Mindful awareness

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moving Beyond Duality

Goldilocks knew that things could be too hot or too cold but that something in the middle is just right! What was just right gave her a sense of contentment and comfort. Smart woman, that Goldilocks! Life is stressful in the extremes. People are quick to classify an experience, person, or thing as either good or bad. Either we like it or we dislike it. But really there is so much possibility in between the extremes. Yoga has taught me to find the gray zone of experiences and to acknowledge that things change. This awareness has given me more equanimity as I proceed through the day.

For instance, I reflect on things that I didn’t used to like. I didn’t like adho mukha svanasana (down dog pose) for the first several years that I practiced yoga and now I appreciate the feeling of expansion it gives me through my legs, trunk, and arms. Bakasana (crow pose) had been really difficult 20 years ago but now I find it and its variations easy. It is incredulous to me that I used to think I hated asparagus (thanks to the 1960’s canned variety served at our home) but now it is among my very favorite vegetables. None of these things changed, per se. Each of these things was always something in the middle – not hard, easy, likable or dislikable. What has changed is my perspective and my realization that everything is really on a continuum and always just right at some point in time.

I contemplate about what is a hard pose or an easy pose exactly? Isn’t it all relative to another pose? After working with ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) most students are relieved to return to parsvakonasana (side angle pose) although they had just struggled with that one before the balance pose! We often work with bakasana then parivrtta bakasana (revolved crow pose) and when we return to bakasana without the twist it seems just right - easier than it had before to everyone in the room.

I keep the studio temperature at 73-75 degrees for class. Is that hot or is that cold? Some students are a little chilled (as am I) when we begin class in a centering pose. But although the external temperature doesn’t change, most people are sweating after 30 minutes of standing poses. So was 74 degrees hot or cold? Can it be a temperature along a continuum that is just right to accommodate the practice?

I’ve invited students to find that just right state – not really tense and struggling but not really limp and disengaged – during our asana practice and to find that just right state of mind off the mat. Something along a continuum – not too extreme – seems just right and much easier to endure. Hopefully they will experience the same contentment and comfort that Goldilocks found when she found something not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

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