As mask wearing and social restrictions ease now that vaccinations are slowing the spread of COVID-19, I’m concerned about the changes to the rules I was used to following. I feel like we went from very cautious to wide open. I’m not saying that this is so. I’m saying that it feels that way to me. Yes, I’m happy to be able to gather with friends out in the open. It doesn’t matter to me if they are vaccinated or not. Yes, I’m concerned about being with those same people inside in close quarters. It just feels weird.
As I write these words, I realize that my skin has been tight for more than a year. Although internally I feel open, on the outside my physical form has been guarding me from an unseen virus. Even my pores are tense. I just stopped writing and took a breath. I consciously released my skin. I feel better. This to me is what yoga is about: conscious awareness of the present moment experience. The physical form is always in the present. The mind wanders and wonders.
One of my favorite images of mind is that of a still lake. A quiet lake reflects the sky. A quiet mind reflects pure awareness, our true nature. When the lake or the mind becomes disturbed, there is no clear reflection, only turbulence. This is what happens when we bounce around trying to make a decision. This or that? Should I or shouldn’t I? When we are in “either/or” we are smack in the middle of duality and not in a place of clarity. Yet, once we see theses waves as passing thoughts, we can dive deeply into the quiet stillness below the surface, or we can watch them from the stable shore of awareness. We practice asana, pranayama, and meditation to prevent getting caught in the storm to begin with. At any moment that we recognize the fluctuations, we’re out of them. How to stay there? Cease to give them your attention. Easier said than done, I know.
Once you realize that you’re engulfed, give your mind something more wholesome to do, something to focus on. Feel your body. Is it tense? Where? What’s happening right now? Say a prayer. Chant om. Get upside down. Sit still. Go for a ride. Call a friend. Breathe. Consciously relax. Accept that you don’t know the future. Look up and out. These all work for me.
Where does all this musing leave us with decision making as many gyms and yoga studios open up to in-person classes? Honestly, I don’t know. We each must make our own decisions from a place of clarity. What should I do, as a student and as a teacher? Part of me wants to know exactly how to act. Give me some hard and fast rules. Ha! I’m the one who wants some flexibility, some leeway to adjust both on the mat and in life. Moment to moment, I observe and respond. I don’t have to know the future. How I am now determines my future. I can’t know what the world will be in two days or two months. Sometimes I feel we humans think that if we know the future, we will be safer or at least feel safer. As we learn to negotiate not-knowing, we deepen our understanding of being authentic and available to ourselves in the present moment.
Right now I know that I’m not ready to open my home studio to groups of students. The space is small and I feel like we would be too close together for the comfort of all. I don’t know how long I will feel like this. I will let you know when I am ready. In the meantime, I’ll continue with Zooming from my home studio and through Zoom classes hosted by Sunrise Yoga. Although virtual classes are obviously less intimate than in-person classes, please know that I do see you “out there” and feel connected to you.
If an “in-person” group is what you’re in need of, please consider joining me at the yoga and mindfulness residential retreat at the spacious Southern Dharma Retreat Center in August.
Expanding Equanimity: Southern Dharma In-Person Retreat with Cindy
According to yogic and Buddhist philosophy, there are four noble qualities, known in the Buddhist tradition as the Four Immeasurables: loving kindness, compassion, equanimity, and sympathetic joy. We are all born with the seeds of these traits, and with practice we can cultivate them to develop strength, steadiness, and openness in any situation—independent of external conditions.
Although these four qualities are inter-related, in this workshop we will explore Equanimity as a means to remain openhearted during times of tension and strife, whether personal or global. Equanimity is freedom from powerful reactions, positive or negative, to another person or an event—the ability to be even and open-minded toward everyone, no matter how they behave. This practice brings clarity to situations where we may be moved to react from passion or bias. Expanding our view to one of engaged impartiality allows us to respond to life’s challenges with wisdom—even at times with a sense of humor.
Over the four days, we’ll explore Equanimity through yoga poses, meditations, mindfulness exercises, and breath awareness. For more detailed information, pricing, and important vaccination requirements, click here.
[Cindy will be assisted on this retreat by Tammy Kaousias. Tammy teaches yoga in Knoxville, TN, and has studied with Cindy for over a decade.]