What are you focusing on in your practice these days
A student recently asked me ‘What are you focusing on in your practice these days?’
Within the lineage of AshtangaYoga, parenting is the highest form of practice. It is described as the 7th series, everything else that we do is in preparation for this. As I was reflecting on this question, two answers arose from within.
The first one stemmed out of this melancholic feeling, or a deep longly for the focus, attention, dedication and care that goes into the process of figuring out how to take a new asana, defy gravity, stretch your mind and body to take that form. The process of trusting and deep belief in the practice…the spark that arises from challenging your body and mind. That whole process of bringing body, mind, nervous system, breath into Union brings so much vitality in the whole system. It's a feeling that I deeply miss and yearn every day. The subtleties of that process such feeling your neurons, cells, muscles, organs adjusting to find ease in this new shape, allows for you to feel new parts of yourself come to life, shedding old systems and habits the feeling of granthis (pranic knots) being released. When the asana finally falls into place, you feel prana flowing into these forgotten, or perhaps new places.
If I pause that memory tape, and observe this phase of live, I realize the current process is just the same thing, but instead of it being an asana its life. In the vinyasa of parenting you are learning new poses every minute of the day, to a certain degree. Adapting, accepting, changing perspective, re-inventing….The patience, the dedication, the care, the attention that is required of you as a parent is beyond that which we put into an Asana.
For my own experience, I don't know how I would do this motherhood series of sorts, had I not been so fully involved and present in the process of Asana for 12 years in the way that I was. That which I learned and keep learning daily from my practice 100% informs who I am as a mother. Even though I'm not learning you asanas I am continuously feeling this need to focus so that I can stretch my patience, my faith…so that I can stretch myself enough to make space to hold another's process.
Just like with Asana it's not always graceful, it's messy, chaotic, painful, challenging, revealing. It brings up all things that have been closed up, it opens up new space for prana to flow into the heart and out of the heart. It opens you up to love in this whole other way that maybe Asana doesn't because parenting it is beyond Self. So as much as I deeply miss the process of unfolding, becoming and unbecoming the Asana, parenting is that process of unbecoming, becoming and shapeshifting for another.
Yoga is the act of seeking equanimity, so my contemplation is can there be grieving for what was and at the same time deep opening that comes when you allow yourself to be with what is here, with acceptance.In the Gita the ultimate lesson is to do your duty right, to do it well. Ultimately that is what we're seeking through our Asana practice.
Part two of the answer is that within my Asana practice I am working on refining concentration. That means to hold a steady stream of concentration through all the asanas, all the vinyasa, and to deeply cultivate the state of presence as the body shape shifts, so that the attention remains unwavering and I can sit in contemplation at the end. I'm interested in that contemplation and the kindness that arises when we find that state, a kindness that is beyond form, a kindness all beings need. I feel very lucky I've had all these years with these asanas so that there is an ease, a physical ease, that allows for the state of concentration to be deepened. Ultimately my dedication to being a student, to always learning is at the heart of all of this. I wonder if as practitioners we can use these practices to remove ourselves more and more out of our own ways so that the awareness that we are all one, can solidify itself, so that we can kindness, compassion, generosity, truth can arise naturally from within and permeate into all thoughts, interactions and actions.