A Practice for Householders

I rush around a lot these days.  Motherhood elevates multi-tasking and what my entrepreneur brother calls "hustle" to an art form.  The pace is relentless and slowing down isn't really an option.  And I'm the queen of downshift and self care, or I was until September 2, 2015, the evening my son arrived.  

Life kicked up another notch recently, as I took on some additional projects and teaching.  Somehow I'd managed to re-introduce a brief time of morning yoga into my daily rhythm, thanks to early PNW spring sunrises as we move towards the solstice.  With these quiet mornings, I feel pretty grounded and less hurried, and was lulled into the sense that I had returned to my full practice of meditation and attention to nature's rhythms.  In reality, I'm still rushing here, there, and everywhere and not in tune with the moon's cycle, one of my favorite rituals.  

I spontaneously decided to use a lunar theme in the yoga class I taught Thursday evening at the Riveter.  I'd been wanting to bring in the concept to my classes there, syncing the feminine qualities of the moon with this beautiful female focused co-working and wellness space.  I quickly glanced at my calendar and saw "Supermoon" for Friday and assumed full moon.  I taught a practice focused on grounding during this phase.  While seasonally appropriate with the solstice approaching, I misled my students because I taught something I wasn't fully engaged in on my own.  I'd been spinning so fast, I'd shown up to class in-authentically, however well intentioned.  I continued on in my alternative facts bubble and based my personal meditation on Friday on the full moon Moon Angels card.

I realized my mistake when I finally did slow down.  Restorative yoga on a Sunday evening is about as quiet as one can get without going to bed.  I've been enjoying a class at Seattle Yoga Arts, where I have no connection as a teacher.  Perhaps this allowed me to show up completely as student.  For the first time in several years, a studio experience unexpectedly brought me fully and deeply into my body.  It was an equally intense and peaceful experience, focused on the throat chakra and a simple mantra "find my voice."  This 5th chakra, Vishuddha, is all about authenticity.  Once the practice as completed, I took my time leaving and walking the block home.  I lingered on the sidewalk and strolled another half block, looked up, and was shocked to see the crescent moon.  This little sliver was decidedly not the glowing orb I'd expected.  I felt the wind knocked out of me and had to sit down on the closest stoop to re-orient myself.  

Rebekah Erev Studio  Moons2017 (available for download here)

Rebekah Erev Studio Moons2017 (available for download here)

The difference between new and full moon energetically is significant, hence my strong sense of disorientation.  The new moon is about beginnings, a chance to start over on a monthly basis.  It exudes qualities of calm, quiet, and groundedness.  It can border on lethargic.  Sometimes it's appropriate to give into these aspects, other times we need to counter this energy.  The full moon is exuberant, lively, expansive, tending on chaotic.  At one time, not so long ago, my life involved rituals surrounding these regular markers.  The lunar cycle remains deeply resonant in my life, even if I'm not closely tracking each new and full moon.  It's drifted from my regular offerings as a teacher, yet feels so appropriate in this current hyper-masculine, regressive, and heated political climate.  I'm craving the cool, creative, life-giving moon.  

Speaking of lunar ritual, my friend Emily (aka the Ritual Coach) has a beautiful new posting on her blog, offering an honest and heartfelt new weekly energy ritual.  Giving ourselves permission...to explore what's stirring deep within us.  Yes, more of that please.

So how do we give ourselves permission to practice in the midst of busy lives?  How especially do caregivers of young children practice? If retreats and 20-30 minute (really, even 10 minute) meditations aren't available, do we just give up?  Absolutely not.  The Yoga Sutras (the original text outlining the philosophy of yoga) acknowledge that not everyone chooses a monastic life, and there are seasons to a lifetime.  When we're in the midst of careers and raising family and taking care of aging parents, we still practice.  It just looks different.  

My favorite Sutra has always been 1.33 - the "Householders Sutra."  It's for those who live in the world, not apart from it.  This Sutra acknowledges the way we come to any situation with an agenda, with our desires and hopes for the universe to be a certain way.  Here we are, very much in the world, in the messy weeds, yet have a choice to shift perspective and live within the context of four simple concepts that help us to set aside our wants and be present with what's happening for someone else.

I had the privilege to study with the amazing Jo Leffingwell for a couple of years and explore the Sutras in depth.  I'm pulling from my notes taken in her studio to offer an interpretation of the sanskrit for Sutra 1.33 that resonates most with me.  Rather than merely reacting to or mirroring others, we can stop spinning stories in our own minds and really see another person and situation.  From that place of stillness, we respond:

  •  where we find happiness, we express goodwill and friendship
  • where we find pain, we express compassion
  • where we find virtue, we express joy
  • where we find non-virtue, we express neutrality

It's not an easy practice, but it is accessible in the midst of busy lives.  It doesn't require signing up for a class, getting out a mat, finding a studio, or clearing a space on the calendar.  Through these straightforward concepts we can give ourselves permission to include a personal practice in our lives, to show up more authentically for ourselves and others.

Antara Drishti

I've been studying the fourth chapter of the Sutras with one of my teachers this summer.  It's all about finding our own way.  We each see the world differently. We practice so we can turn down the heat that gets the mind all frothy, so we can take action without an agenda.  Meditation is training for having awareness in the midst of life.  Though there are patterns to being human, though past and present exist for us all, we each have our own unique path.  We must pay attention to find our own way, rather than relying on what works for someone else.  This is lonely, we long for others to "get" us.  We attach to being understood.  I have faced this quite intensely in my life and though I surrendered in a big way several years ago, the desire crops up again and again.  I want to be known and understood deeply!  The ache of loneliness can take my breath away.  And without breath I lose my connection to the present.  In reality, each inhale and exhale draws me into a new moment, a different self than the one just before.  Each breath brings hope and freedom. Tonight I notice the sun setting just a tad earlier and the reality that we're edging towards late summer begins to sink in.  For the first time in my life, I'm in school during this lazy season and to my surprise I'm not at all resentful.  Turns out permaculture is as much about yoga as it is getting my hands dirty.  I'm reading this amazing book - The One Straw Revolution -  which is about life and philosophy as well as agriculture.  I found a passage that seems straight out of the Sutras fourth chapter, if I substitute "yoga/students/practice" for "agriculture/farmers/ farming."  Here's my adaptation:

A truly successful practice requires not so much arduous labor as awareness, observation, connection and persistence.  In today's yoga culture, businesses lure us into products and brands promising that by applying them to our practices according to fixed, prescribed schedules, without much thought about our unique circumstances, yogis can be sure of reliable results.  This might be termed "know-nothing" yoga - very different from "do-nothing" yoga which calls on the self to question conventional practices that may be needless or even harmful to her/his own unique body.  Let's advocate for a curiosity, openness, and willingness to fail so that we can trust.  This is not simple yoga but a more complex, aligned yoga.

Summer is a good time to explore your practice in new ways.  To break out of your usual habits.  What does this look like?  Perhaps the heat of the season poses a significant challenge.  I usually avoid evening class at all costs when the temperature rises above 70 degrees, but this year I've surrendered and found myself loving the heat.  By pushing just a little past my comfort zone I find a whole new depth to my practice.  This isn't by any means the only option.  Why not try out a new class time with a teacher you're unfamiliar with?  Or pull out your mat at home.  Both are opportunities to assess your practice through new eyes.  A vacation can also become a chance to practice alone, to explore asana, pranayama and meditation without a teacher and others surrounding you.  It can be scary and uncomfortable, and it can also be freeing to discover the teacher inside you.  No one knows your body as well as you do, practicing on your own is a way to build trust with yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling for an end to group yoga.  There is power in community, in joining together with our breath and intention.  I think balance is the key.  We seek out space to explore on our own so we stay true to self when we come together.  We give up mindless yoga and come to class with an awareness and sense of responsibility for our own journey.  Rather than rely on someone else to point the way, we find alignment from within.