Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I'm posting this for a special friend.  (You know who you are).

You see, the other night she and I were talking about a loved one who battles with mental illness.  One day he thinks he is seeing aliens and must arm himself against them.  The next day he is sharp as a whip,  and to all appearances completely compos mentis.

This is because the mind is on a merry-go-round.   And sometimes, it looks to me as if mine is on the merry-go-round too. Some days, and I don't exactly know why, I find a particularly beautiful outlook from the back of my carrousel pony.  Everything looks great.  God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.  Except of course, the merry-go-round keeps moving, and with a subtle shift, things look suddenly bland.

Or blah. Or chaotic. Or depressing.

Then, with time, the merry-go-round goes around once more, back to a peaceful and happy perspective, and it's hard to understand quite what has changed,  when  so little has fundamentally altered in my outward life.

So why does my perspective shift so drastically?

I sometimes try to trace it back. Today, for instance I talked to someone who was extremely bummed out by a friend who had her driving all over the town on errands and never even said thank you, and all the while kept up a running commentary about how dreadful other people were.  So hard to brush this off.  Instead it took root in this person's consciousness and life looked suddenly dreadful.

But it wasn't. After all, that was this other person's view, not hers.  She was still on the very same pony she started with.  And my pony, like hers, is moving at pace with the others.  The view may shift. I might feel like I'm traveling. But I'm actually not going anywhere at all - unless I'm going somewhere from within.

To survive the ride,  I must return my focus to my position.  On the pony.  My mind is the only shifting element.

The Irrelevance of Hope. A terrible thought, perhaps.  Yet the absolute irrelevance of hope was underscored today in my yoga practice.  You see, I always try to get to the hot room early,  and stake out my position.  I want to have a little control.  Something in me thinks that if I lay my mat in a particular location this will affect my practice.  By the window may suggest an open perspective, and a view beyond the studio.   Down at the darker end of the room is quieter and cooler in the summer months.  In the direction of the fans, or near the door, you have a better chance of a breeze.  And so on.

So I've thought it wise to use this element of control, because once you're off and running with your 26 poses, you have so little control of outside forces.

Then today I was talking to Viet, who practices almost every day at the same time as me.  He always arrives at the studio late, and lays down his mat just as the class is beginning, sometimes after we've begun our Pranayama, deep breathing series.

I used to think he arrived late by mistake.  But today he told me he arrives late on purpose.  And he does this because when he lays his mat down in the studio, he must simply take whatever space is available - and then deal with it.  This enhances his practice.  Because the practice is all about being in the moment, and dealing with the moment, however uncomfortable it is.  Repeating the same poses, and then letting them go. No matter how hard.  No matter the shifting perspective of your merry-go-round life.

Of course, when you are riding a carrousel pony, you have the illusion of movement.  But actually the movement is immaterial.  What matters is the calm presence of your mind.

"Oh, Gentle Presence, peace and joy and power.  Oh Life Divine that owns each waiting hour."

That line comes from a favorite hymn by Mary Baker Eddy which I learned as a little girl in the Christian Science Sunday School. I'm no longer a Christian Scientist but the line has new meaning for me now.  If the mind is steady and present, it's not on a carrousel ride after all.

#yoga  #presence #ohgentlepresence

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