‘Tis the season of getting schooled by Mother Nature…
Take Saturday night, for example. I arrived home from a delightfully kooky vegan Friendsgiving with yoga pals old and new, manifested a killer parking spot by saying it would happen, and prepared a cup of steaming mint tea before bed. I did this because it’s a nightly ritual, but I also needed to hydrate after two glasses of a fermented vegan beverage made from grapes (also known as wine). Boyfriend drove: yes, 2 glasses makes this gal tipsy. No, I’m not vegan, not far from but not one for labels either.
The weather snapped something fierce in Boston last week, and the wind blew hard outside. A few gusts seemed to signal something bigger than an average blustery night in late November, and I looked outside to see what I could see.
What I saw was something I’d never seen before: a giant tree falling in the dark, in mid-air. I heard it too, the hollowed sound of something irreversible. I’ve seen plenty of trees downed after the fact by weather, from hurricanes in warmer months, Nor’easters in colder ones, but I’ve never seen a massive tree plummet from the sky like a make-believe game onto cars looking like the matchbox variety.
I dropped my teacup on the floor. I ran out to the deck. Thankfully, no one was hurt. No one in any of those now crumpled cars. No one taking out the trash or sifting through it for cans. No one walking home late from a bar, reflexes a little slowed from a fermented vegan beverage made from grapes, and unable to dart out of the way quick enough.
True, the wind was strong. But, I have to believe that Mother Nature’s hearty smackdown was less about the elements and more about the tree. It must have been old, possibly decaying. Surely it was brittle and inflexible. It figured being big and imposing was powerful enough; it learned otherwise.
The metaphor for yoga is too perfect. Yoga is all about flexibility– but not in the way that we think. Not in the way we see in magazines and social media. It’s not about toe-touching and twisting, though that’s certainly part of the practice. It’s about bending with life’s gusts. It’s about yielding at the right times. It’s about knowing and using our roots, especially after yogis have a handle on the physical practice. Living in a pose for 5-10 breaths is nice, but the purpose of yoga is to live in your life. You live in the environment of your own mind every second of every day. And, the climate better be friendly in there, if you intend to live well.
Which is why I’m grateful to this tree, and maybe its image captures something for you, too. When the grocery store runs out of canned pumpkin, think of it. When you feel the gusty, hard tug of traffic, travel, an old family tension, a new loneliness because someone is missing from the table this year, judgement for yogis who eat turkey, judgement from yogis who don’t: relax your branches and steady your roots. Life when it’s balmy and bright; the parking spot available, the tea hot; and life when it’s bitter, cold, and blustery; the long walk, the hard conversation: we must learn to bend, to be nimble, to make our hearts and minds as flexible as our hamstrings.
There are plenty of things about life that aim to knock us over, snap our rigid perceptions and branches, and uproot us. The purpose of yoga, in all its forms, is to return us back to center, learn compassion, and keep our roots beneath us.