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Dec 2011

 Greetings yoga friends -

We've all heard that advice to be present in the moment. Indeed in THIS moment. A core foundation of spiritual practice, something more tangible than just spiritual theory.

But is it enough?

What are we actually being present TO in this moment? 

Yogic tradition names two nonconstructive ways we often relate to this current experience - attachment and aversion. (Raga and Dvesha in the Sanskrit). Either we want more of it, attaching our happiness to this goal. Or we push it away, using our unhappiness to fight against it's presence. You could say that we are very aware of being in this moment, but not with ease or openness. These two reactions seem like opposites, but tradition says they are really two sides of the same coin. What is the true opposite? Something more open. Choosing to appreciate this present moment without struggling to repeat it. I recall an Episcopal priest describing this as welcoming each experience with "Thankyou - and what's next?"

Which brings me to my reflection. Can we keep this open-hearted focus while ALSO choosing what is positive in the current experience? Not just awareness, but attention to the positive?

I wonder about this even for a yoga pose. I feel less and less drawn to the word 'correction' in how I relate to my own, and to my students, postures. It seems to imply something wrong, something imperfect. Say the student is in Warrior II. Gaze is forward over the front fingers. The back arm is lifted to half the height of the front arm. I know the 'correction' is to instruct the student to lift that errant, weak, imperfect back arm to its correct height. And yes, I can reflect on some anatomy limitations that might modify this correction - maybe the rotator cuff is impinged on that back arm, maybe the hips are angled forward and the pelvis is where to start.

But on a deeper level, dare we risk being selective in how we perceive that back arm? A kind of glass is half-full optimism. Perhaps we fear that it will come across as over-polite indirectness. Can we let this go and see that truth includes the arm being already half lifted from the waist - perhaps that the fingers are engaged and the elbow straightening.

"I love how your back arm is also in the pose - I see how it is seeking to balance that forward energy that dominates our mind and body much of the day. What happens when you celebrate that engagement? When you notice that the back arm isn't floppy and inert? That it has it's own vitality, even out of sight of the eyes?"

After my accident this spring, I spend quite some time flat on my back. I could (and yes, did at times) get drawn into focusing on pain or frustration. But I could also be grateful for the rich memories of hiking down the Grand Canyon which accompanied my morning ritual of listening to Gorfe's Grand Canyon Suite. Or the tray of tea and fresh fruit my wife brought me before her commute to work. And when I did so, I was drawn into realizing how unbroken, functional and vital were my 23 other vertebrae. I think the speed of my healing has been helped by this positive focus. Not just my own, but that of my friends and community who held such belief in my recovery.

Paradise Park 2011.JPG

(Paradise Park, Mt Hood, Oct 2011)

I was lucky in so many ways. Sometimes there are things about this present moment for which we cannot easily see as positive. Grief, loss, pain, cruelty. Can seeking some silver lining be something other than denial, than rose-tinted spectacles? Clearly there are no easy answers. We would have them by now! But I salute the courage of braving this present moment to find what still has a seed of hope, of compassion, of love. And I do believe that, more often than our human minds anticipate, focusing our attention on that goodness tilts not just our relationship with it, but the manifestation itself. Future experience swells in the direction of our faithful courage.

Many blessings on your holiday time with friends and family, and our entry into the renewing year.

Namaste - Eugene