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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

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8 Responses

  1. Christine~Yes…I just got back to a mindful Yoga practice this summer after letting it fall by the wayside with school taking up so much of my time. I have LOVED entering my own home practice. Complete silence is SO nourishing! Although—I did do Yoga this weekend to a 40th Woodstock Anniversary on the radio. It was amazing! I’d never done this before. Imagine these words floating over and within:

    The Who~

    See me, feel me, touch me, heal me, heal me, heal me.
    Listening to you I get the music.
    Gazing at you I get the heat.
    Following you I climb the mountain.
    I get excitement at your feet!
    Right behind you I see the millions.
    On you I see the glory.
    From you I get opinions.
    From you I get the story.
    Listening to you I get the music.
    Gazing at you I get the heat.
    Following you I climb the mountain.
    I get excitement at your feet!

    Here I was, wanting to listen to the radio, yet wanting to do Yoga…and I let myself do both. Each enhanced the experience of the other—it just sort of happened. Nothing I planned, it just unfolded…

    May you continue to explore the spaciousness within and without…may all that arises bring you sacredness. Namaste….

  2. I am wondering, as I deal with pain, if being mindful will help more than trying to distract myself. I am going to give it a shot.

    Thank you for all your wise and thoughtful responses. And, as always, thanks to Christine for prodding us to be mindful!

  3. great questions Roxanne.

    thanks for this story kigen, I agree that it is a huge transition to begin to define oneself differently. I am really welcoming in the possibilities that await when I pay attention! :-)

    April, thanks for your reflections too, yes that discomfort when we are present can really keep us from the moment! But what I find is that staying with the discomfort I find it is also transient and soon I am in joy again. Parker Palmer talks about natural forms of contemplation as those moments of dissonance that force us to pay attention, uncomfortable at first but always leading us deeper.

  4. Christine, this is very much my own journey… I’m learning to appreciate those “moments between moments” anticipating the process will deepen in time. One way to give myself over to them is to stop avoiding them. LOL. In other words, I notice a certain level of discomfort arises when I become present.

    I notice my mind wants to move on to something else after just a few seconds. And usually, I do move on… it has been quite automatic in spite of retreats and spiritual readings that point me toward being more still.

    Lately though, as I notice how much time I spend online, how much time I spend in frittering away the day, I’ve become aware of how much I want to change this pattern. An arising of “enough” is ocurring.

    I’m so grateful for the Internet and blogging and all my distractions because they have led me to this moment, the moment where I say enough. I know I will have to endure some discomfort as my mind adjusts… Anthony de Mello so humorously describes this process as being pure hell at first. Your post gives me hope that the angst will pass and that I may find myself in the joy of the moment, with no other place to go or mission to accomplish.

  5. Christine, this question is all important: “Are there places where I move mindlessly on from one life stage to another?”

    I remember being on a trip to tour the Brookhaven National Laboratories in Upton New York. And having sat through many interesting research lectures, the detachment of those speakers was conducive to an objective look at myself. I had just turned 40. I had always taken my youth for granted, and suddenly for the first time in my life it had slipped away. I sat there at the back of lecture hall on astrophysics, thinking that there was a new generation behind me who were the in-generation, the young people now and not me. I was totally confused. What am I if I am not young? As a woman what will that mean? I simply could not think of myself nearing middle age, that’s what my parents were, not me!

    Having made the journey to the other side now, I think that middle age for women, is a HUGE, HUGE transition. You have to redefine yourself on your own terms, because of society’s radical under-appreciation of aging in women, and your own under-appreciation. Menopause which actually begins around 45 without your knowing it, is a big part of it too because it is involuntary, and it reshapes your mind as well your body in very beautiful ways, if you flow with it, but you have get used to it and consciously manage it as a positive process.

  6. does one simply go through the motions … or take presence? how many times have we gone through our days sort of ‘sleep’ walking?

  7. This post invites my careful reflection………the last paragraph in particular where you ask the zinger questions – “where in my life?????”

    Thank you