Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sundays and Levity

"Our bodyminds can know their true nature by letting themselves gravitate toward effortless sitting and breathing. And our attention can be stabilized, with perception coming to rest in the present moment and clarifying to the point where the unity of all things is known beyond argument or reservation..."
Chip Hartranft, from his translation of the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali

So, I remember it well - long before a teacher training and long before ever considering a career shift that would include yoga - that moment every consistent yoga practitioner has where you realize that yoga is the helium blown into your heart that lifts your heavy feet off the floor and moves you through life in this most effortless of ways.

You're in awe. All is good.

And that's when the journey begins to unfold.

What you might expect me to go on to describe is some earth shattering epiphany in some exotic locale, where the stars lined up perfectly and it all made sense and it was full of adventure and comfort-shattering experiences and... (If you're looking for heavy drama and non-stop action, you needn't read on.)

Nope. I was in my terry cloth robe, in my small apartment in San Francisco, and I had a desire to wash blankets and dishes and the shower curtain. And make cheesecake.

It was Sunday afternoon, many years ago, and I had just come off of a three day yoga workshop, I think. Or maybe I just went to three consecutively awesome classes. I really don't remember. Whatever it was, it likely happened at one of these studios and I'm sure that Stephanie, and/or Darren, and/or Christopher, and/or Cara, and/or Ana had something to do with it, because that was the place where and those were the inspiring people with whom my practice was unfolding at the time.

After my third class of the weekend, I walked out of the studio into a sunny spring day in SF. When I got home, the first thing I did was take my furry guruji for a walk. I'd never felt so tall and light before. I was sore, but I remember thinking that my bones seemed elegantly stacked for the first time in my life. I liked how my feet felt when they touched the ground as I walked. In the park, the tops of the trees seemed ethereal. I saw leaves gently swaying in the breeze, but I don't remember thinking "tree moving in breeze." I remember thinking "The tree is me" and not really knowing what to do with that.

We returned to our little apartment and a bath seemed like a good idea. A bubble bath. I don't remember thinking, "Midday bubble bath = too luxurious. Must do something more productive." I remember thinking, "Midday bubble bath."

Post delicious bath, in my baby blue terry cloth robe, I started to look around my apartment. The accumulated heavy winter filth just didn't jive with the levity of the moment. Without hesitation, I ripped down the nasty shower curtain, took blankets off of the bed, scooped up bathmats...and headed to the laundromat, normally my least favorite place on earth. I don't remember thinking "I resent spending my hard-earned weekend on boring domestic chores." I remember thinking, "Clean!"

While the laundry machines did their thing, pooch and I walked to the store because I thought the idea of baking felt so very delicious. I bought ingredients for two chocolate cheesecakes, one for us and one to take to work the next day to share with my colleagues. I didn't think "Should be consuming something far healthier." I simply thought, "Yum."

The laundry was done. The bathroom was clean. The kitchen was clean. The cheesecakes were baked.

There was no chronic checking of the time because there was plenty of it.

There was no dread about Monday morning because it wasn't Monday morning, it was Sunday.

There were no mental gymnastics about what I could or should be doing because the mind was calm.

There was no edgy vibration in my body because I felt fine in my skin.

There was no internal debate about my priorities because there was extreme clarity.

Yoga is not about making us great. It is about helping us, with complete humility, find the greatness in every single task, interaction, movement, moment, and breath. The mundane moments and tasks hold as much potential for sweetness as any other.

Well, fast forward many yoga classes, yoga trainings, continents, teachers, students, homes, people and dog years later, to a Sunday in Paris in March. It's the pooch and me again, going out for her morning walk. (She's a lot slower now and the walks aren't quite as long, but we're still doing our thing.)

We walked to the nearest park from where we get a perfect view of the Sacre Coeur. The air was soft (soft and cold, that is) and the sun was bright. France was beginning to rise out of a bleak, dark, long winter.

I was just coming off from nearly two weeks straight of teaching classes and workshops. I was tired, but something felt so good; so light. My feet touched the ground softly. I remember thinking there is nothing more perfect or precious than this moment, right now...

And it was indeed one of those Sundays in which every breath expanded the space. From a market run and housecleaning - clear through to the usually dreaded French bureaucratic administrative tasks - the day flowed effortlessly; even joyfully.

The mundane became the great that day a Paris et en francais. Yoga and its after-glow were the smooth beurre doux softening the hard edges.

Better than any accolade, or exotic adventure, or high profile accomplishment is the true gift that yoga offers - the opportunity to experience the extraordinary in the ordinary - effortlessly.