Adjustments. How many times has a teacher come around, lightly pulled back on your hips while you’re in downward dog, or pressed into your back during a forward fold – and you just didn’t feel like fully committing to the stretch? And how many times did you breathe into it and experience a glorious release?
Sometimes it’s an obstacle to get over ourselves, physically and mentally – to surrender to the flow. Perhaps we aren’t ready for change, or don’t feel like we have the energy to show up for ourselves, or just feel like staying in our safe space without pushing to see if perhaps that space could be made a little larger.
Prior to moving to New Mexico to revisit my passion for sustainable building and to help build an off-the-grid cob house, my yoga practice was a source of meditation – a way to find and nurture an unwavering sense of self.
These days I get lost in that zen for hours while putting my hands in the earth, embracing the grand landscape and beating sun, and my practice has become one of physical necessity. Whether its mixing together piles of clay, sand and straw on tarps with my feet, or pushing the semi-hardened balls of the cob mix onto each layer of the house, I seem to have discovered muscles in my arms and legs that I never knew existed.
With dew still on my camper windows, I warm up with the rising sun amongst the mountains that set Georgia O’Keefe on a painting rampage. While sitting in pigeon pose, I can’t help but be entranced by the quivering stillness of the mornings – without even a rustle from the sagebrush. They say the valley used to be a meeting place for peace talks, where Native peoples came from all over to trade and give birth. Now the land is littered with the bones of animals who come here to pass on.
As I fill my lungs with cold air and muse on my night’s dreams, flowing through sun salutations, the smell of damp earth unlocks a bank of autumn memories: living cozy in a cabin in the Adirondacks with a lover; road-tripping through the Yukon and British Colombia via a Craigslist rideshare from Alaska; driving down US-1 in California with a stranger I met in line at the car rental place; and gearing up to move to Northern Thailand where I was initially introduced to earthen building and began my first six-month journey through Asia.
Fall kicks our sensory wisdom into motion, with the smell of wet leaves and the feeling of crisp air inviting reflection and helping us catalog lessons we’ve learned – exploring if we’ve actually made any progress toward becoming the person we want to be or if we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to achieve.
With the sun setting earlier and without everything in bloom, we can sometimes start to feel stagnant and lacking energy, but it’s the perfect time to let that which doesn’t serve you go, welcome new routines and muse on new goals.
At the beginning of the summer I gave up on my chaturanga. I didn’t care to work on my upper body strength and would just make sure not to knock my face on the way down. But as summer progressed into fall, I started to see that strength appear in my body, with each cob brick I molded and heaved. Now when I get to my mat, I have an unwavering balance and am smiling through my chaturanga like a boss.
So what am I letting go of? I let go of my apathy. Somewhere along the way I confused apathy for contentment, and it never occurred to me that, although calm and accepting of things that are out of my control, I was neglecting that which I DO have control over. In reality, this apathy was killing any chance I had of establishing a mind-body-spirit balance and obtaining the ultimate bliss that comes along with it.
Luckily, just one taste of that bliss ushers in a clarity that makes it easy to identify what isn’t working so you can chuck it out the car window and reverse over it.
And the new vision I set out for the season ahead? To be flexible with intention. I want to go further into my back-bends, lengthen my hamstrings and recalculate (and respect) my boundaries, both on and off the mat.
So here’s to letting that which doesn’t serve you go, to planting seeds in the midnight garden and trusting that the lessons you’ve logged from autumns passed have prepared you to make each harvest better than the last.