12 March 2012

Are you on a journey?

Are you on a journey?

This question popped into my mind today as I searched for a new yoga home.  Not just a class, but a home. I read a quote by a student on a particular website, something about the teacher understanding the journey that that student was on, the one that others did not understand. From the tone of the quote, you could infer that the journeyer herself didn't even understand it. And it occurred to me that that mystery is the heart of the best kind of journey.

Hatha Yoga began the journey I am still on, the journey that has and continues to deepen and beautify my life, some years ago now.  I was a stressed-out, cynical twentysomething who could not put her head to sleep.  I could not stop worrying, thinking, agonizing over the future and myself and what might happen tomorrow.  And I loved to complain.

Then, one day, my massage therapist told me that I should go take classes from her friend Nan.  I can remember the moment so clearly: my head in a face cradle peering at her painted toenails.  Maybe that's because that bit of advice changed so much for me.

Nan had her own studio in the upstairs of a building in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.  Under a pyramidal roof of exposed beams,  surrounded by ladies of all shapes, sizes, and ages, I discovered something new.  I rolled and unrolled a yoga mat.  I stretched my legs using straps and sat on blocks.  I felt the earth under my hands and feet.  I learned that I had a side-body and sit-bones.  I sweat while standing still.  I laid on the floor and felt my body; and slowly, surely, my mind began to settle down.  I found Savasana.

Finding Savasana, or corpse pose, changed my life.  I found stillness and levity and a kind of peace I had not experienced as a adult.  Yoga buoyed me up when I was drowning in my own future.  I would lay on the floor, my mind quiet and content, my body vibrating with energy and exercise, and feel glad and grateful to just be alive and to be me.  I was feeling a level of contentment with myself and life that I had never experienced.  It makes me giddy just thinking about it.

From that point onward, that core feeling and experience became the foundation of my life. I realized that I would rather live a life feeling at peace and connected to myself and the earth, than endlessly worry about what was going to happen tomorrow.  I decided to let my sense of beauty and hope guide my actions.  I began to make my own experience of happiness-my state of mind-the priority in my life.

And I realized that this was all my choice.

Since then, my inner practice has shifted and moved in many different directions, but the light ignited in Nan's studio, on a dark, Seattle evening in early Spring, has never gone out.  Thank you, Nan, wherever you are!

When I moved to Portland, I tried to find another Nan, but I found my life partner instead, and a happy, fulfilled life ensued.  It always seemed like there would be time and that I would "get back into it", and soon.  But now here I am, 11 years later (!), trying to find another place to move and stand and rest.  Maybe now I'm ready for a next step with Yoga.  I am so looking forward to what this new part of the journey will bring.

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