Namaste and Welcome!
I was 'Down the Cape' (as a true South-of-Boston girl says) this past weekend, visiting family and enjoying the roiling and rolling ocean. The ocean (just stirring with the beginnings of Blizzard Juno) was kicking up a lot of waves and debris including many many oyster shells. One of my favorite parts of being on the beach is searching for treasures and this past weekend brought me many. I drove back to Vermont on Monday, in the beginnings of the predicted monster storm (yikes!), with a collection of oyster shells on the dashboard of my car to keep me company as I headed north through the swirling snow. They reminded me of a perhaps cliche but important metaphor- that of the pearl in the oyster and a valuable little lesson for us humans from these bivalves.
An oyster produces a pearl (or sometimes many pearls) when some kind of irritation or aggravation gets lodged inside of it's soft, fleshy interior. This irritant could be as tiny as a grain of sand, or a piece of shell, stone or bone (you can already see where I am headed with this oyster tale). Anyhow, when the foreign object gets lodged in the oyster flesh, the oyster responds by coating the object with layer upon layer of calcium carbonate or nacre (as it's more commonly known). This nacre is the exact same material that creates the oyster's shell and the layers that form align perfectly on a microscopic level to reflect and refract the light, giving the pearl it's incredible iridescence and marvelous color-range. Pearls can be pink, white, lavender, blue, black, yellow and a host of other wild colors. In some mythological tales pearls are said to be the tears of the Gods, filled with moonlight and swallowed up by oysters! But I digress...
All of us have probably encountered irritating and aggravating people, situations, events or circumstances- sometimes even the smallest irritation feels like it causes us deep pain and suffering. If we are to learn from the pearl and align with the situation or person in a skillful way, we might discover that deep inside of us and embedded deep inside of that circumstance, there is treasure to behold. Weather it be one tiny pearl or an entire elegant strand of learnings and teachings, there is an opportunity to find the wisdom deep within. This is the path of the yogi. Just as bees gather nectar and transform it into sweet golden honey, so too can we transform even a deep irritation into something of beauty and value. We can emulate the humble oyster.
Of course, a easier path might be to just blame that outside person or event for ruining our lives or causing us pain or suffering; it takes courage to let go of victimhood and claim the pearls. Never the less it is possible, it just takes a little deep sea diving. I know for me, when I am aggravated with someone for example, my initial reaction might be to blame them, judge them and find fault in what they have done to me (sound familiar??!!). A more skillful response might be to take responsibility for our part to play, get on our hip waders and dive into that ocean of inquiry with compassion and curiosity. We might ask ourselves some questions such as, 'What is the deeper teaching here for me?', 'What can I learn from this situation?', or 'How will this help me to be more clear about what I truly want?'.
When we can bravely head out to the oyster beds of our souls, get radically honest with ourselves, and go right to the center of that shell (our hearts), what do we find? Oftentimes I find that when I am irritated or aggravated, it's because I'm not accepting a person, situation or event as it is, wanting it to be different and expending a lot of energy trying to make it so. When I trust, soften and allow life to be as it is, something inside of my heart softens and the irritation lessens or dissolves all together.
What is the current grain of sand irritant in your life? What is the teaching? Can you find a pearl? Let me know about it- I would love to hear! And, happy oystering!
Asana Suggestions: Align with the breath and try some deep breathing practices to coat, layer upon layer, any irritation or aggravation that might be occurring in your practice. Ocean breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) is a great breath practice to try. Challenge yourself to try a few poses that normally cause you aggravation or that you don't like and see if you find some pearls of wisdom in those poses. Why are you averse to them and what might you learn from them?
Contemplations to Deepen Your Practice:
* Think of a current irritating person or situation in your life (or one in the recent past), large or small: Is there a pearl of wisdom, teaching or lesson embedded deep inside that circumstance?
* When you encounter an irritating person or situation, what is your initial response? Is it to blame the 'other' or to turn and look at what this situation is pointing to inside of your own being?
* Is it possible to learn from any given situation or person and also have very good boundaries and take care of yourself- perhaps removing yourself from any potentially harmful or toxic person, place, job, relationship, etc. (even if in some ways you love/adore that person, place, job or relationship)? Sometimes it's appropriate to grab the pearls and run far far away!
* Journal or share (with a friend) one of your most challenging life circumstances (think of something particularly aggravating, toxic or repulsive) and the most potent or powerful teaching that you discovered. How did your life change or how are you a different person because of it?
Yoga's Gift by Danna Faulds
Merge movement with
Blend stretch with breath
and depth-mind awareness.
Bridging the inner and
outer realms is yoga's gift,
to peel away until the truth
is indisputable, and I am
left suspended like
a drop of dew, poised
and lucid in the quiet.
I'd love to hear from you- please make a comment by clicking on Comments. Thank you!