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Posts Tagged ‘Yoga’

Fortunate to have a few days off at Christmas time, not charged with any social obligations, I took long walks in the snowy forest, watched BBC TV-series after Jane Austen’s masterpieces, did research for work from the comforting depth of my arm-chair, met with the few friends staying in town for holidays. Was reconnecting to my inner tortoise, one could say. Like Austen’s Emma, I had time to explore the workings of my own heart/mind.  Unlike Emma, I had my yoga practice to turn to for wise guidance on the begun journey into the love-light country. In romantic relationships, as in yoga, we have a chance to meet all sides of ourselves, the ugly and the beautiful, the stuff that makes us shine and that which holds us back.

Here come a couple of my favourite lessons off the yoga mat (but then again all life is one if we do not try to compartmentalize it, right?)

Am I ready?

One of the most profound lessons that yoga has been teaching me about myself and life is that at every moment it can become more than a stretch just as falling for another always has a potential to be a much larger journey than the initial experience of falling in love.  Both can be truly transforming experiences. And as I’ve discovered, transformation is simply not possible without resistance and the underlying fear of change.

As I watch the yoga teacher suspending herself in the air in a beautiful arm-balance, my heart jumps with excitement and I feel the subtle shifting in my own muscles. The next second I catch the Controller in me go, “No-no-no, you could not possibly pull this one off without injuring yourself or destroying the apartment. You certainly should not consider venturing into it without a thorough preparation.”

What I forget is that every pose I ever tried have been preparing me for this next balance. Now whenever I think the pose is too much for me, I remind myself that I don’t need to do it in its entirety right away but can break it down into components to gently and patiently explore each of them. Likewise, in relationships, whenever something feels overwhelming, my beloved and I can break down the larger issue into smaller parts and see what each of them asks from us, one at a time. Suddenly I feel how my own tension subsides, see the face of my beloved relaxing, the first glimpse of smile showing in his eyes.

Throwing oneself into the fire

One of the first things we discover in yoga is the disproportionate restrictions in our body, those tight spots. So the physical aspect of yoga is about cultivating openness in those restricted areas by constantly playing the edge. In his wonderful book on yoga Erich Schiffmann defines playing the edge as “sensing where your edges are and learning to hold the body there with awareness, moving with its often subtle shifts.  Your skill in yoga has little to do with your degree of flexibility or where your edges happen to be. Rather, it is a function of how sensitively you play your edges, no matter where they are.”* I am reminded that there are no such thing as the ideal posture (or perfect relationship for that matter!) but rather each posture is ever-evolving, changing from moment to moment. Sensitivity for me is in the first place about listening for both the words and beyond the words, the ability to drop the agenda (this is how I am going to do this pose or what I am going to say) when I am listening to my own body or to what my beloved says. Even in relationships we can practice listening with the body, as we do in yoga. We can colibrate ourselves to become more sensitive and receive the waves we otherwise might miss.

 

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The other day I went to see the tree that has been important to me ever since I moved to Uppsala. I think she is a willow tree of sorts. Already in 2000 she was a green manifestation of two in one.

So here we were ten years later. For some reason the people taking care of trees in the city park cut off all her limbs. At first glance she looked naked and pretty much dead on the outside but new branches covered in soft green started shooting out towards the sky and proved otherwise.

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Inspired by “My mosts of 2007”, I look back at this year that is about to turn around the corner on this side of the planet and recollect some of the people, ideas, books and insights that touched me in 2009.

What did each of those people and ideas bring up in me and how did it influence my life?

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This year I have been reconnecting with the intuitive, wild and free spirit in me, allowing my body-mind-spirit to be taken to new territories through playful exploration in dance, yoga, art, sex, cooking, and what not. Bringing the element of play with its spontaneity into different aspects of life  shifts the focus from the outcome to the process itself in the way that most of us are familiar with and allows us to transcend the self-imposed limitations and ideas of what we could and could not do, judgements and fear of making mistakes. We know and accept that play involves taking risks, playing on the edge and with the edge itself, embracing the unknown and therefore treat surprise not as something threatening but as part of the game. Mistakes are viewed as experience. As the performance pressure dissipates, we become one with the activity. We are in the flow.

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Unquestionably, there are more subtle and less exotic ways of sending one’s body and mind into a frenzy of pain and confusion known to the humans of today but at that moment it felt as the right thing to do: going on a sesshin once or twice a year is recommended for lay people and it was time for me to have the first hand experience. I was curious and nervous about the whole thing, excited about meeting a renowned Zen master and my co-meditators, wondered how the sesshin would influence my practice. The prospect of experiencing quite a bit of pain and sharing living and silence with a bunch of strangers for about a week on the island nobody seemed to be able to locate on the map did not scare me probably because I simply did not know what it would actually feel like.

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Yoga and Zazen

Having been doing yoga and zazen on a daily basis, sometimes one after another, I have discovered both practices, although they seem to be very different in form, are very much alike.

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A friend of mine who keeps giving me ideas for the dicussion recently answered one of my sincere questions starting with “But I am like this…”, emphasising the “this” part and letting me know what was clear to her – that was the kind of person she was and it would be hard for her to act in a different way ( an excuse disguised as self- knowledge rooted in the belief that we are one way or the other and changing it is at best painful if at all possible). Indeed, why would she even try, if she had already figured out the way she operated best (did she?) and if going in a different direction would bring some insecutiry?

I had to think about the answer to that why and came up with a simple example from yoga, since both of us are yoga practitioners and I was reading excerpts from Erich Schiffmann’s insightful book on yoga.

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