A Practice of Love

We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time: each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.
~John O’Donohue

From where I sit writing this, I can see outside to a lush expanse of green yard and trees. There is our giant Rhododendron bursting with purple flowers.  Above me, my children’s voices are off and on tinkling with laughter, then shrill and angry. I was met this morning by soft rain in the darkness of the early morning, but when I opened my eyes after meditating, the sunlight spilled through from the wood line. Today, I will have undoubtedly: emails and phone calls to answer, problems to solve, my children’s hugs and kisses, business and dishes to which I’ll attend, cats to feed, friends to text, books that I’ll read. Between the moments when I woke and when I sleep, there is abundant possibility, beauty met by frailty for sure. I can only imagine. I began, though, with a yoga practice on my mat, where I also had both plans and possibilities and; intention and imagination. Though I framed the time with what I intended to unfold, the richness and subtlety of feeling, sensation, and surrender met me and beckoned   to me to be present for the beauty that would come with being present to all the ways life would show up for me—on my mat and off.

Lately, I try not to simply imagine the unfolding of life in all it’s abundant riches. I am working to be awake and alive to the beauty of this life and world in every moment. And so, my practice of yoga has become more aligned with all that connects me more deeply toward the source of true beauty and love. I feel the call, both quiet and urgent, toward paying attention to beauty.

I didn’t know it when I first started practicing yoga but I do now—these practices are meant to connect us more deeply to the heart of love. To be able to slow down, see deeply, hear wisely, respond nobly, breathe more effortlessly, accept with compassion—these are the qualities that are hidden beneath the postures, the meditation, the acts of learning to breathe. Though I began this practice many years ago hoping to make myself different (stronger, fitter, calmer, slimmer, healthier…), I’ve been graced along the way with knowing that I am whole and that all the work I do is growing my ability to love more,; to see more, and to overflow with beauty and possibility more.

How does this look for me? It looks like me honoring my arthritic wrist with fewer arm balances and finding fluid asana practices that include more standing postures. It means finding strength in ways that might look different than it did even a few months ago. It looks like me choosing to teach the parts of the practice that I love deeply, rather than trying to meet anyone elses expectations. It comes through when I include my love of story in my classes, and my desire to both strengthen and nurture the bodies of my students. I have a dream of connection—that humans might learn to listen more and really hear the common loves and fears we all hold—and so I practice really listening to hear these aspects in the people I know well—and in those I do not. I have a dream that all people everywhere might be free of both internal and external harm and know the comfort of being safe in their own skin, so I work to hold a space in the world where these things are possible. It also means I am honoring my need for rest, for play, for nurturing myself as much as I wish to nurture my students. I am also working hard to see how beauty and love show up in the darkest moments between people. The body with strength, the body at rest, and the body in sorrow, are all beautiful bodies—we need only connect to our wholeness to experience that.

From the time I first started this practice to now, there have been moments of true frailty and incredible strength. I have gotten to know the subtle inner world of me that whispers its needs. I have connected to students, to my family, and I have learned that this state of being alive is only truly alive if I answer the call to see and bring beauty and love to every moment. For me, this understanding has arisen because I’ve become willing to be quiet—truly and often frighteningly quiet. Writer and poet, O’Donohue writes, “In the midst of fragmentation and distress beauty draws the soul into an experience where an elegant order prevails.” I am listening these days, ever more quietly, within the fragmentation and distress, for the kind of practices that will lead me ever closer to the elegant order of love that I know for sure will always prevail.