The Yoga of Moments
A few weeks ago Layne and I escaped for a weekend down to the hinterlands outside Byron Bay. Our little cottage was set high on a hill in a macadamia orchard, and the view from the veranda stretched out all the way to the sea. The minute we arrived on the property we both felt a sense of settledness and peace that was deep and immediate. That weekend we were planning to base ourselves in the hills and to go to the beach and explore the area around Byron with our Border Collie Winnie. But the moment we stepped onto the veranda and looked at the view, we both felt called to just stay put. So we did. We made a trip into Byron to get food, but for the most part we stayed on the hill and walked, rested, read, ate, and enjoyed each other.
One afternoon we went for a walk through the orchard. We rolled out my yoga mat and lay in the grass talking for hours while Winnie frolicked and chased birds and her Frisbee. It was a beautiful time of connection for us. As we lay in the clover Layne told me how he had spent hours as a kid looking for a 4-leaf clover but never found one. He had dragonflies following him around all weekend and we looked up what that meant. I recalled a time when students told me I had 5 hummingbirds flying around me after a class I taught at a festival in California, and we looked up what that meant too. We talked about our relationship; how far we have come in 16 years together, how we’ve grown and changed, where we are now, and what we want to create for our future. We talked about the difficult times, one time in particular when my pathological stubbornness was wreaking havoc on our marriage. I remembered back to how difficult it was to sit with his frustration and stay present as he told me how he felt, and also how healing it was once that discomfort was over and I could apply what I had learned so we could move forward together in love.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, he reached down and plucked a 4-leaf clover from the earth. It was pure magic.
Whether we’re finding a magic 4-leaf clover or we’re being confronted with how we’ve hurt someone we love, life can either bloom or stagnate depending on our relationship with its moments. The more we actively engage with what happens to us, the more opportunity we have for growth. But when our relationship with the moments of life exists at the level of unconscious or instinctive reactions, we end up in puddle of blame and resentment that makes it impossible to actually live life to the fullest, and to learn from our moments and grow.
The way we relate to the people and events in our life determines its breadth and depth. We have a choice to simply endure the things that happen to us, or to stay present as our moments unfold so that we can use them to create deeper connection. So often our perception of happiness involves finding ways to avoid the inevitable valleys and even the peak moments of life. This can mean running away or insulating ourselves from the full spectrum of feeling and colour available to us as human beings. But in order to achieve real growth and freedom, rather than running or insulating we must hone our skills of observation and learn to give our best and fullest attention to the very moments that challenge us most.
Humans are tribal and yoga is not solitary. Ultimately yoga is about our relationship to everything in our lives. Stretching our limitations on the mat can be an exploration of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the moments off the mat. Where are we courageous? Where do we shrink back? Where do close down? Where do we open up?
In fact, the very best barometer of progress in yoga has nothing to do with touching toes or balancing on forearms. The real yoga is measured by the quality of our relationships: to ourselves, to our people, and to our moments. Yoga invites us to be transformed not by changing ourselves, but by transforming the quality of attention we give to all of it. And you don’t need to be strong OR flexible to do that.