I got a text message from a good friend yesterday asking me about my blog… Every excuse about why I’m not writing more sounds a little contrived, a bit shallow… because everyone is busy, everyone has meetings and book clubs, and piles of laundry, gardens to tend, plans to make, people to see. And the only real answer I can give is that sometimes, when you are out living life, it’s challenging to slow down enough to write about it. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it… there is pretty much a constant dialog in my head, ideas, recipes, snippets of life, anecdotes about the dog, photos from countless restaurants. This, like everything else, is a work in progress.
And because it is Poetry Month, and because it is yoga day, and just because… here is this.
This morning as I was heading to the shower I started to think about what sort of conversation I wanted to have today in my yoga class. I like to think of my classes as conversations more than anything else… because no matter what I plan in advance, I always come in and ask my students how they are feeling, what they want to work on, and we start the conversation there, and what develops each week is a little different. As I spent the first few moments in the shower trying to wake up and embrace the day, I was thinking a lot about feeling grounded, and as I let the ideas of balance and rootedness marinate in my pre-coffee brain I couldn’t help but think about Vrksasana. (tree pose) In that moment I started mentally reciting a few lines from a poem I wrote several years ago when I was applying to graduate school, and then re-wrote a few years later when I re-applied to graduate school… And there is was, my class, my conversation.
Of course, I was almost late to class, because when I went to find the poem I realized it was saved on my external hard drive, and as I pulled up to the studio there was a gathering of students waiting outside the door. And these amazing students of mine, were chatting in the sunshine, waiting patiently as I frantically waved at them as I circled the block trying to find a parking spot, and as I ran up to the door I told them this was all part of my class plan, spending a little time in nature, embracing the springtime, finding our breath. They all laughed as we filed into the studio, and I made a full confession… “I’m running late because of a poem… but it’s for you, because it’s April, and springtime, and a Wednesday… and don’t we all just need a poem today?” and really, I think all of them did.
And so we settled into class, talking about being grounded, about finding balance in our lives, in our bodies. We talked of trees and how their toes dig deep into the earth, how they stay grounded through so much change, season after season. We laid on our backs and felt the support of the mat beneath our spines and we visited our first tree pose of the day. I watched as they firmly flexed their feet, pressing them into nothingness, watched as their shoulders slid into alignment, encouraged them to engage every muscle, activate their core strength, and from this very supported place, to create a muscle memory. To feel the length in the spine, the support, and to grow from there.
We moved towards standing, played with balance, played with strength… then we warmed up our feet, talked about our roots and tried it all again… this time with a little more confidence, a little more stability, feet feeling alive, bodies feeling warm… I asked them to turn to face the wall, so they could shut out distractions, and we settled back into tree. “Listen to your bodies here” I said, “remember how this felt when we were on the mat, engage that muscle memory.”. And then I had them turn around, because in life there are always going to be distractions dancing in your peripheral vision. Because that is how life works, and the challenge is being able to stay rooted enough through it all. And you know what? We wobbled a little bit more this way… but we were just being authentic… because even the tallest and strongest trees sway in the breeze. And what more can we ask from ourselves than to be authentic?
From here, we gathered in the center of the room, for the pose we had been building towards… standing in a circle, touching hands, relying on our neighbors for strength and for support we traveled through our final version of tree pose. Allowing our arms to reach up over head, hands pressed into our neighbors, branches growing toward the sky, our own little oak grove. And I loved standing in that circle, watching the students laugh, watching them come out of their comfort zones, leaving behind fear, and blossoming into a cohesive group. Supporting each other, growing together… And they all got it… THIS is what our conversation is about today. This right here…
And as they settled into Savasana, as they began to embrace a different kind of groundedness, as they surrendered all of their thoughts and hang ups, as they gave themselves a few precious moments to let it all go, and to absorb all the benefits of our class, as they let our conversation resonate, I finally read for them my poem. The poem that started our conversation.
I knew that I liked the earth–dark brown and rich with life–
but I didn’t know that I loved it
until I bit into a carrot, freshly harvested,
the taste of soil still lingering
This is the flavor of life.
I knew that I liked falling asleep next to you
feeling your chest rise and fall with the rhythm of your breath
listening to your heart as I drifted off…
But I didn’t know I loved waking up in your arms
until our first night apart… the bitter sweetness of solitude.
I used to be impartial to the wind,
until I heard it whispering through the aspen trees
and suddenly I was home.
I always knew I loved trees and their quiet strength,
but I didn’t understand it until I started practicing Vrksasana,
and the strength of the tree, the rootedness,
became my own.
I just remembered the rain
walking with you, hand in hand down the busy street
the darkened asphalt peaking out beneath the bright
fallen leaves. Flashes of crimson and saffron, the wildest orange
the wet slick grey… we were happiest then,
in the autumn, falling in love on our way to the grocery store.
I knew I loved the sun, being solstice born,
we are kindred, forever…
but I forgot I loved the moon,
I didn’t appreciate its constant pull on my heartstrings
until the first night in the new house, I saw the moon rise over the garden,
her beams reaching around my curtains
and flooding into my bedroom in translucent waves…
how can anyone not be inspired by a moonrise over the garden?
My nocturnal muse.
I knew I liked the color red
and then I saw the wild bergamot
reaching its crimson petaled fingers towards the blue sky
and I fell in love
with the color
and the moment…
sitting under the olive tree sucking the nectar from the flowery digits.
And stillness… how could I not love it?
though I never gave it much thought
the utter content in the quiet
being left alone with nothing but breath
the inhales and the exhales.
I knew that I loved lists
tangible or mental
a glimpse of organization
in my ever-chaotic existence.
Perhaps –if I sit here with my thoughts–
this list of loves will become the world.