As expected I am learning much from my yoga practice this week. Showing up each morning and creating space to listen to my body has been powerful on many levels. In the class we have learned a balanced series of poses that we repeat each day and now move through them at our own pace in silence . The instructor gently moves through the room adjusting us and offering encouragement and suggestions for interior noticings. We begin our time each day with attention to breath and the reminder that the slow, deep breath is the foundational element of our practice with the poses layered over this core focus. I am loving the invitation to absolute presence that comes from practicing in silence (while still in community) and the ways I am learning to listen to how long my body wants to be in a certain pose, noticing the quality of my breath and where I experience strain, honoring those moments when my body wants to rest for a while before moving on to the next pose. As each moment unfolds, I continue to notice what is true and what is needed in response.
Another invitation I am relishing is the transition from one pose to another. We are asked to be as mindful in that movement as we are in the actual pose itself. The goal is not to “get through” the whole series of poses, but rather to be as mindful as possible in the part we do move through. So instead of rushing myself to the next thing, I become fully present to the moments between as well. I am discovering how this absolute attention to graceful transition, rather than a mindless and rushed movement, applies to the rest of my life as well. I am beginning to ask myself whether I can bring this full attention to not just the activities of my day, but also to those movements between them.
When I was at the Spiritual Directors International conference last April, the conference spiritual director Alexandra Caverly-Lowery led the whole gathering in times of prayer. Several hundred bodies in a hotel ballroom does not lend itself easily to grace and stillness, however she asked us all to stand and to make that transition as absolutely slow and mindful as we could. I was struck in that moment by the way this simple movement from sitting to standing for prayer, could itself be an act of intentionality and have been using this practice for myself and in leading retreats when I invite a group to move from stillness to art-making. And here it shows up again in my yoga practice, asking for me to deepen my commitment.
There are days when my schedule is full of appointments and meetings and I rush from one thing to the next. These are the times when I am more likely to end up driving to “save time” rather than walk or ride the bus. I am aware of how my sometimes rushed life leads me to make decisions that are harmful to the earth and to my own spirit. I usually try to keep a spaciousness to my day, but sometimes I try to fit in just one more thing and then my transitions become sloppier and mindless. I move to the next activity as a goal rather than tending the whole process.
And of course, it raises questions for me of the whole of my life. Are there places where I move mindlessly on from one life stage to another? From one season to another in my rush to get to the next thing or project? Or can I be absolutely present to the movement between things and discover there a grace and wonder that was previously hidden?
© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts