Glorified Excuse has published a heartbreaking piece of writing about yoga and anorexia — all the more heartbreaking for how much hope there is in her words. How close she and others in her situation have come to giving up all hope, brings me to tears sometimes.
It’s not just eating disorders. Many illnesses, physical or mental (is there a difference?) can turn us away from our bodies, lead to segmenting our experience, compartmentalising it into parts that are “OK” and parts that are not. Parts we disown.
Get reading! It’s a gripping, unsettling but ultimately uplifting tale. A reminder that the hero’s journey exists in all corners of the world, every day.
Rising early doesn’t come naturally to me. Traditionally I’d roll from bed with half an hour to spare, and head straight to work via the kettle and maybe breakfast.
But yoga’s morning benefits became too numerous to resist — a hidden blessing of an older body perhaps. I’d regret sleeping in whenever my discipline slipped (consider that a warning). Since then I added post-asana meditation. A penny more focus and a sliver of presence. Worth it.
These days I’ve swapped it around: meditation then asana. I’m interested in what my mind feels like, before I properly waken. I get up, ablute and then sit down, yawning, to notice what I’m noticing.
Mornings stay dark much longer in March. When I sat the other morning, all was dim, but after, as the timer chimed and I opened my eyes, light was all around. I went outside.
The new sun lit up the leaves like stained glass. Birds were all about it. The day had a plan, tickety-boo.
Breath lifted my inner body, my shoulders opened. I scanned the horizon. And I thought, why wait for the sun? Even if the world is grey, or dark, everyday moments (even wretched ones) are precious. Passing away. Never to come again.
How fortunate was that moment of early sunlight! But how just like a sunny morning it was that the universe later manifested me in the murky afternoon, foibled and confused, amidst smog filled traffic:
If we allow, the cold or the grey, just like sunlight in the trees, can draw a surgeon’s blade through our surface worries.
Our compassion for ourselves and others is weak, when all we choose is this single-masted yacht, a cocoon aboard which to sail the vast sea of human experience.
Leap from your craft, I said aloud. Immerse yourself in the waters of happenstance. Occupy love.
At dusk, the cock announces dawn.
At midnight, the bright sun.
“Here now begins the practice of yoga”. This is the first yoga teaching of Patanjali.
But before we go launching into that…
For me, that first sutra always seemed like an introductory statement. Like, oh yeah here we go then. What’s next?
But later I learned that in the yoga tradition the highest teaching is always given first. This left me confused. How could this first sutra be the highest teaching that Patanjali has to give? It wasn’t until my teacher introduced pauses — I think it’s significant that the pauses gave it meaning — into the phrase that I understood why the first sutra is what it is: Here <pause>, now … begins the practice of yoga.
Patanjali was actually discussing meditation and not asana practice. But the truth is the same: what we can work with is right in front of us all the time.
The first and most important act we can undertake, in any practice, is the act of being present. Not just to our triumphs and bliss, the “good” stuff, but to all of it: our aches and challenges. To the whole messy, associative, finger-in-the-wall-socket process of life taking place in and around us. All else is a memory or a dream.
The true point of all this is not merely to stay present, but to do so even as we reach out to life and engage with that process. So that we are tuned in to the non-stop melody, with all its discordant chromatic scales and weird polymetrical time signatures. As any bass player will tell you, if we are not willing to listen to the music of the whole band, how can we hope to create harmony? The most we will get is the odd fortunate, almost accidental moment of synchrony.
Don’t let your life’s music be an accident.
Feel the immediacy of the moment. Lengthen your exhale.