Posts by: Jody Ansell
Learning to Rest
In case you were wondering why I have not been to the studio for a while, I’ve been on an extended vacation from asana practice, courtesy of my back. Yup, it appears I’ve slipped a disk. I can trace it back to shoveling snow this winter, anyways, that’s when it started to hurt. The good news is disks are actually easier to manipulate back into place at my age than when younger, precisely because they have become a little firmer and are less mobile. Who’da thunk? Needless to say, I am eager to get back to a more vigorous asana practice, but for now, I have to be satisfied with having graduated from doing the most gentle of movements (sphinx and low cobra with stomach, butt and legs NOT engaged) to being OKed to begin adding more “yogic elements” to these movements.
Recently, I helped my neighbor, who was injured in a car accident by adjusting a cart she is using to get around so it fit her better. I didn’t think twice about sitting on the floor and so I could work on the cart. But I sure thought twice when I had a hard time standing up! I am feeling “old” for the first time. Like really old. Like stereotypically old. Imagine an old lady bent forward and walking around with one hand on her back. OK, so maybe I am having a bit of drama about this, but it is quite a revelation when any movement heading in the direction of a forward fold, like bending down to pick up something from the floor requires planning, otherwise it will hurt!
What I am discovering in this period of forced inactivity is that I don’t really know how to rest. And, of course, that is really what my body needs to heal. In fact, I almost never rest, unless I am sick, and I don’t think that exactly counts, does it? My idea of the ideal vacation? Put on a backpack and hike for five or six days in high elevation mountains. My idea of a restful day at home? Get the shopping done, bake bread, cook, etc. while doing loads of laundry in between. Sleeping in? Mmmm, that would be 7:00 a.m., right? You get the picture.
So for me, the challenge is to learn to rest. To accept limitation. It’s probably a no-brainer, a doh! moment for most people, but my attachment to my perception of myself as a physically active and fit person throws sand in my eyes and makes it harder for me to do what I need to do to heal- which is rest. Luckily, the body reminds me every time my perception moves away from this new reality!
Off the Mat: Mint Tea
One day last week, my carpool delivered me to work early, so I decided to try some tea at a coffee place I’d never been to before. The tea came and I took it too an outside table where I could sit, read and watch people walking by, Without intending to, I did not take a sip of tea, but instead inhaled the tea vapor, through my mouth, where it sprang from the hard palate to the back of the throat. I was not prepared for the sublime clarity of the mint flavor, it was as if the essence of the tea had been transferred directly to my nerve center. I was simultaneously thrilled and sated and felt without need to taste the liquid after that heady mint bounced around my head.
The “taste” of that experience was such that, of course, I hoped the tea itself would be divine. So I took a sip. I don’t know if it was the water the tea was brewed in, or other things that were mixed with the mint , but the tea itself had a strong taste of straw and dirt and! I was shocked and wondered if my taste buds were fooling me after being inundated with the pure mint essence. So I took another sip, but the taste was the same, still unclear and dirty. I opened the cup and looked at the tea bag, which was, in fact, half full of some yellow, straw-like substance. Perhaps it was chamomile, though the tea did not taste of chamomile. Whatever, the taste was quite disappointing!
This happens to me in other parts of my life too. I find myself involved in or observing a unique and wonderful moment, and, at that moment, conscious of it’s special wonder. That experience is often accompanied by a feeling of lightness, connection and deep gratitude. However, instead of being satisfied with that and taking the time to appreciate it fully, I often try to get “more” of that experience, which, of course, immediately moves me out of the moment of appreciation and connection and into a different state altogether: one in which I am alone, trying to accomplish something rather than surrendering to and staying in the experience of that moment. Why do I do that? Why does anyone do that? That’s a whole other blog and lifetime. It could be due to any number of common human faults, from impatience to greed to fear or ignorance.
Lucky for me, awareness is the first step toward change and while I often find a way to “pop” myself out of an experience, I don’t always. The times of being able to relax and be are more frequent than they used to be. And, for this particular Mint Tea experience, I decided to try “mouth-breathing” the tea vapor again, to see what that would be like. YUM! Almost as intense as the first time!
(This is really a response to Leslie, but the poem is so great, I am posting it here so others can easily read it.)
Leslie, we seem to be on the same wave length. Maybe it’s not unusual for people to become synchronistic when going through an intense program like the yoga teacher training we are engaged in. Is anyone else running down this road as well? Here’s my similar experience:
Tuesday, riding home from work on the Metro I was reading the American Poetry Review, specifically an untitled poem by Tadeusz Dabrowski (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) on page 18:
“God has not retired – as Simone Weil
would have it – a huge distance away, but He’s
right here, so close that I can feel His
caring non-presence. (Which is a word passed over
in silence, an aborted gesture, a suspended
a breath held for a moment. That
not breathing, that’s your life.)”
Non-presence! Doesn’t that cut to the quick? The poem jerked me right off of the train out of the tunnel and into a much larger space. Isn’t it true that we forget to breath, that we forget our lives that we come to these inexplicable spaces where nothing and everything seems to be happening? Isn’t it true that one moment we wake up and realize we’ve not been breathing, not living, suspended somewhere other than with our bodily selves and the energy of life which surrounds and is us? Thanks be for awakening!
OK, so today I got up and I am so uninspired. I don’t want to do any yoga. I don’t want to get on the mat. I don’t want to study for the teacher training course. I just don’t. I’ve been in this place before, and I imagine many others have as well. Sometimes there is this resistance. So what to do?
Sometimes it works just to get on the matt and start going through the poses. At some point, something usually clicks and the mental and physical states begin to align and I get back into my practice. But sometimes, like today, that doesn’t happen. In fact, I am writing this now after coming “off the mat” and as a means of avoiding asana! So then what?
Something I learned a long time ago that has been a tool that has been handy is to “act as if.” What does that mean? That means that even when I don’t feel like it, I acknowledge my feelings, maybe check in to see if there is something the feelings are telling me that I need to pay attention to, and then go ahead and ‘act as if’ everything were “normal” and do what I have to do anyway. This applies to yoga, to work, to being kind, to everything in life. Some days, I am angry or upset, but I try to ‘act as if’ with others, so I am treating them well, not taking something out on them or using them as a sounding board so I can dump my stuff. Sure, there are those days when I might just laze around on the couch all day or indulge myself in some other way. But ‘but acting as if’ can help me keep a one time occurance from becoming a habit.
So, even writing this blog is ‘acting as if’ because I made a commitment to the teacher training, my practice and to Boundless to do this once a week. So I’m going to post this and get back to the mat!
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