40 Days

My wife Pam has an iPhone, I have an android. Apple has a built in app that tells you how much time you spend on your phone. I was really glad that my Samsung had no such device, but curiosity got the best of me and I went searching for one.

Of course, it revealed that which I knew to be true. I, like so many of us, spend way too much time on social media. I am especially adept at killing large chunks of time playing Words With Friends. I only really play with two people, my sisters, who reside in Pennsylvania. I enjoy the daily check in, occasional chats and especially the competition with my oldest sister. But the app revealed just how much time I could spend on the game. With a ping that a play was awaiting I would move my attention away from what I was doing and find a word to put on the board.

My spiritual journey at this point of my life is largely a personal one. I have my beliefs, my faith and I try to do my best to live my faith without putting it in people’s faces. I strive for compassion, understanding, trying to keep my mouth shut (which is a huge challenge), listen better and not judge each person that comes in my path. For I feel there is an overabundance of judging in the world these days.

So for the next 40 days I’ve taken social media away. I’ve been doing a lot more reading in the last year and look forward to even more of it in the coming weeks, especially without the distraction of Facebook, etc.

I’ve also been away from writing for much too long. There are no adventures looming immediately in my future but I am eagerly looking forward to this sense of a spiritual retreat, an opportunity to reflect more, to be a better listener, to pick up the phone and actually talk to my sisters and to detach from e-stimulation.

“But”, you say, “now you are posting on your blog, which is linked to your Facebook account and such.”

Yes, there are the links that announce that I may have written something. But it will be good for me to not see if someone “likes” what I have put out into cyberspace. It will be beneficial for me to not respond to a comment or even know if one has been posted. (Of course, I welcome comments and likes on the blog!)

I look forward to rambling on here about life and my thoughts. I intend to take more walks in my neighborhood and in the hills, if spring ever decides to show its face here in Colorado. In a few short weeks it will be one year since a dear friend passed away. I want to honor her by thinking about how she still impacts my life each and every day. I want to be more present for Pam and for Ben, especially before he spreads his wings and moves into his own space in about a month. Life trickles on, like a mountain spring emerging from a hillside. I’ll try to do a better job of following the flow and seeing where it leads me.

A Yoga Story

I’m up early every weekday. On Fridays, I hit a regular yoga class with other early yoga birds that begins at 5:45. Today, as I move about on my mat and check in with hips, knees and ankles, it feels especially warm and humid in the room. I gave up trying to figure out the degrees of heat and percentage of humidity for each type of yoga class. “Just show up and embrace what happens” is the mantra I try to maintain. Yet, I decide to take a drink and go fill my water bottle to the rim.

As we venture into the sixty minute class, it becomes a journey of valleys and peaks due to my internal thermostat wanting to go haywire. I set an intention to pick which postures I will fully embrace and then recover, finding savasana in the midst of another posture. For me, I need to be able to draw upon savasana at any moment, during any aspect of my life, capturing a few seconds may suffice to get a grasp on a situation.

Opting out of going “full on” represents some growth in my practice as I choose not to feel compelled to dive into each posture, risking poor form and potential injury. I suppose that some years of practice and hundreds of classes has taught me where “not to go”.

I check in with my breathing, attempting to gain some control. My focus gently on the mirrors in front of me, I gain a peripheral perspective of the other students around me, this group of dedicated yogis that I see on a weekly basis, some of which I know by name, others I recognize by sight while some may be here for their inaugural session. I sense grace in movement transpiring around me. Flying squirrels, handstands and figure 4’s surround me as I stand in a passive posture, absorbing the grandeur of a class coming together in the practice of yoga.

In my early days of practicing, well over a decade ago, I would fall into the trap of being self-conscious and ultimately distracted by others around me. I struggled with my practice and my lack of strength. I marveled at the more experienced practitioners. I learned to focus through the chaos in my mind. My focal point became my “hara”, the energetic spot in the vicinity of the navel. I would look in the mirror and hone in on that spot like a laser. It worked and was effective, allowing me to be unaffected by those around me in the room. However, as time passed, I had a revelation that I could not look myself in the eye while facing the mirror. Meeting my eyes, I would begin to teeter, losing focus. I felt this had more to do with my emotional self than my physical self. This…was beginning to feel like deeper exploration of self.

In time, working from standing bow, I discovered the courage to truly kick into my hand, lengthen through my outstretched arm, arc my back through the spine, roll my shoulder open and allow the anterior aspect of my spine to open, looking forward and over my head past those critical eyes envisioning my foot coming from behind my head toward the ceiling.

I embraced the vulnerability and risked my emotional self to explore a new dimension. Standing on my left leg, at times I feel the harmonious length through my hamstring and the yoga magic happens, for a few seconds, once in a very great while, I experience the yoga high.

Today, back in this room as I practice, I am overheating and a little dizzy. I recognize that if I move into my standing bow, tipping forward like a teapot, I may very well become a falling, fainting spectacle. Wisely, I opt out of the posture, again admiring my classmates without judgement, finding such admiration for these early morning yogis. I’m honored to share this space with them, to be here, with this group of people, connected in a quiet, silent energy.

By conserving my resources I discover I can challenge myself in other postures. The class collectively moves into a prayer twist, we’ll be here for a few seconds, allowing for a little “play time”. I move beyond the posture into familiar side crow, and for the first time I extend a leg, taking a leap of faith, I gently counterbalance the extended leg by shifting my weight forward, imagining my ten fingertips creating impressions in my mat, which is now my only point of contact to Mother Earth and I feel an intricate point of balance. I have now moved toward a scissor side crow.

At home I re-created the movement.

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Here in this room, with 52 years of experience moving through space as a human, my brain sends an impulse through efferent (motor) neurons to my spinal cord, diverting off to the sciatic nerve and then to a smaller nerve to fire the Gluteus Medius muscle which abducts my hip and pulls it off my bottom leg. Simultaneously, signals transmit via the femoral nerve to the Rectus Femoris, one of the four quadriceps muscles, so that my knee will extend and my leg will straighten. My body has done something new, it has never before been in this position! I am elated to have moved into a new space in my body this morning. ♦

The class moves toward its end. I have experienced valleys and seen the mountain top this morning. I am wrung out, perspiring profusely even after showering. My whole body has flushed this morning; emotionally, spiritually, physically.

I reflect that the greatest gift of the morning was when I gave myself permission to pause at standing bow, gaze from the mountain top and absorb the soft view of my classmates in their amazing practice. From this, I gathered strength for the day. Namaste.

♦ Physiological references derived from the text Trail Guide to Movement – Building the Body in Motion by Andrew Biel