Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lessons in Powerlessness: Part One, The Hurricane and the Mountain

  If it seems like it has been awhile since I have posted you are right. I was, the entire week last week, without power, so no computer but lots of learning and experience. First I want to write about all that led up to that adventure. A week and a half ago now my community was buzzing with the news that Hurricane Irene had her sights set on Connecticut. She would be due to make landfall on Sunday morning and had the potential to be the worst hurricane event in decades for the state. The collective anxiety began to swell and by Friday you could feel it in the air. The stores became hives of fear and grasping, the water and bread sections emptied out, batteries were like gold and generators a treasure to find. Panic had made it's landfall, the storm before the storm.

  I had yoga classes to teach the Friday and Saturday before the storm and brought this event right onto the mat. This is the stuff from which we gain the greatest insights and growth as yogis seeking liberation from suffering. This kind of event goes right into the heart of our deepest fear, the fear of death. How can we use our practice to take on our deepest fear and aversion? The answer that came to me was the simplicity and strength of the mountain. Mountain pose to steady and calm the body and mountain consciousness to still the mind. The mountain reminds us that we are rooted and secure with our feet on the earth, that the body rises up from this base with ease and energy, and although still on the outside the inner mountain pulses and flows with breath.

   Steady on this breath, the mind becomes like the vast sky surrounding the mountain. Mountain consciousness is the witness, or seer. In this state we are like the mountain letting whatever might unfold around us to unfold, without the need to judge or react, no need to evaluate or change. The mountain weathers storm and sun, night and day, winter as well as summer always rooted in it's own simple being. Clouds might fill up it's vast sky but they are temporary. The sky is always there, ever present, waiting to be seen again. Our thoughts and fears are like those clouds and when we can remember to see them for what they are, temporary phenomena, often as wispy and illusory as the form of a cloud itself we can then move back to the witness, free of desire or aversion, free of the "story".  When we come into tadasana or mountain pose in our lives we connect to our deep wisdom and knowing instead of the ego driven story which brings reactivity and suffering.

It is also useful to remember that sometimes what the earth needs and what we need is for something to be destroyed or transformed to become the fertile soil for some new seed to sprout or for something to bear fruit. Often our suffering in life seems senseless at the time it happens but when we look back on it weeks, months or years later it makes perfect sense and we can see how without the trials of life we would be robbed of it's gifts.  The majestic mountains we adore came mostly from great and cataclysmic shifts of the earth or were forged by fierce volcanic eruptions. Such is the nature of life, things are born and they die, sometimes we are in the energy of sustenance and sometimes we are in the energy of transformation and both are necessary for us to grow and awaken.

In the end, my community did not suffer any major damage and for that there is cause for much gratitude. My heart goes out to those who lost their homes and will struggle for a long time to come  because of this, but even in those cases the mountain with it's strength and clarity, existing in the simplicity of the present moment and the breath is there, it is our birthright and our true nature.

Here is a touching song I used in those yoga classes. Namaste.


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