Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nov. 3rd, 2008 Paddle Boarding and Vinyasa Flow Yoga

I have two relatively new favorite pastimes. One is paddle surfing and the other is Vinyasa Flow Yoga. And if you knew me, you'd know that they were both kind of a stretch from anything I've ever immersed myself into in the past. My previous favorite pastime was mountain and road bike riding which I still enjoy but don't do as often. Paddle surfing (or paddle boarding) is really very enjoyable. I've never been on a surf board in my entire life and it took me several days to be able to stand up on one for more than a couple seconds. But I'm proud to say that finally the board has become an extension of my legs and feet. The sense of peace and oneness that I get after about 45 minutes on my board is rather profound and very addicting. The sense of buoyancy and getting my "sea legs" on the board is something that stays with me all day long. Even as I'm sitting at my studio working I still feel the waves and the water gently rocking me from the inside out.

But this blog is really about an experience I had in doing Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Vinyasa Flow Yoga is also something I wouldn't have expected to enjoy as much as I do. Especially since I'm terrible at it and always the person in the class who's least capable of doing the postures and "flow" correctly. All those intense and long bike rides where I NEVER stretched afterwards have caught up with me. Plus I'm the person in the class that sweats the most and always has a completely soaked t-shirt and hair at the end of the class. But the funny thing is that after the class I feel great! My body feels good, my heart feels open, my mind quiet. And sometimes during the class I have moments of satisfaction as I get close to the desired posture and breath. I also enjoy the music they play in class. It's a lot of contemporary arrangements of Bhakti (Bhajan or Kirtan) devotional songs from the Hindu culture of India. They are songs about surrendering one's Self to the Divine or Beloved within and the peace and release that comes from "giving it up" and "letting it go". I find it very refreshing. Some of it is reminiscent of Sufi songs that I knew from an earlier period in my life.

One day this past week we were approaching the end of class just lying on our backs and the instructor led us through some imagery for our minds and bodies and she said to imagine my heart as a seedling. And my mind immediately commented and said inside my head "I've got more than a seedling here in my heart. I've must have at least a middle to full-size plant or even a small tree by now. My God, with all the work I've done in my life, all the music I've created, things that I've done . . . ". And my mind went on for a little while about that, thinking how much younger the instructor was than I and how she must not have considered that some of us in class have been growing that seedling for a while now. And this went on inside my head for a little while. And then I had a surprising thought. What if my heart WAS just a seedling? Do I really want to be attached to all those things (as wonderful as they are)? I could feel the weight of my "deeds" and "accomplishments" weighing down my heart in just thinking about them. Then of course there are also those things that I'm not so fond or proud of in my life that are more obvious burdens to my inner peace. Of course everyone wants to "let go" of areas in their life that cause them stress, or conflicts or situations that were less than fulfilling or successful. But what about those areas that we are proud of?

Again, what if my heart were just a seedling? What about situations and relationships that DO nurture us and seem "successful"? What if I let those go as well? I don't mean "let them go" like, "stop being in relationship" with them. I mean what if every moment, in my heart, I was just this seedling and didn't feel like I needed "cling" and could just breath and be. And as I continued to pondered my heart as a seedling I saw (quite effortlessly) energy, music, people, relationships, creations and life coming through my heart and being set free without any attachment to my heart even as I still loved them and nurtured them.

What if the heart was always a seedling? What if the heart were never more than this innocent, essential, raw potential to grow and blossom into something unique? What if the heart were always in a state of opening, or discovery or birth? I've decided to ponder this often and use it as an image in my daily life and in my spiritual practice, whether it be on my board, in yoga class or being with my family and friends. And I'd like to acknowledge my wife, Gabrielle, for bringing so many new things into my life on a consistent basis that have brought me so much joy and health and a much larger vision and experience of what life has the potential to be.


  1. So the snow has come early here in Ohio and the shorter spans of daylight beckon one to find ways to keep the warmth of life inside to make it through the winter. I teach college and this is the time of year that I have to unfortunately tell some students they just aren't going to pass my class. I dread that part of my job...I, too have started a yoga practice lately (again, I seem to get it going and then somehow life encroaches and I fill that space with something else). Anyhow after reading your blog, the seedling metaphor really resonated with me. I shared it with a couple students when I had to talk to them about their grades. The learning part of the seedling is still there, it just wasn't the season for it to mature just yet. I have to say that it was pretty amazing to talk to them in a metaphor because then they shared about the blocks they have put in their own way, and how they we trying to figure out why they were here and if they still like their major and all these other things that I would not have heard if I did not try with a "mindfulness of the heart" approach to this conversation. It is amazing what happens when we come out of the head and move into the heart. While, I feel like I am always empathetic to the learning process and maturation of the students, your metaphor of the seedling really let gave me a tool to talk with the students about potential and nurturing themselves as opposed to just "making a grade." The reminder to "breath and be" is a great mantra for the winter that can feel choking at times with its darkness and coldness. I listen to your music in the office and at home. In this season of thanksgiving, just wanted to post to say thanks for your music and for sharing your thoughts. As a P.S. ... When I was a little kid, I used to tinker around on the piano and play songs I thought I heard in my head. But to my parents, it was noise and they would tell me to "get out a book and play somethiing real." So last Thanksgiving I gave them one of your CD's and my Mom made the comment that if she had heard you when I was a kid she wouldn't have been so hell bent on making me play all the "normal" songs in the book! Now she's a big fan, too. Isn't that funny how little trees in one's heart can actually blossom in someone else's years later, once you find just the right seed to plant...Happy Holidays and thanks for all your music!

  2. Wow, what a fascinating idea! That makes me wonder what potential our hearts really have. If our hearts are mere seedlings, and we have felt and experienced so much already, then what kinds of incredible things have yet to grow and sprout.
    I suppose there is no end to our heart's potential to grow, since every seed contains infinite seeds within it.

    Great post, thank you!!

    - Chas