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Friday, January 8, 2010

Practice. Practice. Practice.

I took my first Yoga class 11 years ago, but have been practicing all my life.  

It started with that first breath and continued, often unnamed & without guideposts, until awareness entered the picture offering a welcome setting to continue the exploration. The breath comes naturally, the mindfulness requires effort.  Yoga and meditation have created a structure within which I may play, learn, practice and grow; learning a basic technique has given me the tools to create a sacred space around myself at any time.

We cry following that first breath of life.  I recall the relief I felt after hearing each one of my newborns release their first sound along with their first breaths.  My response found itself in a sigh, another expression of sound attached to breath.  Joni Mitchell sings, “laughing & crying you know it’s the same release.”   Both are conditions that express emotion while requiring a little extra breath than casual moments.  This is just the beginning of the journey and is often found more in organic expression than mindful moments.

My first and most long-lasting models of warriorship are my parents.  I didn’t realize that’s what they were until I began studying and found the word that best described them.  Warriors.  My father’s unconditional love and non-judgmental perspectives & practices complement the depth of my mother’s unrelenting fearlessness and boundless curiosity.  Both of them are beautiful models of generosity and process-driven-grab-life-by-the-shoulders-and-shake-it-up-ness!  Their collective accomplishments are formidable, but have never derailed them from knowing that we have the capacity to learn as long as we have breath.

Yoga is not the only process we refer to as a Practice.  We Practice medicine.  We Practice Law.  And then there’s the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice. Practice. Practice.”  The implication is a simple and beautiful one, leaving us room to fall and pick ourselves back up; we are human and on an evolutionary path that is not set in cement.  Sometimes the cobbled stone causes us to trip, pause or slow down.  Enter mindfulness.

I had a voice teacher in Manhattan who embodied the essence of mindful practice and warriorship.  His students all seemed transcendent in the warm glow of his instruction.  He taught a very specific technique in a unique style that always left me feeling timeless and totally satisfied.  Again, it came back to sound and breath.  I was never a singer by trade, but he always made me feel like one. He is almost 83 years of age now.  His eight decades of making music and creating creative communities in New York City lays a loving & always relevant hand on all he touches.  No longer teaching voice, he remains timeless and inspires with each breath.  

Looking back at studying acting at NYU/Circle in the Square in the late 1980s reveals something of a Yoga practice.  In our voice class, for example, we regularly moved into Plow Pose and Cobra and focused our minds often on our breath and touching sound.  Being in the present moment was a big part of the acting techniques we were learning.  Many memories like these emerged as my formal Yoga practice began to take flight.  

It was then I realized that Yoga is truly a life-long practice that doesn’t necessarily start with your first steps on the mat or first salute to the sun.  It begins with a spark of awareness and intention followed by action.  All that’s required is to show up, breathe and pay attention.

And along the way ... Laugh.  Cry.  Sigh.

So, how do you get to [insert personal destination/goal here]?


1 comment:

  1. love, love, LOVE this! "Show up, breathe, pay attention." Real life, in a nutshell. Broken down by the most mindful person I know. Thanks for bringing me back to the real deal so eloquently!