Thursday, December 22, 2011

Engaged, or Just Busy?

One of the things I often say in my yoga classes is that I’m only ever talking to myself, instructing my students on what it is I need to learn.  Sure glad they’re there!  So, true to form, my last blog entry was about slowing down and turning inward during this season, making these weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas a sacred time by paying attention.  Mere days later, I was rushing out the door on a Sunday morning (supposedly my day off) to hear one of my teachers, Douglas Brooks, even saying to my husband, “I’m trying to do too much at once.”  I’m walking towards the door of the studio right at the start time, walking and texting at the same time, taking care of one last piece of business, when the notoriously untrustworthy sidewalks of New Orleans rose up to make sure I was indeed paying attention.  I twisted my ankle fiercely, so fiercely that after listening to Douglas for a few hours, I still needed to cancel the rest of my appointments for the day…remember that day off? 

In one crystalline moment of Douglas’s lecture, he was talking, as he often does, about how yoga is an invitation to engage our lives purposefully and skillfully.  He made the statement, ”It’s easy to be busy; it’s hard to be engaged.” Convicted.   

So I’ve been circling around those few words for a couple of weeks now asking myself how to tell the difference. How can I know in any given moment if I’m engaged or just merely busy?  I mean many of us have lives in which it is important that we get things done, move projects forward, take care of family, and the list goes on.  Indeed, this teaching came forward in the midst of a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita in which one of the primary messages is to act. I am realizing, though, that so much of what I “have to do” is distraction from that which truly deserves my attention and engagement.  What I’ve come to, at least for now, is that in busy-ness, my mind is disconnected from the body and the breath.  Often we have so much skittering around in the mind while the body is doing its thing, whether working out or running errands or just sitting there. Air sign that I am, I tend to be very mental and also very much in love with my own ideas (thankfully, a great gift of yoga is that most of the time they’re uplifting ones!), I can go huge periods of time without any idea that I’m in a body and breathing.   

The genius of the yoga asana practice is that it is a very effective way for bringing the three all to the same place and time, though it doesn’t necessarily happen that way.  We can still bring all of our disembodied and distracted habits to the mat if we insist, but that’s another great benefit of the practice, that it reveals to you the ways you are and aren’t with yourself.  If however, we come to the practice with intention and attention, then true engagement follows. What I so love about Anusara yoga particularly is that the body is seen as sacred, equal in glory to the mind, the breath, the heart, and seeks very deliberately to bring all into harmonious engagement. The slower pace and precise alignment give me the time to move the light of awareness through the entire body and feel very present and engaged there.  When my mind, body, and breath are together, I find that my actions seem all at once slower, more deliberate, and yet more efficient and sure.  I am better able to ascertain what actually needs doing, what my heart is longing to do, what will move me towards freeom, and what is mere distraction.  Come to think of it, it’s after these contemplations and practices of the type described below, that this blog moved from lots of ideas skittering around in my head for years into a more grounded and concrete form.  Finally, I’ve engaged this particular calling of my heart, and it is freeing indeed! The world needs your attention, intention, and engagement much more than it needs your busy-ness; it needs you to spend your time and attention on what really matters to you.  In the next cycle, what one distraction can you drop to make space for true engagement? 

(For the Anusara yogis reading this, a great practice to move you from busy to engaged is to focus on the lower body loops, moving the mind into the densest form of consciousness in the legs.  Feel how your energy flies up and out of the body when you move from engaging the lower body loops to hyper-extended knees. Keep the loops going and root into fronts of heels as you move from tadasana to uttanasana and back. Utkatasana, Garudasana – really ground down into feet to stand up, Handstand with Garudasana legs.  Stay low in the lunges, especially during transitions, try moving from Warrior I to Warrior II and back again staying deeply committed in the front leg.  Also, notice any tendencies of unnecessary movement and adjusting. Let me know what you think!) 

Right now, I am keeping a much more sane pace while spending some time at the beach.  The ocean is a great teacher on this topic and many more. More on that later!

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