I left New York City on Monday with everything I own packed into a trailer, and set out for Austin, Texas, where I will be living for the foreseeable future. Though this was my decision, and I think a good one for my yoga career, my health, and my sanity, today it hit me: Everything I knew about my life in the city is now technically gone from me. My home, my neighborhood, my social scene, my yoga classes, even my local cafe have dissolved away as if in a dream, since I can no longer rely on them to help me feel grounded and secure.
I spent a decade getting to know friends, eating at my favorite places, living in an apartment I loved, and settling into a routine that comforted me. The fact that I know that moving to Austin will be more productive for me doesn't change how floaty and surreal the world feels right now. Even the ground itself is moving, the highway spooling out and spinning away beneath my wheels.
When most everything external literally proves to be as impermanent as the Buddhists and yogis tell us it is, whether it's a big move we're going through, the loss of a relationship, a job or smaller transitions, like a well-worn pair of jeans finally kicking the bucket, there's always a sensation of shift. These moments of ebb and flow can be unbalancing and scary.
Yoga teaches us about ideas that come from the things other people have lived. We turn to our teachers as guideposts, as those who have navigated similar situations, and emerged victorious using the tools of conscious awareness they then pass onto us. When our studies meet our personal life, and we are asked to walk the walk along this path, it's a whole new yoga practice, perhaps the hardest one of all. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather endure Warrior 3 until my leg gave out than go through a breakup or a radical move.
When we as seekers of center experience times where all that we thought was real turns to smoke and slips through our fingers, and we're dealing with the grieving process of moving from the past into the present, there's a powerful question I can think of that we might ask ourselves: This is happening. Now, what am I gonna do about it?
Believe me, when I was in the space of first realizing how much I'd just given up in order to follow my goals, one thing I could have done was totally, completely freak out. I felt the panic rising, as if I was that little bubble that's supposed to be in the middle of a carpenter's level, but someone tipped it, and my poor bubble was squished way up in the corner. In that moment could have turned back, canceled the whole crazy Austin idea, and settled back into what I knew.
Then again, my heart is calling me towards something different, and if yoga has taught me anything, it's to be able to endure uncomfortable sensations in the body, mind, and heart, long enough to get to that atman, the soul, or center of myself. Once there, I can more easily bring myself back to a leveling off place, and find that calm bubble of my core returning to center.
In fact, it's not our inner peace that wavers as life does, but our moveable parts: thoughts, emotions, expectations, perspectives, and even the physical body. When we remember that just because our outer world changes doesn't mean our innermost one has to, we dissolve the illusion that we are the constructs, and not the constant.
So, we can answer our own question by choosing to draw not from our first reactions, but from the stillness inside. Then we can act from equilibrium to move towards the next, though as yet unformed, part of our journey, with the integrity it takes to create the future experience we want to live most of all.
Here's the pose I did at the Virginia rest stop that helped me remember that ...
Core Pose: Natarajasana
If you see a statue of Nataraj, you'll notice he's standing on what appears to be a baby. Don't be alarmed--it's actually a demon. Nataraj is the cosmic dancer, and he exemplifies the power of riding the wave of universal energy rather than being consumed by the dark forces of doubt, insecurity, lack, and fear. Whenever I want to find my ground, and from there, let the joyful dance of life take me where I'm supposed to go next, I make sure to include Natarajasana in my practice.
Stand with feet hip-distance, about two-fists-width wide. Ground into your right foot, and bend your left knee so you can take hold of the outside of the left foot or ankle in your left hand.
As you draw your low belly up and lengthen the tailbone down to maintain space in the front and back of your lumbar curve, begin to kick your foot behind you as you reach the chest and right arm forward, or up to the sky as your balance and flexibility allows. The amount of backbend here is up to you, but if you stay rooted into your standing leg and foot you'll gain the stability and gravity this pose requires in order to inspire its freedom dance.