It's been almost three months... how many days? Sometimes it seems the world we knew before March 16 never even existed. Was it all a dream? Maybe this is all a dream?
But, no. I saw a meme the other day that resonated with me, listing all the reasons why 2020 should just be cancelled. This year has presented us with so many challenges. The end of the meme says, though, 2020 isn't canceled, but rather the most important year of them all.
Why? Because when faced with challenge we can either retreat or grow. We can face what is making us uncomfortable or turn away and ignore the problem.
This comes up in yoga ALL THE TIME. How many times do you want to come out of your chair pose utkatasana before the teacher says to because your legs are screaming at you? How many times do you let your mind wander off on some tangent when you're supposed to be watching your breath move in and out? How many times do choose to sleep in or do something less rewarding that coming onto your mat for a practice?
We all do this. The practice is hard. Facing your challenges is hard. Coming back again and again to look at yourself in the moment is HARD!
And now, on top of Covid-19, creating a virtual yoga studio, insanely crazy weather and thankfully the end of distance learning for my children, we have a social uprising that is a) long overdue and b) adding to the wake-up call we are getting to shift how we live.
There's no going back to how it was. There's only going forward, experiencing each moment as it comes with as much awareness and grace as we can muster.
A lot of the time I feel bewildered and lost. Still clinging to a reality that no longer exists, but unsure of what the future holds.
When I let myself drift into the thoughts of the uncertainty, if I lean into the deep morass of what if, or when this happens, or what's this going to look like when, or will things ever get back to normal, I can spin. I can spin into despair, into a place where I just want to hole up and retreat.
I have a large capacity for happiness. I'm happiest in the moment, when I can appreciate all the abundance I have in my life: health, family, friends, helpful tools, way too many cats, and so much more. When I was younger, I was convinced I had strong abs because I laughed so much.
This happiness is fleeting, of course, but it comes from a place of contentment. And that occurs when I am experiencing the moment that presents itself, not living in the past that no longer exists, or trying to peer into the future "what ifs."
I was walking to the studio to teach my class the other day. It was one of those hot days when the sun is so bright it taunts you. But it was still early enough in the morning that it didn't yet feel like an oven. I had music blaring into my ear, a great song that I love, and the birds were active in my neighborhood. The air was perfumed by the fresh blooms of late spring, and I felt so content. In those 15 minutes from my front door to the studio door, I was completely immersed in the wonder of being alive at this moment, despite the uncertainty, despite the suffering, despite the ongoing horrors of the human experience. And then I had the privilege of teaching yoga.
But then, as I left the studio, walked by Oliver's... all the people in masks, the day had become much hotter, drivers roared by in their oversized cars and trucks, and I just wanted to retreat from it all.
This experience of retreating, returning to the home, has been an unbelievable gift for me in many ways. After the initial three weeks of shelter-in-place, after the frenzy of trying to figure out what the heck distance learning meant for my kids, after getting all the studio's classes on Zoom, after retooling the schedule to simplify things, after clearing out the calendar of cancelled appointments, reducing my teaching schedule and settling into a really challenging 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, I started to feel a sense of slowing down that I haven't felt in a very long time.
I have been a doer, a planner, an active person all my life. Even so, one of my pastimes before having children was staring out the window at passing traffic and daydreaming, reading heavy novels or taking long walks alone. But the busy-ness of having children filled up that spaciousness in my life. It was an incremental ramp up in the calendar, in the pace of life that started to include playdates, doctor's appointments, nap times, scheduled visits with friends and family, outings to zoos and museums and parks, more elaborate meal times. It was both gradual and immediate. But however long it took to get to the incredibly packed calendar I was wielding up until March 15, it was a moment -- a chapter-- in my life that I now do not want to return to.
This retreat home has given me perspective. I can see how busy I was. How I had lost out on time to tend to the garden, to write, to read the New Yorkers that have been piling up for years because who has the time to sit and read a 60,000-word article on the situation in Syria? I had to schedule in my yoga practice early in the morning to make sure I could squeeze it in to the unrelenting schedule of parenting, schlepping, working, exercising, errands and feeding. But I wasn't living my yoga in the same way that I am now.
Yoga asks us to become the observers of ourselves. We have to slow down in order to observe. We have to be at ease enough so we aren't sprinting away from what we fear or think. The asana practice prepares us to sit. To be still. The pranayama practice calls attention to the various ways we can use the breath to enhance our awareness and clear out any blockages. The svadhyaya -- self study -- comes when we have achieved a soft stillness deep within. It takes a clearing out -- maybe of a packed calendar -- to do so in order to receive the observations.
And here I sit, humbly, with you in my heart, loving this practice and all that it continues to teach me as I evolve and try to be as content with each moment. So I can observe myself enjoying a bird singing high on a tree, so I have to gaze up and try to find the shape of that bird and then I feel the sun on my cheeks, and am grateful for my senses, my body, my awareness of being alive at this very moment. So I can write to you with abandon and share what's in my deepest heart space. So I can trust that whatever comes next will indeed come next, but I don't have to run from it. I don't have to be scared to confront each new moment, each new situation with clarity and calmness.
I don't want to return to what it was. This big pause has been a reset for me. It has been a gift of reflection and of returning to a slower pace that illuminated how frantic I had become. I can't control the actions of others. I can't keep people from taking actions that bother or offend me and my moral code. What I can control is how I react. I can control how I live my life. I can choose to be content by realizing all that I have rather than pine away for the things I don't have.
When the city and county fully re-open businesses, parks, schools and events it's going to be hard to say "no." I know my default ways. But I have experienced the gift of becoming aware of the relentless pace my life had taken, and given the imperative to slow down enough that I could let that buzzing subside.
So, when the door is knocking, and we are being pulled in many directions again, when the system tries to restart in all its frenzy and fury of productivity, my answer will be, "Not so fast, I'm going to take my time with this one."
We have the opportunity right now to shift everything. We are being called to do so by energetic forces we might not understand. Let's pay attention. Let's change it. Let's bust it open and rebuild something that feels sustainable, in sync with our natural rhythms, at peace with our hearts.