We’ve all had moments in our life where we knock our head on something or trip over our own two feet. Not ever considering myself a graceful person these things happen to me all of the time. A few years ago I was reading one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books (not sure which one – I’ve read them all) and he talked about how those small events of clumsiness usually are times when we are no longer in the present moment. After having read that I soon started becoming more aware of my thoughts in those moments. I’d get up too quick while doing laundry and hit my head on the dryer door and think, “What the heck was I thinking about when that happened?” It usually has nothing to do with the task at hand and more likely had a negative or fear feeling attached to it.
This past summer I went hiking in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. My husband and I are both experienced hikers and were up for the challenge of the, sometimes, daunting trails we were about to encounter. On our road trip down to Tennessee I got a call from my boss with a request that could not be ignored even on vacation. I told him I’d do what I could, but he knew I was out of town and therefore did not have a ton of time to devote to the project. Thankfully, I was able to complete the meat of the project by the time we were ready to hit the trails, but my mind was still holding onto some of the work I had yet to complete.
We had the most amazing hike up to see the Ramsey Cascades – truly a breathtaking sight. It was about 2 hours to get to the cascades and as we headed down the mountain we knew we had about 2 hours until we got back to the car. Now that we had reached our destination and were heading back through terrain we had already covered on ascent, my mind started to wander back to the project at work. I was unaware how consumed I was thinking about it until my footing slipped and I hit the ground hard. I laughed it off, picked myself up and we carried on. Not a 100 yards later my mind had wandered again and without warning I slipped and fell.
My husband was getting concerned at this point knowing we had quite a bit of hiking ahead of us and if I hurt myself it would be an ordeal to carry me off the mountain. I knew that I needed to focus on the task at hand and enjoy the moment. We hiked on, but about 30 minutes later I slipped once again and landed on the ground. I was now covered in mud, leaves and had scraped my knees. But I couldn’t help but started madly laughing. It was a huge message from the universe to let it go. I looked up to the sky and shaking my head said, “I get it now.” I felt that every time my mind went back to the project I was literally being knocked down to shake me out of my mind wandering and help wipe out these stressful thoughts. From then on in the hike I began to focus on the present moment, enjoying the scenery and fun of what I was currently doing.
Last week I was at a seminar with one of Bikram’s senior teachers. As she talked about the balancing series she said that the only reason that someone falls out of these postures was they had stopped concentrating on what they were supposed to focus on. I was a bit confused about this – couldn’t it be that if you don’t have the stamina to hold the posture or if you’re truly riding the edge of your limits in the posture then you would fall out? But her answer was no. To be in the asanas was to be focused in the moment and the yoga begins when you are holding the posture in stillness. When you break concentration and let the mind wander, just like my trip down the mountain you will fall out.
In the week that followed I carried this idea with me into the balancing series, not only within my own practice, but also when I took the podium. The change was amazing. I was no longer falling out of Standing Bow where I used to and as I challenged my students to hold the posture for the entire dialogue each class would have a moment of absolute stillness as they all held it with focus and determination.
Not giving myself the opportunity to fall out, but knowing I had to focus on each breath and maintain my presence has forever changed my practice. It’s not perfect and I do still have those times where the mind wanders and I’m kicked out of the posture, but it has increased my awareness of what is going on not only with the body, but also the mind.
So as you sweat it out in the hot room this week stay with the moment – you can’t ever get it back. And who knows what amazing things are in store for you. You might go farther in the posture and open yourself up to the limitless possibilities of all you are truly capable of.