Over the winter my learning around balance found new ground in our community yoga practice. Even in Vinyasa classes, where transitions are important, most yoga teachers tend to focus on getting students to experience the fullest expression of an asana their body is able to find on any given day. By contrast, our teacher @wellandkell brought mindfulness and playfulness around these oft-forgotten moments. The modest spaces in between poses became, in themselves, fertile ground for exploration.
The wonderful gift of learning something in parallel to someone else is that there are ample opportunities for cross-fertilization even when we are both doing our own very different things. Kelley’s recent post on balance (she’s playing with it all week if you wanna Zoom with her!) triggered the insight that for me this is linked to the lesson of Hummingbird, the master of a very special paradox: that of stillness in motion / motion in stillness. It’s so obvious now, and I’d connected those dots in a fashion before, but now I see how it all circles back into wholeness.
Kelley’s focus on those interstitial moments is an invitation to find stillness in motion. As the body moves through transition, the mind can lose its grounding. The ego hates falling and failing, especially in public. As the mind learns to find calm in these small periods of change and uncertainty, the body’s innate wisdom can truly shine. “I got this, Mind. Even if I wobble, it’s no big deal.”
In a related vein, you might know that one of my favorite lockdown activities is handstand practice. In those moments when I am in my sweet spot and not fighting gravity as much, I find this incredible feeling of weightlessness that surprises and delights me each time. Time also seems to expand in such a way that belies the brevity of my inversion.
While I time my handstands for kicks, the true measure of progress for me has nothing to do with duration but the quality of the experience. I know I am just beginning because I am experiencing the same sort of stillness that was the first mile-marker, shall we say, of my meditation practice. So many beginning meditators assume that this is the point of meditation, and that the longer the better. But the funny thing about being in stillness is you start to become aware of all the motion in that stillness, and you begin to realize just how much knowing is packed into silence. Duration does not matter. Quality of presence does.
A similar thing is happening with my handstands. I know my body is working hard to keep itself inverted, but I have not yet developed a fullness of awareness around the experience. Comparatively, I can stay in a headstand for an indefinite length of time. It is just a natural ability I’ve had since I was a kid, and because I don’t struggle to keep myself aligned and inverted, I can spend my energy being aware of all the subtle motion in the stillness of my headstand.
Right before I started sheltering in place, I got the message from my Akashic Records that I was to explore inversions because I was learning new ways to balance and develop 360 degrees of perspective. And today I see how this has been a lesson around bringing polarity into wholeness. When we play with balance, anywhere on the spectrum of the physical and the spiritual, we begin to experience how the duality of stillness and motion is truly an infinite loop, where the one leads to the other and back. Stillness invites motion invites stillness, etc., ad infinitum.
The extraordinariness of the pandemic is calling us to be much more flexible in our ways of being. The ability to establish new ways of grounding, to keep centering in transition, to find playfulness instead of fear in a topsy-turvy situation are vital skills even in “normal” times. This is not about self care or survival. You are much more expansive than even your ego’s wildest dreams. And a gesture as small as playing with balance in your yoga practice can open up a deep path of learning as to who you truly are.