Hi everyone. How are you?
It doesn’t seem like we can get rid of the uncertainty that blankets the country and community. In my last post I brought up Issa’s poem on swatting mosquitoes while praying to Buddha. The three lines of the poem pull the rug on any kind of semblance that any of us has our shit together. Incongruity is such an interesting thing. We don’t like it, but it’s an integral part of our humanity.
Today, we’re not swatting away mosquitoes.
Today I want to share about creating space for the incongruities, holding space for opposites. Two years ago when I fractured my arm I found myself in horrendous nerve pain radiating from my elbow to my hand. My hand felt as if it were on fire. Think of when you have hit the side of your elbow but that electric sensation turning to fire. The sensation was on 24 hours a day.
There were moments in the first two months where I felt I could not deal with the pain. Pain killers did not help. Weed brownies helped a little but not that much.
The worst part of it was not knowing if I was ever going to feel better. In those moments of deep despair, one of the things that helped, especially when I felt gripped by the intensity of my emotions, was to notice the parts of my body that did not hurt.
Turning my awareness to my other arm and hand, for example, allowed me to sense that my injured elbow was not the whole of my body. My pain did not lessen when I would do this, but the grip of despair did and I was able to gently draw my awareness away from the fiery sensation.
Developing an awareness practice is a powerful way to come back to the present moment and notice how spacious and possible it is. Sometimes that noticing is really small, but even if it’s as small as a mustard seed, it can really have some amazing effects.
Sit comfortably on a chair or on your mat. Notice your breath as it is. Allow yourself to follow the breath coming in and going out. Once you have settled in, notice your exhale and in particular, the pause between the exhale and your next inhale. Don’t try to change the pause. Just notice it. Do this for a minute or two drawing your awareness to the pause.
As you continue your gentle breath practice, ask yourself if the awareness that you have of the front of your body and the back of the body are equal. That is, do you sense your face and chest more than the back of your head and back? Let your inquiry allow you to explore. Let your response be wordless. Sense your answer. Notice if you adjust your posture as a result of your inquiry. Take a couple of minutes noticing.
Continue your awareness practice by noticing the weight of your body. Notice the contact points with your seat. Become more aware of gravity pulling you down. Scan from your head to the feet noticing the weight of the body. Go slow.
Noticing what works, what is good, what is loving and satisfying, even when that thing is tiny is a good practice in times when we might feel constricted by our suffering. Our energy is drawn to where attention goes.
Redirecting our attention through gentle presence allows us to create a space so that we can open up rather than shut down. We can allow suffering and joy to coexist without resolving the suffering. Being in that in-between space gives us wiggle room to strengthen, maybe to find the way through.
This gets me to yoga and our practice each week. We move, stretch, and breathe, but ultimately, the practice is really about developing gentle awareness.
This is what our yoga practice is all about. We are finding space by celebrating community, togetherness, love and awareness–all the same thing.
Below is the yoga session we had on Monday. The first 15 minutes or so are fantastic as a morning or end of the day practice. (There was a second camera that got a side view; unfortunately, my recording skills did not take that camera into account. We usually chat at the start of class. I edited this out.)