Yoga has changed a lot about how I interact with the people around me and how I react to situations. It’s very fulfilling to realize I’m not taken off balance in a moment when I might have become fearful or angry in that past. However, there are other times when I find myself to be decidedly un-yogic. Hurricane Irene gave me a week without lights, air-conditioning, internet access or hot water. Living in a town with huge, old, oak trees that loose branches in wind, rain and snow storms; we’ve had plenty of power failures. In the past we’ve been dark for 10 minutes to 2 days. A week is a record.
My immediate reaction when the lights went out was to sit and wait for my world to re-illuminate. Any minute now. Ten minutes later, resignation set in and I followed through on the preparations I’d made: grab the flashlights, light the candles, pretend to read Yoga Journal…..but my real focus was on waiting for the lights to come on. Surprised that the lights were still out when I went to bed, my first cogent thought the next morning was, “I HAVE to have power today.” The next two days became a pregnant pause of tension. A void of waiting, and thinking “I HAVE to get power this morning.” “ I’m sure I’ll get power this afternoon.” “ Pleeeease let me get power tonight.” “It’s not possible that I’d have to take another ice cold shower today.” As each deadline passed without success, I felt my non-yogi nerves fray. Finally, on the third day I stopped resisting. The fact that the power was not coming on in my timeframe, and that I had no control over when it would come on, sunk in and I accepted it. Immediately, the tension melted and I could get on with the details of life without lights and hot water.
It occurred to me after the fact that I had just re-experienced an old lesson. It wasn’t the lack of electricity that had caused me to feel frazzled and frustrated. The tension was the result of my resistance. Every moment spent wishing things were different caused anxiety, discomfort and suffering. When I finally settled in, and accepted the situation, I could move through each day, making whatever adjustments were necessary, and still feel centered. Another opportunity to break-through.
Here in the northeast we’ve had a long transition between spring and summer. After a long, cold, snow filled winter, we’ve lately endured months of grey, wet, cloudy days. I find myself waiting. Waiting for the rain to end. Waiting for summer to start. Waiting to be able to garden, to be outside, to break out my summer shorts…..Waiting. Once I’m deep within that mindset, the now moment no longer exists. It’s like time spent on the tarmac after the plane has pushed off from the gate, but hasn’t been cleared to take flight. It’s like the lame duck period between presidencies or senate sessions. The old hasn’t moved out. The new hasn’t moved in. At these times, being in transition starts to manifest as being stuck in neutral.
In yogic philosophy transition does not mean neutral. The concepts of being fully present, mindful, in the moment, has significance during the in-between times as well. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity to practice as there is a lot of life that’s spent in-between.
Transitions can be uncomfortable, especially when we don’t know what’s coming next. We can feel like we’re drifting and disoriented. We just want to get it over with and move on to the next thing. On the mat we learn to be present in the transitions between poses rather than rushing through to the next goal. Bringing awareness and energy to the in between moments of our asana practice significantly increases the balancing and centering benefits of our time on the mat. However, gaining those benefits requires that we not close our eyes and tune out. That we don’t hesitate or rush through. These practices serve us off the mat as well as they do on the mat.
We don’t always know where our path is leading us, especially when we are in between mile parkers. The poet David Whyte wrote “If we think life is always improving, we’re going to miss half of it.” There is opportunity to gain strength on the journey, rather than waiting until we find the man, get the money, or loose the five pounds. However, to gain the knowledge and strength that is available to us, it becomes necessary to not just be all in, all the time, but also in-between.
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