This month at Evolutions we are focusing on the theme of “positivity.” Interestingly, I’ve heard myself say things in classes that might sound anything but “positive.” I suppose this is because acknowledging shadow is one of the most powerful ways to appreciate light.
“Recognize that one day your body will be unable to do this pose” is something I’ve been offering to students lately.
Maybe it’s a pose you love, and are enjoying. For me, in this case, it can be bittersweet to realize my body won’t always feel this way, but at the same time it makes me want to appreciate this moment as fully as I possibly can, as if I could squeeeeeze all the deliciousness out of the present without missing one drop.
Maybe it’s a pose we’ve held for a while, and the joy of feeling strong is fading into those silent wonderings about when the hell it’ll be over. Even in this case, shifting to the very absolute truth that my body won’t be able to do this in 50 years, in 25 years, tomorrow–who knows–shakes me back into appreciation like nothing else. All of a sudden I’m clear that I’m here by choice, and remember that (while I feel moments of blaming my yoga teachers for putting me through discomfort as much as the next person) no one is actually making me do anything. Again, I come back to that very deep and humble gratitude that I can do these practices right now. That I can simply be here in this room with other people right now, in community. This simple truth that we’re all aging (yes all, whether you’re 24 or 47 or 69) and thus moving towards death, is perhaps the only guarantee we are given in this life. Life as we know it is always changing and will one day end–this is one of the only things that connects all of us, across the planet, and yet it is something we tend not to talk about or even ponder often. We don’t like going there.
But over time, for all of us, this statement: “Realize that one day your body will be unable to (fill in the blank)” only becomes more real, less vague, less far-away. In just the few decades I’ve been alive, I already have many loved ones who are hurting, who have been ill, who are ill, and who have passed on. And for all of us, this only continues with time. With experience I see that this is not just some trite little exercise, it’s the Truth. Sure, there will be times where fully absorbing these truths makes us feel sad, or frightened. (It’s some scary shit!!!) But we can use this as an opportunity to practice being with our sadness and our fear. Simply be with it. And interestingly, the more we turn our attention towards rather than away from these truths, the more we find that it is not sadness that has come to visit, but a bittersweet gratitude, or even an explosion of joy…a rewinding to the present moment where I’m standing on my own two feet or breathing deeply or stretching or aching deeply or whatever. And then a happiness for all the ways in which I am well right now. A feeling of excitement in my body, a smile on my face, a lift in my heart. Who knew.
This is one more way that, over time, I become more and more aware that the sorrow and joy of life are completely and utterly united…one very real-life way that I can understand some of the abstract philosophies and confusing koans that thankfully fill any yogi’s life–or for that matter, anyone’s life, if they’re listening.
So what does this have to do with positivity? What’s more positive than feeling the awe of the moment, the joy of being alive? May we may start to embody the wellness we all take for granted normally. Instead of seeing ourselves as “fine” until something goes wrong, at which point we are shocked and pissed and taken off guard, let us come back to the now and fill it up with our awareness and gratitude.