To what shall I compare this life of ours?
Even before I can say
It is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop
It is no more. (Sengai)
I’ve spent much of my 41 years caught in the web of conditioning that most of us find ourselves stuck in at one time or another. It starts when we’re very young and find ourselves wishing to be older. I can remember watching my older sister, Robyn reap the rewards of being a teenager: the freedom of being able to stay up later, being able to go out with friends on a Friday or Saturday night, wearing make-up, getting her first car, and I would think, “Wow, my life will start when I’m 16”. Then, when I was 16 thinking, “When I graduate from high school, that’s when life begins!”. Upon graduating high school, the thought was that once I finished college, THAT’S when life would start. And so it goes, thinking that the next big event (marriage, having kids, getting that promotion, buying that big house) will mark the day when our lives will start and we’ll be perfectly happy and content. Isn’t that what we’re led to believe by the media, by those slick commercials on TV?
I lived this way until the day my mother passed away after a short battle with cancer in 2003. Something shifted deep within me when I saw and felt her exhale for the last time. Something beyond explanation. I realized that life was happening...right now, right here. Indeed it has always been happening, and I had been wrapped so blindly in the belief that life was waiting for me just beyond the next bend in the road.
When I started to practice yoga and meditation, I started to see, breath by breath and pose by pose, those old beliefs slowly begin to unravel. The knots and entanglements of those old conditionings began to undo themselves and I began to see life as a gift to be present for in this and every moment, that only being (here) and doing (this) are real. Be and do, here and now.
The realization comes when, while meditating or practicing yoga, you can let go of the idea that you are in control. What happens from moment to moment is something to experience, not to push away or grasp onto with all your might. When you just follow the breath, just know that you are breathing you become rooted in your life as it’s happening. All the bulls*#t drops away. All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world drop away and we’re left with life as it is honestly happening. Powerful stuff.
Of course, this is easy to say and hard to do. It takes practice and patience and lovingkindness towards yourself and others and the world. It involves accepting all that is as neither “good” nor “bad”. Be and do. Here and now.
I can’t say it enough: the discipline one gains through a yoga practice or through a daily meditation practice is priceless. You learn that by stripping away the non-essential, you find the essential. You find the truth and an unshakable sense of peace. Life is happening and you are a part of it. This isn’t to say that what’s happening here and now is always going to be pleasant or comfortable. It may be downright painful or full of sorrow. The point is that what’s happening now is life. It’s truth. To be present for that truth is a great and powerful gift. “Peace doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (Unknown) Be and do. Here and now.
(By the way, you DO have time to squeeze yoga and meditation into your daily life. Yoga and meditation, by stripping away all of the “filler” in our lives, creates time, it doesn’t “take” time.)
Here’s a quick way to find your center:
Find a quiet place out of the way of foot traffic in your home or office. Lock the dog/cat out of the room. Take a moment when the toddler is napping (instead of surfing the net or watching the boob-tube!). Sit on the edge of a cushion or pillow so that your pelvis is tilting forward and your spine is straight (it helps if your knees are below your hips).
Begin by watching your breath. Don’t try to do anything to it at first. Just watch. Feel the length of the breath enter your body as you inhale, and the length of the breath leave your body as you exhale. As you inhale say to yourself: “be here” as you exhale say to yourself: doing this. Do this 10-20 times.
Then slowly deepen your breath, inhale silently count “1” to your self, then slowly, completely exhale.
Inhale deeply count “2” then slowly, completely exhale.
Repeat this until you get to “10”
When you get to 10, do the same thing but count backwards to 1.
Slowly open your eyes. Feel better? Be and do. Right here, right now.