My friend D the other week had been talking about how much longer every thing takes to get done in a new city and home (he just moved across country). I was thinking about that as I work to get up to speed on the replacement computer that came into my house yesterday afternoon. I can tell there is lots of extra functionality, but at first, I am slower than I was with my old computer (at least five generations old) because I need to learn some new commands and navigation tools, as well as recreate my old bookmarks and remembered passwords, etc.
To be able to cope with life, we need to be willing to go out and explore, try new things, to be willing to have the time and struggle to learn enough to feel comfortable with a new place or technique. To mature gracefully, we need to sometimes stay with the old (whatever choices led us there) and continue to refine so that we can go deeper and deeper into knowledge of what we have chosen.
Sometimes we have a real choice, sometimes we have no choice, sometimes we have an apparent choice, but only one sensible one. One of the beauties of steady yoga practice is that it prepares us both for the new and for repetition. It truly shows us the beauty and delight of revisiting, reexploring, and ever deepening our understanding of the complexities of what appears simple. It also cultivates the fortitude and openness to start anew when necessary.
Last week my computer crashed. I have purchased a new one, but it needs to be configured and brought to the house. With luck, it will be possible to recover all the the data since my last system back-up. I have everything since May (that’s five years worth) and all my photos since the end of August (that’s most everything), and some more that is stored on email or this server or facebook.
It is a good opportunity to reflect on attachment. It is an even better opportunity to think about the difference between necessities and wants and how our current way of living and communicating blurs the two.
Of course, being human and a product of this society, I am not happy about it. I’m just trying really hard to approach this in a positive way. I know I will fully enjoy having an up-to-date system.
I will be mostly not blogging until I have my own computer, but hope to be back fully soon.
When we are on our mats, being open to grace — the first Anusara alignment principle — includes being open to the teachings so that we can receive and act on them in a healing and loving way. Adding to that muscular energy by lovingly embracing skin to muscle to bone in a conscious embrace, drawing into our center to recognize our inner spirit, and drawing from periphery to the focal point brings us into optimal balance. This pulsation serves as a way off the mat to open, inspire, and engage us in progressively more intentional and uplifting ways of living.
Being open to inspiration from friends and about town, open to learning new ways to be kind to the earth and to ourselves, is a way of bring the principle of “opening to grace” off the mat. Actually keeping the intention and acting on it has the attentive embrace of muscular energy, which draws us onto our inner light in a loving embrace so that we can better serve.
I was thinking about Anusara principles off the mat, yesterday when I went visit a friend in NW one of whose roommates fosters cats. There is a community garden in the back and the house is warm and friendly. In the bathtub were two buckets filled with water leftover from showers. Instead of using fresh, potable water to flush the toilet, when it is time to flush (honoring the drought axiom about yellow mellowing, etc), the house residents fill the tank with the gray water from the shower.
Find it too complicated an idea to shower with a bucket in the bathtub with you? You can still save water by filling your watering can or bucket when you run the water to warm up enough to get into the shower. That will save a few gallons. Not up to using the water to flush the toilet? Use it to water houseplants or for cleaning floors, etc. Or take it outside to water potted plants.
First step is opening and witnessing the possibilities and understanding where you are ready to expand. The second step is to try to more consistently live your inspiration. I know when I see people living with such intention I take better care to move in that direction, even if I am not ready to go as far.
My friend K, whom I love and respect for her very self and for her sustained peace activism, had this attached to an email yesterday:
Rev. Howard Thurman (1899-1981): “Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather ask — what makes you come alive? Then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So good I wanted to re-share everywhere.
I took this picture the other day when I was walking to work. I have seen TV cameras set up at this spot dozens of times to film news interviews. I have seen tourists galore photographing each other. I’ve seen a couple of photo shoots of brides and grooms dressed in their wedding clothes. I’ve seen the fountain full of ducks or gulls. I’ve seen it empty of water, with rain pelting on it to eliminate any reflection, in a blizzard, iced over, full of algae, as a play spot for dogs who like to swim, in fog, in beating down sun, with cherry blossoms floating on the water, and with waves from a strong wind. Although (or more likely because) I’ve walked past this view hundreds of times in the 25 years I have lived on Capitol Hill and the 18 I have worked for the Department of Labor, I have never taken out my camera and photographed this incredibly photogenic spot.
When I took the photograph on this day when the reflection just happened to be perfect, it led me to see the spot the way tourists see it: full of freshness and wonder, beauty, and excitement to be in this place that represents a certain mind-blowing type of power. Reflecting on the act of taking the photo from my perspective as a resident, led me to think about the Anusara alignment principle of “opening to grace.”
One of the many aspects of “opening to grace” is having a “beginner’s mind.” What does it mean to have a beginner’s mind on or off the mat? I think it means being open to new insight, to a sense of joyous discovery, to a feeling of fresh intoxication and wonder, no matter how many times we have done or seen something before. How many times have you done lunge or downward facing dog? Eaten a green bean or a potato chip? Petted a dog? Turned on a light switch? Filled a glass with potable water out of the tap? If it is the “same old, same old,” then you will lose the desire to practice and the possibility of growing. But most of what we do, especially as we get older, is a repeat of something we have done before. Grasping at new experience as a cure for boredom or jadedness will only make us unhappy. If we can see each day with newly opened eyes, then we can find fulfillment in each moment and be better able to grow. We will be open to ever deepening refinement and exploration within the space of our existence.
The second sutra of the Siva Sutras is “jnanam bandhaha” (knowledge is bondage). In the context of the Siva Sutras, this tells us that getting caught in trying to acquire knowledge of the manifest world and all of its infinite minutiae can lead us away from a sense of connection to a universal spirit.
We have the phrase in the work place that the “devil is in the details” both because getting caught up in the details can take us away of accomplishing a desired result and because the details need to be worked out to realize the result, and the details (not the theory) are the hard part. At the societal level, for example, working out the details of a health care bill and how it will actually function seems to be preventing us, as a society, from offering health care to all. On our yoga mats, we need to understand the details of physical alignment so that the practice strengthens and optimizes our health, rather than taking us physically and energetically out of alignment, but we do not want concentration on the details to take us away from heart and spirit.
The “devil may be in the details” but we cannot stop the details from being part of our existence. As much as we need not to get so bogged down in the details that we have discord, distrust, unhappiness, and ineffectiveness, we also need to cultivate knowledge of the details. As beings embodied in space and time in the manifest world, we need to cultivate knowledge so that we can recognize when the details are not in optimal alignment, so that we have sufficient knowledge, strength, intuition, and subtlety to be able to shift the details so that they lead towards good for ourselves individually and collectively.
What a devilish conundrum.
This morning as I approached my office, I noticed in the middle of a wide patch of sidewalk that is flanked by the street on one side and a brick building on the other, with no tree boxes or other plantings for several yards in any direction, a praying mantis stranded in the middle. I wondered how it had gotten there and worried that it would not survive if it was just stuck in a sea of concrete.
I crouched and put out my finger. The praying mantis crawled on to my hand. I did not have time to go all the way back to the park next to the Capitol or to the nearest “island” with trees, but I took it to the nearest tree box, certain that there would be enough mosquitoes for it to eat well. When I placed my hand next to the bush in the tree box and helped the praying mantis move onto the greenery, it first came back onto my hand again. So I talked to it (as if it understood English) and encouraged it to get onto a branch (yes, I was getting some strange looks from passers by at this point). I watched as the praying mantis eventually turned around and started moving into the denser foliage.
With this act, did I make anything in the world better except give myself the joy of interacting with a wonderful being? Does it matter?