05/08/2016

Touching Bottom & Talking to Stars



It was Savasana that sealed the yoga deal for me.

It is a running joke now, before a yoga session, that we just want to skip straight to lying on the floor. On some days we do actually start in that pose, before coming back to it at the end, and the quiet sigh of relief or amusement that ripples through the room makes me chuckle. Savasana or “Corpse Pose” is definitely the best part of the hour, except maybe when a new, particularly funny and twisty pose is introduced. It provides an opportunity to do absolutely nothing except acknowledge that you’re here, in the moment, and that you’re OK. It is also the one constant feature of the sessions, however difficult it has been *I’m looking at you plank*. It is always eventually time for Savasana. (More philosophically ... it's literally eventually time for Savasana for us all ... unless you're planning to be cremated in which case this analogy is useless to you and I apologise for its poor construction!)

There is an element of guided meditation to the pose, a process of asking each part of the body to release tension so you feel rooted to the floor and perfectly at ease. I'm naturally suspicious of anything vaguely religious or spiritual but I'm 100% willing to give meditation a pass. Even so, I usually zone out a little after the limb by limb guided relaxation part, allowing my thoughts to gently drift. In one of my recent sessions though, my teacher had calmly talked us through the process of asking the body to relax and went on to say something very simple, “most of the time where we are is OK, it’s not so bad” and this stuck with me. I opened my eyes and gazed upwards, to the roof of the scout hut where we practise. Coloured bunting, like prayer flags, were strung across the rafters and I considered the truth of what she’d said. I was warm, healthy, loved, and lying comfortably on a wooden floor, in a lovely city surrounded by green hills and under a gorgeous blue sky. More than that, in this absence of action, my anxiety had not begun to creep through my nervous system. The worries were there, but somehow just … unimportant.


You may have heard of the pseudo fact that if a shark stops swimming then it will drown. This is not necessarily true but, as a metaphor, it appeals to me. I know so many people who say “I have to be busy” or “I can’t just do nothing”. Whenever I hear that though, there is a warning siren that goes off in my head. You can't always be busy. What happens when you are forced to stop swimming? Are you afraid you will drown?

I have never felt the need to always be swimming. I have always been confident of my resilience, it has been tested more than once and I have never been scared that I might not actually be able to cope with something. Lying there on that floor, I realised with relief that I’d finally come full circle back to this understanding of myself and I felt like me again, not the mess of a person I'd become. Whilst I’d been thrashing about trying to keep my head above water, afraid I was drowning for the first time, all I needed to do was put my feet down and touch bottom. Yes, I had been hurt and yes, I'd probably totally lost someone that had been valuable to me, but it was out of my control and that was OK.

Things aren’t so bad and anyway, constantly worrying about things you can't control is boring as hell.

I’ll leave you with a poem that has been a favourite of mine for years, and which generally reassures me.

Good Timber by Douglas Malloch 

 The tree that never had to fight 
For sun and sky and air and light, 
But stood out in the open plain 
And always got its share of rain, 
Never became a forest king 
But lived and died a scrubby thing. 

The man who never had to toil 
To gain and farm his patch of soil, 
Who never had to win his share 
Of sun and sky and light and air, 
Never became a manly man 
But lived and died as he began. 

 Good timber does not grow with ease: 
The stronger wind, the stronger trees; 
The further sky, the greater length; 
The more the storm, the more the strength. 
By sun and cold, by rain and snow, 
In trees and men good timbers grow. 

Where thickest lies the forest growth, 
We find the patriarchs of both. 
And they hold counsel with the stars 
Whose broken branches show the scars 
Of many winds and much of strife. 
This is the common law of life. 

I'm off to hold counsel with the stars, also known as sitting in a riverside beer garden, eating and drinking with friends. [Edit: Such a beautiful evening and check out this sign! Truth!]


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