Desperately seeking stillness – Blackberries, butterflies, spiritual lessons from my dog and yin yoga!
What have all these things got in common, well let me explain…
Having practised yoga on and off for some 30 years, and taught for the last three, I must be honest, I have lived most of my life in the fast lane. Corporate jobs, city life, late night drinking, and burning the candle at both ends. Pretty common for those in their twenties. I hasten to add I am no longer in my twenties and now sit firmly in the middle of my fifth decade.
In order to enjoy life’s rich journey, I have known for some time, that I need to slow my life down. My body, my mind, my whole being. I know it. Everybody around me knows it. I am a happy, confident person, with endless energy, enthusiasm and passion for every idea that comes into my head. Knowing I need to slow down is one thing. Knowing how to slow down is a completely different thing. I simply didn’t know how! I practise yoga every day and I live in the countryside, both which help me stay grounded and enjoy a slower pace of life compared to my younger days.
Naturally, as I have grown older, my lifestyle circumstances have changed, and I have migrated away from a highly yang lifestyle. However, I don’t think it’s just an age thing. I feel that I have become much more aware. More aware of the subtleties of my mind, body and environment, and the individual attention that each area requires. Whilst, I am mindful of slowing down a little more each day, there is certainly room for more stillness.
On my daily barefoot walk, in the fields behind our house, with my four-legged fur baby, the dew is cool beneath my feet. I swing my flip flops in my hand. I am meditating on the butterflies that flutter past me and settle on the path for a brief rest before taking off again. I am talking out loud, to no one in particular. Maybe the butterflies, the dog or even myself. I notice that the blackberries are growing in the hedge rows and are starting to very slowly change colour. This is a process they will go through over the next few weeks as we transition from summer towards autumn; akin to the progress we make in a yin yoga pose over time. Each day, each breathe finds enhanced stillness, depth and a sense of freedom. The dog is dawdling behind me. He is in no hurry. He has no agenda. He stops to sniff one blade of grass and then the next. Each with the intensity of the first as if it was a brand-new experience every single time. Oh, to be a dog, with no worries in the world. Yet, I know deep down I can be more like this if I wish too…
It reminded me of something my teacher said during my recent yin yoga teacher training course. Treat each yin yoga asana as if it is the first time you are practising it. Notice how it makes you feel. Physically, emotionally, energetically, spiritually. A reference was made to David Attenborough (an English broadcaster and natural historian), who, regardless of the number of countries he has visited, the number of animals, reptiles, birds and fish he has observed, always feels, talks and expresses, such unique wonder and passion for every single moment that he is present to. This is the true meaning of living in the moment. With no thought to the past. No thought to the future. Just the here and the now. We all have permission to observe and feel this moment. We grant our own permission. It comes from within us. So, what are we waiting for?
Before signing up to do my yin yoga teacher training course, I was hoping yin yoga might offer me some support in my quest for stillness. Yoga and in particular yin yoga, is practised to help slow down the body and mind, and I hoped that once applied on the mat, could be mindfully applied off the mat.
I was not disappointed – I have since enjoyed incorporating yin yoga into my home practise, and on a very subtle level I have gently weaved it into my weekly student hatha classes. One of the smallest things with largest impact, is instead of flowing from one pose to the next, I am cuing a ‘brief’ pause in a neutral pose, between asanas. Whilst brief, these little pauses all add up, and can be described like the well-known phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, meaning that if we take a brief pause on a regular basis, collectively they help create stillness and space to achieve so much more. A valuable asset in today’s high energy, yang, world.
At the close of the final practical session of yin yoga at the teacher training course, my teacher cued us to “roll over on to the side and take time to consider what we might take away from our practise?” – and in that split second I knew I have found a stillness, a slowness like no other. This was indeed the missing piece of my life-puzzle that I had been desperately seeking – all I needed to do was step back from life, breathe and take a pause.
I now enjoy sniffing the grass with my dog, with no cares for yesterday and no cares for tomorrow, just this one delicious, green, dewy, blade of grass, in front of me, right here, right now… Namaste.