Day 245 – Rolf writes today about letting go, which most people (particularly newbies to yoga) see as flexibility–and, to a larger degree, it is. Flexibility becomes synonymous with mobility as we hit the challenges of life: cancer, menopause, injury, ennui, work challenges, social and work commitments (which keep us harried and stressed), and big life experiences, such as death of a loved one. What came easier in our youth becomes more difficult, and we find, even if we are willing to work–as I have always been–that we can become easily discouraged and disengaged; doing the splits or a backbend, deadlifting a truck, dancing through pain, getting up early, eating cleanly, and even practicing viniyasa, seem pointless, when going through some of the more unpleasant moments of one’s day, especially if we are in pain–whether it is physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional (or all of these). In essence, as Rolf discusses in today’s reading, our physical body will mirror our mental, spiritual, emotional and outward body. He writes: “The rigidity with which we see ourselves, our lives, everything, is manifest in our physicality–in the way we stand and sit and walk, in all the things we can and cannot do.”
Students come to my class at the Y because their doctors tell them to start yoga, to move, to become more flexible. They come and discover that their flexibility leads to mobility in the physical body. Like Rolf’s students, they don’t want to be told how to live, what diet to be on (as if there was one answer), or how to live more spiritually, and yet, yoga is all of this and more. Rolf writes: “If we want the fruits of yoga, we must learn that we must let go; what’s more, we learn that we can let go. We learn that there is nothing to defend, and that there never was.”
Over and over on my mat, in my personal practice, whether it be asana or meditation, I learn that “with the mind resting in effortless awareness, the body can arrive at effortless balance” and “with the body in effortless balance…[my] heart opens effortless.” Most people stumble into yoga by accident, just like I did so many years ago. We feel it is worth the effort to make it to a class or our mats, but we stress to get there, stay there, and turn it into an escape from life’s little (and big) challenges. Our minds return to our inflexible mindset and we go about our routines. We are grateful for more mobility in our day-to-day physical ventures, and yet, we long for more, so we push ourselves into postures we have no business being in and we work asana sequences without awareness, hurrying to get to the AHHHHHHH part.
I am no less guilty than my students. On vacation, I marched straight up the mountain, dragging Fred along with me at my harried pace. I couldn’t wait to see what was around the next bend. What I discovered was that the longest, most challenging walk wasn’t about the vistas. The reward was in the next hike, when jaded, we discovered the most beautiful and magical waterfall. It was a sweet moment. In yoga, Rolf this as “mountain moment.”
In practice, when I reach what Rolf describes as “mountain moment,” it is truly as if the toil and work I have done to make it to my mat or meditation seat has “washed away much of what has been obstructing…[my] view” from the mountain. Magic is all about us; Mother Nature provides us with Her endless presence: an intense rainfall upon a rocky uphill climb, rich orange clay filling every tread of worn-out sneakers, burbling streams amid rhododendron, magnolia blossoms dotting the mountainside, canopies of green obscuring a waterfall. And, there in the pool beneath Hemlock Falls and Angel/Panther Falls, were evidences that others shared with us this magic: beautiful cairns.