Monday, April 18, 2011

The wisdom I once knew

Yoga teacher training is giving me lots that I want to write about - and no time to write in. I hope these posts that are rattling around in my head will eventually make it here. Some of the things I've been learning seem new; other ideas are realizations that I've been reaching towards for some time but have only just found within my grasp. Still other ideas seem like things I knew once but thought I had forgotten.
Photo Credit: Tela Chhe/ Flickr Creative Commons
We all learned to walk once. From our positions on the floor, we were driven to grasp nearby objects and pull ourselves upright. In that position, we had to use our muscles in new ways, figuring out how to stabilize joints and stack our bones. Even then, with some measure of stability, we weren't satisfied. We had to walk, and then run - learning to keep it all together and balance in a constantly shifting world. We moved too fast, leaned too far, and fell - often, and sometimes painfully. We howled when we hit our heads on the corners of tables and scraped our hands and knees - but the next opportunity, we pulled ourselves upright and ran headlong into the next disaster, fearless, until we learned to feel our own center of balance and remain steady on our feet.
Photo Credit: Neeta Lind/ Flickr Creative Commons
Now, many years later, most of us don't remember how we learned to walk. We're blissfully unaware of the painful headlong falls, and we have no conscious memory of how we learned to balance on our feet. When it comes to balancing upside down - on your head or hands or forearms - it may seem like something completely new. As I try to understand the limits of my balance in inversions, however, I'm realizing that I have done this all before. I've already been through this process of challenging the force of gravity, of learning to stack all the bones in my body on top of each other, of finding the point of lightness and effortless balance in a seemingly impossible vertical position. Somewhere, in those deep hidden places in the body where forgotten memories go, I know how to learn this.

Back then, those hurtling falls didn't faze me for long. Now, when I reach too far with my legs and come crashing to the ground, I'm left with a lingering fear that sends me back to basics, just trying to straighten my legs into the air again. Somewhere deep inside, I need to connect with the toddler me - that little girl who wanted so badly to walk around, who had such incredible confidence to try again, who had not yet learned to dwell on past failures. In my practice, I'm seeking the simplicity of being of a child. I'm striving to bring in a little innocence to balance my wisdom, to infuse beginner's mind into these poses. I want to do them with all the knowledge I've gained from my previous attempts, but also with the openness that comes with trying something for the first time.

Surely part of the practice is to walk, run, dance, balance on your head, and love as though you've never been hurt, never fallen down, never cracked your head against the corner of a table. To be fully present through the falling and the getting back up, and then to be fully present in the next attempt - as though falling last time had nothing to do with what will happen this time - because it doesn't, in fact, as hard as that is to believe. Maybe that's all of the practice in fact, all the work there really is to do. I'm starting to think that it will be enough.