i recently heard an interview with the poet Kathleen Jamie in which she spoke about quietening the ego’s need to be heard, in order to listen carefully, profoundly, to the world around us.
her words reminded me of this Taoist poem which in turn, reminds me of the yogic principle of quietening the senses – a necessary precedent to a peaceful, holding still, of the mind.
Close your eyes and you will see clearly
Cease to listen and you will hear truth
Be silent and your heart will sing
Seek no contacts and you will find union
Be still and you will move forward on the tide of the spirit.
Be gentle and you will need no strength
Be patient and you will achieve all things
Be humble and you will remain entire.
the conclusion of the programme was that as human beings… ‘we are not just LIKE a wave. In some really important and scientific way, we are a wave.’ David Malone.
this rich idea has several threads of relevance for us as yoga practitioners, and suggests that both ocean waves and human beings are energetic forms moving to their energetic conclusions.
the wave is a central idea in Vanda Scaravelli’s teaching. she describes the effect of fully submitting to the force of gravity in practice, and the subsequent rebound or ‘anti force’ which then passes through the body like ‘waves of the sea, with that wide extension over the sand and the rebounding that sucks the water back from the shore.’ vanda scaravelli.
as a starting point for feeling something of this in practice, i have found it helpful to focus on
– letting go deeply into the ground
– following the breath carefully, down into the earth on the exhalation, and paying close attention to the moment when the breath comes back in
– moving loosely throughout the practice avoiding a sense that you are fixing into a position
‘Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.’ Heraclitus
in my yoga training, i was taught to respect autumn as a time of review and transformation.
as the oak, beech and field maple leaves turn to a glorious coppery gold, i wonder if the heightened sense of possibility we have in autumn, begins with letting go in preparation for the silence and deep rest of winter.
‘New Year –
from late autumn’
so perhaps now is a good time to review our yoga practice. most of us, opt for a loose approach to practice, adjusting as we go, and there’s certainly no need to make changes for the sake of it, but we could ask ourselves if our practice is fit for purpose.
we could think about removing any postures that feel stale; adding one or two different ones; checking that the time of day we practice still suits; or perhaps adding or extending a seated breathing practice.
if you aren’t practising at the moment, now is a good time to start.
a practice can help carry us through the winter months.
here’s a beautiful painting by Gustav Klimt of an autumn birch wood to inspire you.
step your feet into position and turn your head to face the long mat edge.
give your feet plenty of time, several breaths, until they feel at home on the mat.
allow your arms to drift up to shoulder height. give your hands time to enjoy their suspension, like wing tips – feathered fingers catching the breeze.
exhaling bend the knee and your body drops – slow, upright, directed.
turn your head now to look along the arm – poised.
now you are here, your breathing offers a fluid link between the earth under your settled feet and the space around your open body – it’s interesting to explore this.
‘A deep sense of participation unfolds in the whole being; a desire to blend and receive the qualities of the earth and space. From the waist down, gravity is actively pulling and supporting. From the waist up, space offers all its virtues.’ Sandra Sabatini
something like a dance arises
when the body responds to space and gravity,
when there is a balance of direction and acceptance
when strength and flexibility are nurtured through discipline and practice
‘At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point,
there the dance is…’
Burnt Norton. T S Eliot
the photograph is of Darcey Bussell performing a one legged forward bend… en pointe.
and doing it rather well i thought!