Photo: cc by mccun934, thanks!
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JOANNA HELLER
As we gather our things, our trip is now just a few days away. A big journey and truly a very special one. But still, don’t lose today. Today is always the only one we’re in… notice it, hold it. Breathe. The getting ready, the anxiety, the apprehension, everything. Still breathe.
Plane and train schedules, do I have what I need… which shoes should I take, why am I carrying so much and what am I forgetting…
I really need to be able to settle back into my body more readily than I am doing now.
My yoga mat is a good place to start and a seated twist or down dog brings me back to myself. Slow down. Sit and breathe.
Sometimes my kitchen calls louder than my mat
Then I am drawn straight into putting together a meal. Cutting the carrots or the onions, watching the pan heat and the oil shimmer. All very calming and meditative… washing dishes at my kitchen sink, cutting vegetables, or standing at the stove watching the pasta soften in the boiling water.
Sometimes I reach for a book, not an escape book but a grounding one. Mary Oliver’s words maybe. Her presence and perspectives strengthen and widen my own.
And sometimes I am tempted by someone else’s story and I turn to a book that is an escape more than it is a settling into the here and now. My story is kept at bay for a while. Tempting… but usually not particularly grounding. The book ends, someone else’s story is done and my own unease bounces right back from around the corner still waiting for acceptance.
What’s your favorite scratch for the itch?
Ice cream? A bagel? A drink? A pill? A computer game or a movie? … just something to overpower the discomfort fast. Is feeling okay too much to ask?
Pema Chodron says there is no such thing as the solid ground that we all tend to look for. She also says that this is not bad news. I am working on this one.
She says just stay with the unease, the itch, stay in the present moment. Stay with your breath. Stay with whatever arises. Whatever arises. That seems to be the key.
The good news is that I have recently been able to find an open okay feeling intentionally, not just fortuitously. Not very often but sometimes. So now I know it is truly possible for me. And this is big news. Very big. The bad news is that it really takes work, doesn’t always happen and it so so easily evaporates.
Since change is our only real constant, this can only be a work in progress. When troubling thoughts or feelings return like a river flooding in the spring, it is tempting to try to flee to higher ground. But there is no higher ground for this river.
There is only an open flow
It’s nothing solid but that is what we’re in, in the wide open, holding onto nothing. And as I say this my body suddenly remembers a decades old feeling. Riding in a NYC subway train – standing with feet widely but somehow softly planted – no holding on to the poles or the hangers, feeling a deep inner stillness while totally surrounded by the jouncing and jolting, and the slamming sounds of the train and I am feeling very balanced, very calm, very strong. A feeling to resurrect.
Basho in the seventeenth century:
…the journey itself is home.
So now less than one week away from our long awaited, very long awaited trip to Italy, I am suddenly shocked to realize that only four weeks after standing in a line in JFK airport bags packed and passports in hand we will be bags packed and passports out again, in the Rome airport this time, waiting to leave. And that wonderful part of our journey will have passed.
Slow down… breathe… feel everything. Everything.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.