Saturday, 26 May 2012

Looking at the World Upside Down

“Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant---”
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--

Emily Dickinson        c. 1868

I love this poem by Emily Dickinson.  For me, she is saying that at some point in our lives, when we are ready and open, we will  be dazzled by the light of a right alignment with our world. A kind of getting right with the light.  Until we have capacity to comprehend and life experience to inform our views, we are best served by taking in information in gentle digestible bits.  Chunking it down.  Swallowing the elephant - one bite at a time.  Of course, life can throw curve balls, and the lessons are lived and learned at lightening speed.  Assuming one is not blinded by a direct hit of lightening, what can be meant by “the Truth’s superb surprize”? 

I have been taking classes at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg for the past four years.  Last year, I decided, it was time to take the plunge and enrolled in the Teacher Training Program.  Did I want to teach?  Perhaps.  Did I want to learn more about the path of yoga?  Absolutely.

I had retired from a fulfilling career in human resources.  Sure, I was trained to mediate, but could I meditate? I knew how to utilize personality preference systems such as MBTI but could I make sense of the Elements of Yoga (fire, air, earth, water, space) that the yogis favoured?   I wasn’t looking for a new job.  Facing facts - I was no spring chicken, as my mother would have phrased it.  I did not think I would or could build up to not so gentle Vinyasa or fire breathing Ashtanga classes.

I had felt very body conscious when I first started participating in beginner classes.  I did not get the concept of being on the mat, in my own space, that everyone was taking classes for their own reasons, relaxation, exercise, or socializing.  That people, generally, did not notice you, that they were so wrapped up in their own lives.  The studios were kept fairly dark.  After a few of months of beginner alignment and relaxation classes, I decided to “graduate” myself to a beginner flow class.  Before class, I ran into a former work colleague.  I mentioned to her how it was my first flow class and that I did not have a clue about how it would go and how ridiculous I might look trying, for the first time, to move fairly rapidly from pose to pose.  Her response spoke to her modesty and kindness: “when I am in class, I am so focussed on my own practice and that I rarely notice anyone or anything else in the studio”.  How pathetically egotistical I felt.  Of course, she was right.  She was all about being present in the yoga moment. 

Entering the studio for a yoga practice is about entering a special space that has been intentionally cordoned off from the mundane world, to invite you to bring your awareness into the moment, to still your mind.  Big Lesson: this is all about you (emphasis added).

Of course, the ego never lets up.  I wondered why it was that some people seem to move readily into what seemed to me to be complicated poses. I felt very frustrated that I could not kick up into head stand - or understand the euphemism of “float up” into the pose.  I felt my earthiness as I crumpled to the right in a spastic heap to the floor, my heels never making it up the wall. I was experiencing the inkling of the pose, but it was experienced in a truly “slant” manner, to paraphrase Dickinson, and pun intended.

One day, half a year ago, I made it up the wall and felt my heels contact the wall as I fully inverted.  Success.  The ego was satisfied.  Even for only 5 seconds. I notice when I think that it is force that will carry me up the wall, I do not succeed.  When I surrender to the breath, align my limbs, I am up the wall almost effortlessly.  Some days, I “float” up, and other days, I require a few tries before inverting.  I still ruminate on this pose - the ego knows no bounds!

I think it is safe to say that, not unlike the child in Dickinson’s poem, I am being dazzled gradually by the brilliance of the yoga practise and the surprizes/gifts of the teachings I am honoured to receive. 


Nancy M. is a current member of the Yoga Centre Winnipeg 200 hour teacher training program.

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