Many Shades of Light
Green, greenish, viridescent, olive green, pea green, emerald green, lime green, bottle green, Lincoln green, sea green, sage green, acid green, eau de Nil, aquamarine, aqua, celadon, chartreuse, jade, kelly green, mint green, myrtle, hunter, citron, Paris green, Brunswick green, shamrock green, harlequin green, Hooker’s green......
As I sail around Yangon in taxis most days, on buses other days, I pass the time counting shades of green. This verdant city, leafy down the streets, grassy in the parks, budding with life, flourishing under the energy of the next generation, growing under international investment, is one of the greenest cities I have ever known.
Each different shade of green, offering the observer a different Yangon. Each variety of tree or tropical plant casting a different shaped shadow on the ground. Each shadow hiding a less examined part of the city if you choose to look close. Some shadows have sharp edges, some are very much blurred and these mixed borders seem to somehow reflect my own current understanding of who I think I am. At times feeling so certain and at other times not at all.
With these fresh green colours renewing me, helping me grow, keeping me safe it amazes me how my shadows still come into play. They still weave themselves into my consciousness' despite my life being 110% different to anything I have ever experienced before. Frustrations show up, impatience is rife and I have to work every morning with intentions to overcome these negative samskara from taking hold of my new life while reinforcing the positive samskara over and over.
We are all born with a karmic inheritance of mental and emotional patterns. We all develop more throughout our lives. Patterns passed down by our parents, patterns imprinted on our beings through our experiences. Samskara, cycles - that happen repeatedly. The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). The more these patterns occur, the deeper the grooves become.
I often laugh to myself on a morning, lady grumps (I have discovered I’m not as good in the mornings as I once thought I was!) I don’t leap out of bed as I used to but instead I’m rather like a slug, my body creaks. My mind asks me “What is your purpose again? Today? Here and now?” Then after about two hours, a coffee, a run, some oats and a banana and then seeing my sweet children telling me they love me making heart shapes on their heads I begin to remember. I’m good. Life is good. No two days are the same and I’m deeply trying to understand a collective of people so different from my own.
Watching these negative patterns helps me to name them. For me to be present with them, it enables me to exchange the negative with the positive. It allows me to pick and choose which patterns I am going to indulge in and which I am going to allow to trip me up, a bit like pick and mix, or dim sum or tapas (all of which I love!)... bringing this attention to habit, subsequently enables a more clear choice of sankalpa, intention. Working with intention consciously we can communicate with our emotional and spiritual body aligning us to the energy of change. Intention and action equal magic.
From a distance and with intention one can see the threads of our lives taking shape, forming a stunning tapestry. The colours of our life bright and numerous. The shadows creating a well needed respite, we can’t be perfect all the time. If it were easy life would be boring. The intentions can also act like threads themselves weaving through our yoga practice on our mat and when we take our yoga off our mat. Rather like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s (threads) form part of the manual of our yoga teaching (the structure to our learning) so our intentions make as signposts for our life.
I already talked of tapas (the Spanish food sort, rather than the yoga sort), but now for the yoga sort...it’s the tapas, the perseverance or the heat, that fuels the psychological process behind ‘intention’, allowing us to sustain the practice and discipline needed for us to change.
These last few months I have tasted the dim sum of my practice, I have reveled in the silence of my meditation, found release through my pranayama practice yet most of all relished the practice of yin yoga. Yin yoga colouring my life in a different way to my yang practice or my mediation. It’s confines, the edges, offer me different questions, allowing me to perceive myself in a different shade, helping me find the spaces in between the spaces. I am so grateful for this awareness, vidya.
During my yin practice, in the quiet spaces, illuminations have occurred.... they often start with the muscle or fascia... this feels this way....that feels that way.... or emotion. That is where the awareness of patterns start. I’ve upgraded...I now am more capable of asking myself the difficult questions, “What does this pattern have to tell me?”. Then there is this moment when I am paralyzed by fear... my old samskara coming back into play.
Practicing with attention to intention and working with different practices (yang, yin, restorative, mediation, pranayama, eating, sleeping) ... I realise I am capable of all and I become fearless, abhaya. The allure of my negative samskara contribute to this, and like a magician I become mesmerized by the endlessness of these repetitions and the delight that comes in breaking them. By creating space in the body during yoga we create space in the mind producing freedom of vision, darshana. Through these visions of new patterns we become the new patterns and then it is just practice, abhyasa. Reinforcing the grooves the new patterns become stronger.
Of all my yin practice these past few months the pose that I have been drawn to most is Dragonfly or Straddle as some of you might know it.
To Practice: From a sitting position spread the legs apart until they won’t go any further. I recommend sitting up on a bolster or blanket to move the hips into an anterior tilt, otherwise you will find the adductor muscles tug on the sitting bones causing a backwards tilt. Fold forward, resting on your hands with your arms straight or rest your elbows on a block. If this feels strong on your knees engage the quads or bring the legs a little closer together. If it feels strong on the hamstrings then soften the knees, bend them up. Let go of the idea or what this pose should look like. Work to your edge, allow the body to settle for 30 seconds or so and then see if you can fold a bit further forward. Some students may be able to fold all the way down onto their stomachs. Hold here for four or five minutes. You can also take a twist in this position folding over the left leg and then the right. Coming out windscreen wiper the legs to counter the pose or take a tabletop position.
Dragonfly is a good pose to practice at this time of year. It works into deeply into our Kidney meridian which is the meridian associated with winter. Our kidney meridian holds the bodies most basic and fundamental energy, our kidneys flush out the bodies waste and nourish our cells. We need to strengthen the kidney energy, the ‘Jing’ essence, by working with more introspective practices, yin and meditation. Aptly, the ancient Chinese traditions say the kidneys are the source of both our fear and our wisdom - if you can acknowledge your fear and your negative samskara through practice (abhyasa), awareness (vidya) and clear intention (sankalpa), fired by tapas - your wisdom will grow. You ability to hear clearly in this quiet stillness of winter will, like an alchemist, make space for your own transformation, sowing seeds for spring of self-generating, renewal.
The process is organic, take time to honor this, however slow the rhythm might feel, and change will simply flow. These are the simple rules of nature.