Here we are, over the hump of the summer solstice. Once we actually pass over into summer, the incredible momentum and energy (usually enough to drive me insane) leading up to June 20 gives way to something more mellow. If we let it, if we give in, summer is here to carry us along at a leisurely pace as it meanders towards autumn.
Speaking of pace of life, I've been thinking quite a bit in the last week about choosing a different path than "full speed ahead." Not just how much I pack into a day or week, but how I manage and respond to what comes my way. I think this is actually a harder road to travel. I find it easy to go to extremes. It's easier to decide at the beginning of a yoga class that I will practice intensely throughout - no matter what. Trickier, much more so, is to be open to how I feel and what I need in each moment and then adjust. This is why I practice. Yoga teaches me awareness. This awareness of self is not someplace I arrive at and then stop working towards, it's a continual commitment. And I find that slowly, over time, it gets just a little bit easier to accept and surrender to. I learn to trust myself as I know myself better and better. And it's in this trust that I can approach life in a less extreme manner.
My dearest friends in the world just left Seattle. They sold their house, packed up all of their things and their dog and their kids and headed east to the Rockies. The night I said goodbye I experienced a broken heart for the first time in my life. If you'd asked me before last week I'd have said "sure, of course I've had a broken heart before." I just figured it was the same as sadness, as intense anguish felt after a loss. I didn't realize it is an actual, physical pain at heart's center. It hurt to breathe, I felt ripped apart inside. Anytime this week that I slow down and sit in quiet, I feel it. I am overwhelmed by the intensity and I literally can not bear it for too long. I know myself well enough at this point in my life to recognize that this isn't avoidance. The sorrow is so great, it must be felt and I simply can't take it on all at once. What an inconvenience. Wouldn't it just be easier to totally ignore it or just get it all over with at once?
Doesn't it seem that our culture would tell me to pick between those two options? We like to fixate on all or nothing, don't we? We're either lost or found, we're good or bad... Once we realize we need a change, it has to come all at once, BAM, and then we're on a different path and we don't look back.
What if we adopted a different approach? We could embrace the challenge that comes with self-awareness and commit to taking it slow, to trust that we will find our way. Sure, we might have to fuss around a bit, it might not be a straight path (oh how we like our linear roads). It's harder this way, less gratifying. And it is also life-giving. When we slow down - take life as it comes, are willing to let grief come in waves and not race to get it over with - we are rewarded with moments of peace. We shouldn't be in such a rush to arrive at some perfect state that is painless. We'll miss the good stuff, the space in between pain and bliss.
In a class I regularly attend, we've been practicing a stair-step pranayama lately. We inhale for a specific count and then pause for the same count. And then we inhale again. This last part is an "echo breath." It isn't logical. I feel full of breath before the pause, and then magically, I suspend the inhale and somehow create space for even more breath. My capacity increases just by pausing. What a lovely lesson for life. I take in what I can - be it pain or joy - and then rest. At some point I will find I can take in more...effortlessly.