A few weeks ago, on August 20, I read the news that BKS Iyengar, the renowned Indian yoga teacher and founder of the Iyengar Yoga tradition, had died at age 95. Immediately I was brought back to the many memories I have as a result of his teachings. My first California yoga teachers were trained in the Iyengar tradition. In their classes I was exposed for the first time to silent meditation and chanting. I remember as a student just managing to tolerate these first few minutes of ritual as I waited for "the real yoga class" to begin. What could these Sanskrit sounds possibly have to do with my physical strength, flexibility, and fitness, which is why I did yoga (or so I thought)? As soon as I read the news, I went to my bookshelf and pulled off my well-worn copy of Iyengar's book, Light on Life. Nearly every page is marked and notated, evidence of the way I used to read as if every book were homework that I would have to write a paper on someday.
The pages that the book fell open to were about extension and expansion in yoga poses. How when we reach and stretch, we often only think about the point to which we are trying to reach, but we forget about where we are reaching from. And as I pondered this, I realized that no matter how far we are trying to stretch, we are always reaching from where we are now. From the center of our being.
How often do we check in with how we are as we are doing something?
With the completeness of our focus on the outward gaze, how skilled are we at really seeing the inner place we are always reaching from? Do we know this place? Do we know how it feels? Do we really know it as it is NOW, or do we know it as a memory, a snapshot of some previous moment in time, or some interpretation created by our judging mind? Do we only see what we think other people are seeing - some image of how we're supposed to look?
Developing clear inner vision, and the capacity to really see where we are reaching from, is the core practice of being present. In the years since I started yoga practice, I have been exposed to many more forms that give the body, mind, and soul the opportunity to be together in harmony - improvisational music, whole body listening, Breema bodywork, to name a few. When this harmony is happening, we have the opportunity to see the world within our true selves. When we practice seeing into our true selves, we begin to know more and more where we are reaching from in any moment, even as we continue to reach toward something else.
Each day since Iyengar's death, I have read a few pages of the book again. I am grateful for the life he lived that enabled him to write those words on the page. And I feel gratitude for the life I am living that enables me to understand the meaning of those words beyond the page.
Where are you reaching FROM? And how can you practice seeing your true self with inward-looking eyes?
Join me in the Energy Gardeners' Club for some practice with the support of nature, sound, art, and a circle of safety and encouragement. Starting next Tuesday, September 9th in Half Moon Bay.