Friday, October 15, 2004

Mindful Musing

This morning, my mother, the Dowager Empress Odie-Bird sent me a story she had enjoyed regarding one woman’s experience with anticipation—how we tend to believe that there is a better place than we are now, and how we overlook the pleasures of the moment we are in as we rush to get to the next minute, the next Big Thing. We spend our lives in the next five minutes, anticipating the destination rather than savoring the journey. Read the whole thing here (

I took up yoga earlier this spring—what the hell, I already do the new yoga (knitting), so I might as well take up the old. As the seasons progressed, and the summer warmed up, I would go out on the porch first thing in the morning and right after I got home from work, and stretch in the hundred-degree plus heat. Even at six in the morning, the thermometer would read in the mid-eighties. Stretching was astoundingly easy. I was never this flexible, even as a kid. And the more I worked at it, the easier and better it got.

I had some Really Kewl Moments on the porch this summer—one of the best came on a July morning. The sprinklers came on, I was grounded and twisted, and along came a hummingbird in his little suit of lights. He hovered by the tree, watching the sprinkler spray and rotate, then he darted directly into the line of fire! Splash! He zipped up a foot, watching, watching, watching and hovering, then just as it came around again he ducked down into the spray again. Splash!

I stopped to watch him, wondering if he was dazzled by the sun and spray, or trying to drive the sprinkler off, but then, when that array turned off, he followed the spraying water over to the next head, and proceeded to dunk into the spray again and again. He was taking a birdbath on the wing; a kid flying through the sprinkler in a bright green swimsuit. (And what kind of swimsuit does a hummingbird wear? Speedos!!!)

Now, however, the season has turned and it’s getting chilly. (Yes, compared to the northeast, we’re relatively warm. However, the high temps are now nearing what the lows are in summer. Brrr.) I’ve moved inside where I can look out the back door, but the cold has seeped into my joints and in the morning I’m stiff stiff stiff. It’s hard to get out the mat and practice, especially remembering that a short time ago I was cooked spaghetti flexible and now I expect to hear breaking when I bend.

My ego wants to push, and insists that I make progress each and every time I go to the mat. When you had barely started, it insists, just weeks after you started, you were able to get your head to the floor. Now, when you do straddle bends, your head is level with your tailbone, and your hands just reach the floor! MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE! (My ego would make an excellent aerobics instructor.)

But just as you have to learn to have the strength to contain your flexibility, you have to have the strength to contain your ego. It isn’t about having a set of calendar-perfect poses each and every time, it isn’t about being able to kiss your elbows and put your feet on your shoulders. It’s about being with and in your body, with all its imperfections, and being in the minute wherever you are, and having it be enough. Enough for right this minute—because that’s always where you’re going to be.

The Dowager Empress mentioned that this article moved her to practice mindfulness (just for a few minutes, she mumbled). But that’s all there is, is this few minutes, and the next few minutes, and the next few minutes. Just like practicing sobriety; just like knitting. All there is is the next few minutes, the next stitch, the next pose. Flow into it, be with it, be in it. Let the sweater take care of itself. And one day, your feet will touch your shoulders.

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