I am currently studying in an online course called The History of Yoga with Christopher Tompkins and Shiva Rea. Today I listened to one of the classes while traveling home from Tokyo on the train. When I got home, I sat down to write a few sentences in reflection as an assignment. What developed in the writing below became more of an ah ha! moment about how our minds shape our reality. I have always understood this concept in theory and I've even experienced this in my own practice of positivity. But today was something special despite having been relatively normal on the surface.
This recorded transmission came with particularly poignant timing that is probably best described as a narrative of my day leading up to listening to the call. I woke from a troublesome night of little sleep. My beloved and I are apart for a month and my natural sleep rhythm, so entangled with his, is often disrupted when he is so many time zones removed from our home. Feeling a heaviness in my body and my eyes, I opted for a brief meditation and a longer practice of abhyanga than I usually allow time for. I used more oil that normal and spent extra time around my spine, knees and shoulders. I departed very early for a busy day in Tokyo which meant that even on a Saturday, I was in the bustle of rush hour traffic on the 8:30 AM train. I felt myself being pulled into the human drama that is “every (wo)man for themselves”, shoving and posturing for standing room only in the crowded train car. Normally, my body would stiffen up and harden in this situation as if to shield any unwanted contact. However, today I felt more in the flow. As I was pushed to and fro during the massive exchange of commuters at each stop, it felt more like I was being rocked by ocean waves than forced out of the way as an obstacle in someone’s path. I didn’t feel aggressive, I even found myself smiling. This situation would have usually been highly stressful, but today it was neutral, perhaps even positive. Did I mention it was raining, windy and bitter cold?
I made my first stop for a lesson about half way to Tokyo with two wildly intelligent (but very modest) women who like to practice speaking English by sharing their latest studies in cutting-edge psychology. They talked about their experiments and I asked them questions. When the hour was up, we synced calendars, waved goodbye and I walked away feeling so incredibly fortunate to be the person they have decided to call their teacher.
I immediately jump back on the train, no rush, no hardening. My second stop was Be Yoga Studio where I regularly get to teach a group of worldly expatriates who have landed in Japan for an extended stay. On this particular day, I decided to open and close the class with an offering of OM. No big deal right? Except that this was the first time since I began teaching several years ago that I have ever done this. My voice and my cells were supplicating the vibration.
My third and final stop was a reunion with another student who I hadn’t seen yet in 2015. I didn’t realize how much I had missed her until I saw her sprinting into the café for fear that she had kept me waiting too long. Her kindness immediately brought me joy. We exchanged small gifts (omiyage), shared photos and laughed out loud. I left our time together seriously questioning what I could have possibly done to deserve this amazing day? It dawned on me that every day has the same precious 24 hours of potential to be this remarkable, it’s just a matter of perspective.
Then, after bobbing and weaving through hordes of people on Tokyo streets, I hopped back on the train to return home. And that’s when I began listening to the call. It was like each little nugget of learning was gently tugging at my heart as a result of my direct experience.
1. The Tantric wisdom of withdrawing oneself from the daily minutiae of human drama at least once a day as personal sadhana to lessen the gravitation toward greater suffering. (I allowed myself extra time for self-love through abhyanga.)
2. The definition of yoga as dissolving the fluctuations of the mind and as liberation from suffering by connecting to one’s truest essence (purusha). (I was not captivated by the crowd mentality on a busy train, I felt intrinsically peaceful.)
3. The universal sound of OM dissipating the grip of anxious thinking and emotional grasping. Chris Tompkins poetically describes this as “… the ultimate unbounded, unspoken reverberating resonance of the universe – the expression of pure vocalic timelessness that brings our awareness into a state of expansion.” (My body was called to the sound of OM in practice.)
It is no coincidence that I listened to this call out of order – I accidentally hit the call 3 recording on my smartphone instead of call 2 which should have been next in line for me to listen to. I was meant to hear this one today. Nice one Universe! The final piece in this simple awakening came in the form of the contemplation question at the end of the call: Have you ever experienced yoga? For me the answer was a resounding yes, today I have experienced yoga in all of the exquisitely ordinary ways listed above.
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