“Study thy Self, discover the Divine.” – Yoga Sutra II.44
How are you feeling today?
Today, Sunday, I’m feeling more grounded than Thursday … more on that later …
Right now I’m sheltering from the intense heat in SW Pennsylvania … which is nothing like hot, humid Oklahoma summers growing up. Me & my younger brother spent all day, every day outdoors in Oklahoma summers as kids (after loads of sunscreen applied) — playing in the creek, riding bikes, exploring. As a young adult, I trained for marathons over the summers in Ohio, guided backpacking trips in Virginia heat / storms, & studied prairie chickens on the National Prairie Preserve in blazing heat … no prob.
In adulthood, my relationship with summer has evolved — I’ve found summer heat to be draining to body & mind, & shift my outdoor schedule. Early mornings & late evenings you’ll find me outdoors, enjoying activity under the sunrise or moonrise =). Some of you have shared your joy in getting out before the world has heated up with the sun, noise & busy-ness of the day.
Last Wednesday evening’s rooftop yoga class in honor of the full moon was the first time I’ve shared yoga in-person since March 13th. A beautiful evening with 14 beautiful souls under the almost-full moon. I remembered why sharing the practices brings me joy, & most of all remembered the joy of being in community, in-person with long-time & new friends.
And … the experience reminded me how much our world is changing. Masks. Six-foot distances. Stay on your mat. Don’t touch anything, or give anyone a handshake or hug. And being tasked with ensuring people follow these guidelines for their own & others’ well-being. An underlying current of “what-if” amidst a timeless practice of cultivating a peaceful flow of awareness.
The intensity of a global pandemic like the intensity of the July sun in SW PA from which I’m currently recoiling.
INTENSITY – THE FLIP-OUT
So, the next day – Thursday – I’m working on 4-H virtual summer camp content. I’d remembered Wednesday evening’s class with elation & also uncertainty (what if we didn’t distance enough? what if …?), & yet didn’t think too much about it as I worked.
Jim calls from the next room, “DID YOU READ ABOUT THE ROOFTOP classes that …” & I couldn’t hear the rest … but my whole body went into panic mode out of nowhere … heart racing, eyes scanning, agitated … I couldn’t process what was happening quickly enough as Jim called again, “HONEY! DID YOU HEAR … ” All I heard was intensity.
I totally flipped out & yelled, “I CANNOT HEAR WHAT YOU’RE SAYING RIGHT NOW & IT’S REALLY FREAKING ME OUT! PLEASE STOP & COME HERE RIGHT NOW!”
I automatically sat down, closed my eyes, head in hands & shut the world out … just breathe. What the hell is happening?? NOTHING happened but Jim asking me a question … & hear I am in full panic … what is happening?
After several minutes, I felt myself come back into my body — have you ever felt that sense of leaving your body? By that time, a confused Jim was right next to me, wondering what was going on, too. I told him, “I have no idea, I just could not process the yelling, the rooftop, the not hearing what you said about the rooftop. Please give me a minute.” I felt myself start to cool down – heartrate, a settling, a deep breath.
Jim, bless him for being calm & cool, was just trying to let me know that all TYG classes were being moved to the rooftop for the summer. Simple. Information.
REFLECTION – COOLING OFF
And I realized, upon reflection, that over the past few days 1) I’d been hyped up about teaching in-person, because 2) there are more rules to minimize health risks, because 3) we, collectively, the world is facing a pandemic with no end in sight.
And that one simple act of a raised voice with muffled information I could not hear was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” that day.
When have you freaked out (internally or externally) over the past few months, or even just had an intense reaction come over you “out of nowhere” … ? What happened? Was the intensity due to that moment, or did you trace it back to a bigger thing, seemingly unrelated yet related? If you haven’t had these moments, that’s ok too! I’m just thinking if I’m not alone in this, how can we reflect together …
I shared this meme with my 4-H co-workers at the beginning of the quarantines in the U.S.:
In navigating the waves of this current crisis — which has revealed & cracked open the unsound foundations of many of America’s systems, i.e. that those systems value some lives more than others — these 6 points have grounded me immensely when I feel the heat waves build & burn. No matter the “work” you / I do — it is first affected by the fact that most of us have been restricted in our movements and/or are home-bound, & ALL of us are experiencing COVID-19.
Invitation: Stop Reading. Look Away from the screen. Rest your eyes on something green & alive. Reflect.
BACK TO YOGA
The 3,000+ year-old Yoga philosophy & practice in the Himalayan Tradition support & expand on these 6 points — that the world, & in turn our minds, is in constant flux (citta vritti translates loosely to “monkey mind,” & Yoga’s aim as outlined in Yoga Sutra 1.2 is to cultivate stillness amidst the fluctuations). That it’s our job to re-member who we ARE –luminous, whole beings — & that as a result we act with ahimsa, or non-violence, toward ourselves & others who embody that same Light.
So, if I have all these tools of Yoga to support me in times of uncertainty … & I’M flipping out at unexpected times … how does this inform my internal response & outward action toward those humans facing the same intensity (& often additional trauma on top of it), who DO NOT have access to these tools?
Do I hide behind the facade of the “yoga industry” … which capitalizes on Yoga philosophy & tools by putting forth an ideal of wellness, i.e. able-bodied, able to afford, able-to-dress a certain way? Do I use these tools as a power-over tactic — “if you just do this like I HAVE, you’ll be as enlightened as I AM” — hiding my own very-unenlightened, vulnerable states of being? How do I share these practices/tools of Yoga from my own vulnerability … in a way that acknowledges the VERY REAL REALITIES of fellow humans’ lived experiences?
Pause. Another Invitation to Reflect.
We can shelter ourselves & each other from the intensity of these waves. We must do this together, with practice, with humility, with love … through all the freak-outs as well as all the joy. Yoga is union – not only within ourselves, but with the whole of humanity, creatures, & the environment.
I look forward to conversations with each of you about how we can shelter each other through these intense times, & widen that circle of shelter to all of humanity / creation, regardless of race, creed, belief, sexual orientation, ability, education, economic status, or any other label that tries to divide us.
May we seek the goal of Yoga:
In honor of July Full Moon Guru Purnima, a day to honor our teachers & our wise guides — I give gratitude for my teachers in the Himalayan Tradition, including Kate Kill & Tracee Stanley, & their teachers Rod Stryker & Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, & THEIR teacher Swami Rama, who came from the 3,000-year-old lineage of the Himalayan Masters. I give gratitude to wise guides Luvena Rangel & Susanna Barkataki, who share Yogic wisdom regarding Ayurveda, cultural appropriation & honoring Yoga. Thank you.