“Contemplative practice makes perfect”
I have been practicing yoga a few days a week for the past month. It is not only increasing my flexibility and physical well-being, but also transforming my mental awareness. Yoga is transforming how I live my life by showing me how to Live at the Edge.
All too often, I am lost in my mind. I am not paying attention to the road in front of me, the people around me, or even the very act of what I am doing. Just now, walking to my office, I slipped on the second to last step and spilled my tea all over the carpet because I was pondering what I was going to write. It served as a scalding wake-up call that I need to be more conscious, and the stain on the rug will be as an ongoing reminder.
My mind frequently wanders off leaving me and my body behind. My mind is desperately trying to grasp the future or longingly wishing to relive the past; seeking to understand the big picture of life by discovering the next right answer or re-hashing the past to avoid facing the same old challenges. Yet with every attempt, I leave the moment behind and the big picture fades away, challenges mount and limitations draw near.
Did you feel the pause? The moment just after you took a deep breath in and just before you exhaled. If you didn’t breathe, go back and try it and this time notice that graceful moment of truth.
That is the present. That is the moment. In fact, you could call it the present moment, but the second you do that, you’re in the past. The challenge is to gently ebb and flow and honor the moment. To honor ourselves and where we are right now without needing to express it. To just, be. To Live at the Edge of Life.
Most of the time, I spend my day analyzing life—living somewhere inside my head and inside my box of possibilities. During yoga, however, I let myself escape. I am able to bring myself from my head into my body. I am able to feel the very fiber of my being as I twist and contort my shoulder blades back onto my heart and let my spine stretch long. I can feel the crown of my head float gently upwards towards the sky as my sacrum settles down into the Earth. It’s almost as if I am cradled by the moment because my curiosity allows me to find that presence.
Being a novice at yoga helps me maintain this state of being. I have no expectations of where I am going. I am simply waiting for the next suggestion from the teacher for how to be. And as I ride my breath from one pose to the next, I am able to coast in the present for most of the hour. When the poses get difficult or my body gets tired, my mind gets involved and all of the fears and expectations creep back into my practice. But as I gently breathe and feel my body again, I am able to ease back into the practice as I turn my focus back to the mat and my breath.
This practice is transformational. And yoga is changing my life. It allows me to find a place that feels so natural and so right by being present in my body. The great part about yoga is that it almost always feels strangely awkward and uncomfortable yet I am comfortable with all that I am feeling. Moving my body into the awkwardness makes it that much more okay. I am able to detach from the mind and become aware of so much more. As I hold a stretch beyond what my mind feels is reasonable or acceptable, I am stretching to a new level of possibility. I am reaching to a place of serenity and grace that is found within the core of my being.
Just imagining these moments brings a smile to my face and more joy to my life. Yoga is propelling me to the edge of my box by grounding me in the moment. I am Living at the Edge by gently reminding myself that I do not need to look any further than within my body. I am constantly reminded by the gentle expansion of my chest and the soft vibrations of my heart.
This is the Edge…and it feels great. And more than great, sometimes it even feels perfect!