(my first attempt at blogging my weekly yoga class themes-
look for them here toward the end of each week!)
Namaste & Welcome!
Toward the end of my Cape Cod vacation, I took a dear friend to a SUP (stand up paddle board) Yoga Class on a local pond. The class was at 8 am and we awoke to a gorgeous late summer morning- blue skies, sunshine and the sweet smell of cool salty air. We drove to the edge of the pond to meet our instructor from SUPfari Adventures (a friend's company on Cape Cod) and much to my dismay, as we caught our first glimpse of the water, it looked like gale force winds blowing on shore and white caps on what is typically a placid little pond! Since this was my friend's second time ever on a paddle board and first ever SUP Yoga Class, I was determined that it would be a great experience for her (no expectations there right?!!)
As we stood in the high winds at the water's edge (feeling chilly and apprehensive) the instructor gave us a brief SUP lesson on dry land, and I thought for sure that the class would have to be canceled...there was no way on earth we were going out there to do a yoga class in conditions like that! Anyhow, not missing a beat the instructor seemed unphased, and perhaps even a bit excited about this impending challenge...teaching 3 total newbies and a somewhat newbie, how to do yoga on a little paddle board, in the middle of a lake, in gale force winds at 8 am in the morning before the sun was even fully up! However, as she informed us (and much to our delight!) the company had come up with an ingenious system for just such conditions. We were to paddle like hell out to a designated spot where she would clip on a long rope to a permanent mooring which had been set up at the beginning of summer and each of us would grab onto this main yellow rope at a little buoy and clip the bow of our board onto our own little personal buoy with a caribener all while sloshing in the white caps and trying not to fall off the board before class even started. So much for staying dry!
Magically, all 4 of us were able to clip on without too much trouble and even more magically, enjoy a delightful yoga class while bobbing in the waves on Upper Mill Pond, while not really budging an inch or getting blown to the far end of the lake! As I was bobbing in the waves and glancing delightedly over at my friend who seemed totally content and enraptured by this experience, I was reminded of another mooring, anchor, or tool that comes in very handy in daily life. It is the part of us that, despite high winds and rough conditions, can stay anchored and steady in the midst of it all. Sometimes called the higher self or witness consciousness or even just the inner witness, it is the part of ourselves that can see and feel clearly even when a gale force wind is swirling around us or when everything seems jarring and confusing. When we learn to cultivate the witness, it is like contacting a place of deep calm and steadiness in the face of fear and an inner refuge in the midst of outer turbulence. It is also the place in us that can step back a bit and be a neutral (or at least objective) observer to what is happening in the present moment, so that we can respond (rather than react) from our core of calm, peace, intuition and clarity.
When we contact the witness, we become empowered, and avoid being totally engulfed by or blown away by our many emotions and even our many selves. We can practice witnessing the swirling thoughts and emotions without suddenly loosing all control or our vessel. We can take a breath and allow all of the varied selves or 'parts' of ourselves to have a seat at the table. Is this easy? Well, about as easy as paddling a small boat in waves on windy morning. But the invitation is to practice, to remember the mooring (whatever kind of mooring might appeal to you) and to bring the inner witness 'on line' in times of turbulence. And to also have compassion for ourselves when we become totally 'identified' with an emotion or thought and find ourselves in the bushes down at the other end of the pond wondering...how did this happen again???
Another great result from hooking onto that mooring and staying anchored is that just like on the paddle board on the lake- if you get blown really far off course or down to the other end, it's a whole heck of a lot harder to get back to where you started in the first place. You have to paddle against the wind (and sometimes against the current). To stay moored and deeply anchored in yourself makes for a lot less stress and work in the long run!! So next time you find yourself suddenly caught in gale force winds or choppy waters here is my advice for you: Take a deep breath, grab the bow of your boat with confidence, hook onto that mooring deep within your soul (the witness) and enjoy the ride! May your inner mooring be with you and hold fast, always.
Asana Suggestions: Poses to root, ground and anchor such as standing poses, hip openers and longer holdings to have the time to contact the inner witness in the midst of each pose.
Deepen Your Practice:
* What do you habitually do when the going gets rough? What might be a fresh new way of responding to stressful situations or when you feel triggered?
* If you could create an image of a 'mooring' to keep you grounded and anchored in times of challenge, what would it look like, feel like, what color would it be?
* Can you give yourself permission to be human and allow yourself to sometimes just fully let go of everything and find the humor or empathy for yourself when you get tossed off your 'board'?
* Think of one situation where it is easy for you to lose that experience of the inner witness...it could be a situation that triggers you deeply. Is there a sacred reminder that would help you find it again.
* Where does the inner witness live in your body? How do you know/feel when your inner witness is awake and alive?
Taken from The Artist’s Rule by Christine Vaulters Paintner:
“Each of us has an inner monastery, or cave of the heart. Inner hospitality is to open ourselves to the things we reject and fear in ourselves- our painful and dark feelings, our shadow side, our resistance, the secret things we do or desire. If we embrace St. Benedict’s wisdom for our deepest selves, inner hospitality proceeds from the root of who we are. We learn to extend a welcome to the stranger who dwells inside of us...
Each of us contains a self- the true heart of who we are and the calm, non-anxious core we all possess- that is able to witness our internal process. It is often called the inner witness….we strive to fully experience our emotions without getting carried away by their power...
...Invitation: To be present to what is happening within us by noticing the fears and judgements that come forth. The witness to this patterns in us is our compassion and curiosity- observing with love and tenderness. Witnessing is not about fixing something; witnessing is about entering into a relationship with that is and discovering the grace and gifts hidden there."
Witness by Dana Faulds:
When I can be the witness,
all manner of miracles occur-
old wounds heal, the past
reveals itself to be released,
present dramas play themselves
out without sinking emotional
talons into my soft skin. The
witness welcomes truth and
dares to meet reality on its
own terms. It is the ground
in which the seeds of transformation
take root and finally flower. When
the witness is awake, the
lake of the mind is still, and
in that mirrored surface,
I see my own true face as
Spirit smiling back at me.
From her book Go In and In