At Peace and in Place in the World

By practicing yoga and meditation we observe the passing moments that make up our days. As we witness things passing, we acknowledge the inherent fragility in being. First off, we notice how our bodies are vulnerable to wear and tear. Maybe you have felt a hip joint or shoulder begin to erode. Over time, yoga is really just erosion control! But to acknowledge and embrace the transitory and to be at ease with the passage of time is, in the words of the poet Wendell Berry, to be “at peace and in place” in the world. When we can acknowledge the inherent fragility in being, we experience a sense of gratitude. Impermanence inspires compassion. Compassionate awareness is the natural outpouring of a mind and body that has reflected deeply on the passing nature of things. When we acknowledge the fragility of things, we develop greater sensitivity toward all that happens within our own life and the lives around us. This sensitivity, in turn compels us to act with greater care and empathy. I have often thought that yoga training is essentially sensitivity training. Practicing yoga postures and yogic listening is to attune to the small shifts that happen in and around us. The experience of impermanence is evident in the practice of meditation. Moments, thoughts, memories and sensations are fleeting. They come and go within the field of our awareness like gusts of wind.  It is the same in a yoga pose. Tremors of sensation pass through connective tissue, joint space glide open and blood swooshes through the neck and shoulder. The yoga postures are vehicles for cultivating deep listening. This listening is another way of witnessing the passing nature of things.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath

Don’t Hold Your Breath

You don’t have to do yoga to know that you should not “hold your breath”. Yet in order to make it through a topsy turvy time it is common for people to do just this. When we say “holding your breath” we do not simply mean not inhaling. Of course, people rarely “hold their breath” for without breath there is no life and by way of a long held breath, you might end up passed out on the carpet! It is more common for people to constrict their blood vessels, clench their nerves or tighten their sphincters in order to get by.

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