Sunday, October 12, 2008

Been long gone

It's been almost a year since any of us posted on this blog, so I've decided to revive it. We had a lot of fun writing poems, literary criticism, and personal observations about cultural and political events - I plan to encourage my buddies to pick up where we left off.

I will start with a subject I should know a lot about (since I've been practicing for almost 8 years) but it's so vast and complicated that I still feel like a novice. That is yoga. I started with 3 friends in 2000. We took turns meeting in one another's living rooms, moved the furniture to create space and had very hands on guidance into form, purpose and meditation. Our teacher got pregnant in the course of that year and after she had the baby it was very hard to have a class. She'd teach while breastfeeding or trying to quiet the baby down. So I sought a solution. I tried out various gyms and finally decided to sign up at the gym in my building complex.

This is an ugly, dirty little place, but it's convenient. I can run into my room after a long day at the office, change quickly and be in class in a matter of minutes. They only offer a handful of classes per week, but the teachers are pretty decent and most people there are laid back and friendly. Rain, snow or cold weather are never an issue and I can make it back in time for dinner with my family.

On weekends I practice at a yoga center in the beautiful town of Hudson in Columbia county. The room there is large with shiny wooden floors and a very high ceiling. There are statues of Buddhas and Hindu goddesses, candles, plants, and billowing red and orange curtains on very large windows. It's the opposite of the cramped little room in NYC. This place exudes soulfulness. The teachers there play an accordion-like instrument while we chant and they speak about the philosophy behind the practice with depth and good humor.

In both places I've seen many teachers come and go. Most are amazing athletes, you can tell they were once professional dancers or gymnasts. Some start out and stick with a simple approach and humble attitude, true to the yoga spirit. Many, unfortunately, decide to become rock stars. In an effort to seem exciting, they ask us to do insanely complicated movements while showing us "how easy" it is to do them. And there are the ones that bring religious fervor into the mix, talking about Easter philosophy through some innate need for devotion. I try to learn something from each session. I won't do insanely difficult poses because I know how precarious it all really is and I have an obligation to protect myself from injury. And when a teacher gets on a soapbox, I just focus on what he or she knows about form.

This morning, I went to the center in Hudson. I hadn't been to yoga in a week and really felt it. When I arrived feeling tired and weary I was glad to hear we would focus on the heart chakra which is considered the seat of waking consciousness. The poses we did were meant to release blocked energy and I left thinking about what it means to have an open heart.

Courage is what fuels trust and trust fuels love which in turn fuels compassion. Compassion then makes its way to the beginning, to courage. If you forgive your human frailties, limitations, if you don't take yourself too seriously, you cannot help feeling that way towards others. So if you're not afraid of punishing yourself or being hurt by others - if you trust, your heart opens. And the more you do this, the better you get at it. It's best not to over analyse and compartmentalize this process but it's one that mankind really needs to work on.

When the heart is open, it frees the mind so that living with passion even at the risk of suffering great disappointment is possible. Holding two opposing views and understanding them simultaneously is possible. Seeing that opposing forces are one and the same opens the door to awareness so that life is not perceived on the surface but with great depth. When the heart and mind are open, all boundaries melt away and connectivity becomes more and more obvious as reality.

It's a long journey. I've got my whole life to go, and that includes the past.

Luchy Edwards