the present of presence

I do not get to my yoga mat for an asana practice every day. Like most people I know who practice and/or teach yoga, I have often set the intention to get there EVERY DAY and then failed spectacularly. My last year of teaching felt a lot like I was ‘running on fumes’; the accumulated effects of the lifestyle I had set up left little room to actually sit or practice. When task-free moments presented themselves, I was much more drawn to staring at my laptop screen, watching entire seasons of shows  like ‘Firefly’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica’. I could enjoy a bit of sci-fi storytelling and ignore the exhaustion and laundry piling up or puddling around me.

I have a more consistent relationship with the floor these days and I don’t have to engage with the internal flagellators nearly as often (met a woman fresh out of her morning ‘hot’ yoga class the other day who said she loves going to class because it’s the one hour a day her inner bitch shuts up. I might choose other descriptors for my inner voice, but I thought she said it well).

This leads me to imagine I am more well-qualified than I was a year ago to help guide others into developing a ‘personal’ practice. In yesterday’s short practice, I moved slowly, through just a few asanas. Curiosity led me to imagine I was rebuilding my body as I exercise and refine my ‘tuning in’ mechanisms. To find quiet, internal attentiveness during a practice allows me to step into the flow of prana. Having stepped in, I can then then sit with and absorb- even ‘catalogue’- the effects of that practice. That time of absorption becomes a critical building block.

What yesterday’s practice also contained was presence, from fingertips to toes, and that is what I want to transmit to others. That we can- with practice- become ever more present to ourselves, and watch our true nature unfold, much like watching the unfurling of fiddlehead ferns or the lifted, expectant heads of sunflowers.

Practicing presence in one area of our lives invariably leads to practicing presence in other areas, one after the other, slowly building into a life that is more about being present than it is about grasping at the activities (or unkind words, or a handful of junky food, or just one more bad relationship…) that distract us from this moment.

Wouldn’t it be something if people stopped to marvel at our presence much the way the simple beauty of a tree or flower in full bloom arrests us into a stillness that is universally accepted, one that leaves even our inner critics speechless?


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