Friday, April 11, 2014

Your Immovable Anchor

"Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are." -Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

We have all faced adversity in various forms; adversity is part of the human condition. We live in an ever-changing world and universe, occupying bodies that age and spaces that deteriorate with time. Over the span of our lifetime, we will inevitably lose many or most of the things and people we love. In spite of this fact, we persevere and experience fulfillment anyway. How do we do it?

This week my family was poignantly reminded of the reality of impermanence when my sister's dog had his jaw ripped off by another dog. Pets are like family members. We share deep bonds with them. We grieve when they are injured and die. My sister told me that after this horrible accident she went running down the street holding her bleeding dog in her arms. Because she was in shock, she tripped and fell three times and finally someone stopped to help her find her way to the emergency vet. The dog is still alive, but will never be able to close its mouth again or eat anything but baby food. He will drool constantly; even drinking water will be a challenge for him. 

This is a sad story. We all know many stories like it, and indeed worse stories. My sister is a pediatric nurse and has seen many children in the emergency room and ICU recovering from gruesome and shocking trauma. Even so, her work experience didn't adequately prepare her for seeing her pet maimed and helpless without feeling completely heartbroken. But she herself is not broken. Something in her, the same part of her that helps her in her work, is keeping her from falling apart. She will suffer worse losses than this one, and we all have and will. Yet, each of us has an amazing capacity to bounce back even stronger after every trial. We are all resilient. 

What are you doing in your life to recognize and keep building on your resilience? 

If you are reading or listening to this, then you practice or are interested in yoga. So that is one thing you are doing to tap into your deepest inner resources. Yoga practice anchors us to the strong, rooted, still point within us that keeps us from breaking apart or floating away in the midst of a storm. Through a regular, dedicated practice we learn how to find our anchor so we can go right to it when the strong storms come, as they always do. Familiarity with this unchanging place in us comes with more and more practice. In meditation, we anchor to our breath and familiarize ourselves with stillness. In our asana, we consciously connect with the body, and in each posture, as we move, we stay aware of the anchor. We find and connect to that unwavering place in us that holds us, and our postures, together. If we fall down, we get back up, because resilience is in our nature. Yoga just helps us to realize it. 

Through yoga, we learn to be firmly anchored in our own being so that what happens around us swirls around us without pulling us up from our root. We can experience pain, loss and trauma without those experiences defining us. Our true self is always secure and yoga is something that gives us that experiential knowledge.

To connect to that still point within, focus your awareness on your breathing. In your practice today, find a few moments to sit and simply tune into the sensation of your breath, giving your mind a respite from any other task or train of thought. Sit comfortably with a straight spine and supported seat. Close your eyes to tune out distractions. Relax your jaw. Relax your belly. Relax your hands and feet. Then, begin to feel into your breath. How does it feel to inhale and exhale? Breathe naturally. Notice any sensations. Then, begin to allow your breath to even out and slow down. Allow yourself to pause after each inhalation and exhalation and notice that space in the breathing. Notice that there is a point of balance and stillness between each breath cycle. Immerse yourself in this sensation of stillness. As you become more and more aware of this peace and ease in the space between the breaths, your mind will begin to merge into the stillness. You will come back home to your true anchor. Now that you know how this feels, see if you can retain and keep returning to this awareness in the midst of your postures today. And know that you can take this awareness with you wherever you go. This is who you really are, at all times and in all circumstances. 

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