose and implies (1) the process of a difficult effort, (2) a person committed to it, (3) the instrument he uses, (4) the course of action chosen, (5) the prospect of a goal.” The path of a yogi is constant, takes work, and is always evolving.
Each time I step onto my mat offers me an opportunity to practice staying present & open when things get tight, uncomfortable, and full of sensation. The physical asana practice awakens our senses and creates real physical situations where we ask the mind, the breath, and body to all unite into one cohesive and working being. We create intentional shapes that work to heal us, challenge us, and free us on a physical level. The postures also lead us through a whole realm of mental undulations and discoveries about how our mind is acting and reacting as things get tighter, harder, softer.
The more we practice physically, mentally, and emotionally to make choices that truly treat and respect our bodies as temples of the divine, most likely the more free we will feel from pain and suffering.
“A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect and self, being absorbed in the spirit within him. When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the Spirit within himself finds fulfillment. Then he knows the joy eternal which is beyond the pale sense which his reason cannot grasp. He abides in this reality and moves not therefrom. He has found the treasure above all others. There is nothing higher than this. He who has achieved it, shall not be moved by the greatest sorrow. This is the real meaning of yoga – a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow.” – From the 6th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita as stated by Yehudi Menuhin in Light on Yoga.
This holiday season my wish for all of you, and myself, is that you are able to skillfully align with your highest and best self. Offer deep and truthful love to those who are around you as well as yourself. May you skillfully discern what is not truth. May you tap into the eternal fountain of joy that is always flowing abundantly in you. May you stay steady as the water rises and the winds blow. May you continue to flourish in your practice, and welcome all effort as effort towards a better self and world. Om Santi, santi, santi (peace, peace, peace).
“The roar of Joy that set the worlds in motion is reverberating in your body, and the space between all bodies. Beloved, listen. Listen. Find that exuberant vibration rising new in every moment, humming in your secret places, resounding through the channels of delight. Know you are flooded by it always. Float with the sound, melt with it into divine silence. The sacred power of space will carry you into the dancing radiant emptiness that is the source of all. The ocean of sound is inviting you into its spacious embrace. The Great Hum is calling you home.” Lorin Roche, The Radiance Sutras