Friday, September 2, 2011


Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.  
~Marie Curie

A few days ago I was up before the sun came up and I went outside to meditate in the cooler morning air. It's a treat to do this when the weather permits and I was particularly grateful on this morning to be surrounded by fresh air and nature while connecting to what one of my teachers calls “big mind” (a state of consciousness that leads to serenity, clarity and bliss).  It’s a heavenly feeling to sit tall, close your eyes and sink into stillness, feeling the presence of God around and within you. 

As I sat and allowed my wavering thoughts to settle, I started to notice with great clarity the sounds going on around me, starting with the sounds furthest away: the soft drone of cars on the interstate, a distant train whistle, a siren in the a few miles away, a car starting a few streets over, cicadas, frogs and crickets singing their early morning choruses, the neighbor opening her front door to let her dog out. The longer I sat, the more aware I became of sounds closer to me: something (perhaps a squirrel) moving around in the grass to my right, the neighbors dog lifting a leg to pee on the herb garden next to me, the growling of my hungry belly, but something else also caught my ear.  It was much closer to me, perhaps just a foot or so away that I couldn't quite identify... a light scratching sound.  What was it?  

Scratch, scratch, scratch...

Of course being out in nature means, well, being out in nature... replete with all things natural, like... bugs.

I'm not a big fan of bugs.  I don't know who among us really is a fan of bugs unless, of course, you are an entomologist or an exterminator. So as I listened to this “scratch, scratch, scratch”  my mind automatically conjured up the image of a huge, hideous palmetto bug (i.e. a GINORMOUS roach) making its way toward me.  My thoughts took a turn, “What if there's more than one?!”,  “What if it climbs up the leg of the chair!?”,  “What if it crawls on me!?”, “What if, what if, what if”!!!!!?????”. For a moment I became paralyzed with fear. Fear holds us still, stifles our progress, and distorts our view of reality. 

Yoga/meditation offers us a doorway to self-realization by honing our awareness. This newfound awareness grants us the opportunity to help focus our mind.  With a focused mind we can separate fact from fiction - much easier than a confused mind. As practices, yoga and meditation offer us many tools for stilling the mind. The first of these is Pranayama (Yogic breath techniques). Breath is the primary link between mind and body. One of the first things we learn as students is how to use the breath to focus the mind. 

So, back to the RABID palmetto bug, once I came back to my breath and the rootedness of my body on this particular morning, I was able to let go of all the “what ifs” and find greater stillness.  I am happy to report that when I opened my eyes there were no swarming masses of snarling Palmetto bugs waiting to devour me as my mind had come to believe.  Just an empy patio, quiet in the early morning light.  The “scratch, scratch, scratch” I heard that invoked such fear in the first place?  Just a hungry caterpillar munching on a leaf next to where I was sitting...

On the mat, one emotion we often run into is fear.  We might hold back for fear of falling out of a pose.  We might have fear of appearing weak or foolish - or worse -hurting ourselves!  Next time you find yourself falling out of a pose, notice how you react to falling. Yoga teaches us that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we choose to react.

Until next time...

"Fear is illusory; it cannot live...Courage is eternal, it will not die. Perils, calamities, dangers are the certain lot of every man who is a denizen of this world. Therefore, O Man! Fortify your mind with courage and patience. Fortitude, courage, presence of mind will sustain you through all dangers. Just as a rock on the sea-shore stands firm and the dashing of the waves does not affect it even a bit, even so a man who is endowed with courage is not affected by the dark perilous waves of this Samsara. He stands adamant in all trying conditions and circumstances and comes out victorious."
By Sri Swami Sivananda