Mindbodybrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current trainees, Nick Dill, in which she he draws a connection between a recent class with TaraMarie Perri, and a passage from Pema Chodorn's The Wisdom of No Escape.
In a recent yoga class with TaraMarie, she talked about an idea that really stuck with me. She began practice by stating that we are between seasons and therefore caught in the energies of both summer and fall. We are anticipating the coming fall months with all that they bring – weather, learning, and change. Yet, we still hold onto the energy of summer. She encouraged us to be totally present within this transitional period and take each step one at a time. She then guided us through our practice using this idea of presence. Many of her ideas reminded me of the writings by Pema Chodron in The Wisdom of No Escape. In her writings on meditation, Pema emphasizes the essentialness of staying present in the practice. TaraMarie, too, emphasized this idea during class, and also to keep in mind presence throughout our daily lives.
After gently reminding us of this transitional period and all that it brings, TaraMarie started class by bringing awareness to the breath. While guiding us through this practice, she asked us to notice if we were leaning forward, exemplifying our anticipation toward the coming season. This encouraged us to find proper alignment in our spines in relation to our pelvic floor while sitting cross-legged. It allowed me to “lean back” into the proper alignment of this asana and notice how my body was reflecting my mind. I discovered that I am anticipating the future, yet I’m stuck in my summer energy. I wasn’t fully present in my practice or in my life, and my body was a direct mirror image of these unconscious and conscious thought patterns.
After beginning my practice with these ideas in mind, I noticed that each and every pose could relate to being stuck in between, as we are during this transitional period. While in warrior two, we were reminded that our back leg is rooted in the past, what we know. The front leg juts into the future and the unknown. Yet, our torso, our mind, and our heart center are perfectly balanced between the two. Even in our own bodies we can find the balance of energies and the stability of that balance. Our anatomical structures find this presence between two opposing forces, so we just have to focus our minds to be present as well.
We ended class by doing handstand prep, and I felt this idea of presence culminating in the posture. We spent the first hour or so of class finding the present, and finding the anatomical balance between two opposing forces. During this asana, we found neutrality. We no longer had opposing forces pulling us in two directions, toward the past (back-body) and toward the future (front body). We were completely vertical, aligned and balanced. We focused our minds to become present and we then rewarded our bodies by finding the natural energy of being vertical – neither inclined forward or pulled back, but perfectly present in that moment.
This class reminded me of a passage in The Wisdom of No Escape when Pema discusses letting go. The idea of meditation is to let go and be fully present in the moment. Pema spends an entire chapter on working with precision, gentleness, and letting go. She states that “precision and gentleness are somewhat tangible…but letting go is not so easy. Rather, it’s something that happens as a result of working with precision and gentleness.” I truly found that within this class. We spent the entire class working through the postures with precision and gentleness, and it all culminated in a total presence for me. The precise and gentle work had allowed me to finally let go. It was a very awakening experience for me to be completely and totally present in that moment by letting all other things escape from my mind.