Yesterday, snow, and today the cold. My body doesn't do well with cold snaps. Sudden cold seems to be the sure fire trigger to fibro flares. So I'm tender today. Sore and slow. I've never been able to figure out if sadness is a symptom, same as shouting bones and sour muscles and confusion, or if it's a natural consequence. I stub my toe and it doesn't stop that panging all day long. All day. I walk cautiously, which helps and doesn't. I am teary and sad, but also not. I am both sad, and sweetened. Things are so beautiful, I'm made sweet. I walked the dog yesterday in the new fallen snow. It was so quiet, so still, so detailed in it's millions of black branches and millions more snowflakes. My pain doesn't bother me as it used to. I'm not as afraid of it as I once was. There are whole days I can't do asana or eat or sleep, but this doesn't seem very terrible any longer. I've learned some things. I've learned to breath. I've learned that most of the time there are things I can do, squiggling on the floor and moving my spine, opening the siezing muscles, letting my weight find a not so sore spot to drop. And somedays, I can't. I never know which day is which, until I start.
When I walk in the new snow, it seems the sound of my walking is the most beautiful sound on earth.
And then when I stop, it seems the silence is.
Someone asked if I was angry or disappointed in yoga: wasn't it supposed to heal me? I certainly have moments of that. But also, no.
No: at some point my practice became a way to work with pain, rather than a fantasy about 'curing' it. I tend to think my practice has, largely, healed my fibromylagia. But it hasn't cured it, and that is okay.
Last night, in dharma talk, I told people this practice would make their lives harder. They would become more aware of everything going on in themselves. They would see and not be able to unsee. At the same time, their lives would become much easier. They would enjoy themselves more. The world is a mess and they will know it; their minds and bodies are a mess and they'll know it; but they will have an equanimity in which those things don't belittle us or need to be pushed aside.
This morning, someone asked why we're doing 108 saluations for the solstice. Why 108, in particular. One symbolizes everything, I said. Zero symbolizes nothing. Eight symbolizes infinite relationship. There are dozens of other meanings of 108, but this is my favorite. Everything, and nothing at all.
As in, this practice is nothing. The postures don't matter much, and you'll lose all of them in the end, anyway. The meditation doesn't get you any cash and prizes. And accepting the ethics and an inner awareness doesn't necessarily make you happy. They often make life more hard.
But it is also, everything. It is the absence of fear and the walls of fear. It is a remedy to re-activity and expectation and chosen ignorance. It is a way to be in our life, pained or anxious, terrorized or privileged, with an ability to work with those things rather than suffer them. We work with our conditions, with our heart, with our bodies, and we become people able to know pain, fear, or death, without fear. Yogis will die just like everyone else will. But the time before might be spent, differently. Dying itself might be a wonder.
You can't hold or quantify the gifts of this practice. They are immaterial. Last night I said it'd be like taking a mason jar out into the snow and gathering some up, intending to keep it. Or bagging a breeze. Boxing an angle of sunlight. They aren't yours, and they don't last, and you can neither create them nor claim them.
You can only stand in wonder.
In a few weeks, I'll be leading retreat at Saint John's Abbey. You won't really get anything out of that, either. You may be working your way toward certification. You may be developing your capacity to teach, or to sit. You may learn a new chant or get some insight during meditation. You might develop. But it's only real outcome is a quality of wonder, an experience you do or don't have intimacy with, a depth to your inner life that you could never explain to another, anyway. I think it's everything. Sign up here: Spine, Soul, and Breath 2016.
108 Sun Salutations December 20th, 7 pm
Paula is adding a 6:30 am Friday class, starting in January.
I'm opening up more time to privates - in studio or via skype - for $108.
The Deeper Practice curricula is about to launch into the feet, which is a very good time to start, indeed. We'll meet January 9 and 10th.
The Art of Self Care 11 week online course will run again starting Feburary 1, on a new platform hosted on this site.