On the flight home from Bangalore with our precious Huli kitten, I had sneezing attacks that made my ribs ache. By the last part of the 48 hour journey, I was unable to breathe through my nose and had experienced exactly zero minutes of sleep. I was acutely miserable.
On long flights like this one, 10-hour and 8-hour legs, I usually escape the excruciating hours by watching movies punctuated by brief interludes of sleep. Sleep certainly wasn't happening, and to my dawning horror, the video monitor in front of me wasn't working either.
Locked into seatbelt misery, I was forced to do something I would never have done otherwise: examine rather than avoid. I watched and counted breaths, observed their quality and length, noticed the degree of blockage in my nasal passages and its fluctuations. I felt my parched mouth, nose dribble and tickle before a sneezes.
And in doing so, consciousness shifted and the hours passed.
One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here. - Pema Choden
On the yoga mat or off, I think there is also running away in trying to do one's practice well instead of doing the practice.
(For me) like the awareness change in the plane, there is on the surface a subtle difference with a significant internal shift.
During Mysore and led classes in India, I had been experiencing a humiliating wobbling, losing balance and bad form in pada-hasta-gustasana. (Standing hand to foot pose) and my usual dread of urdva dhanurasana (backbend) with good form but no results (standing up from drop back).
When mind is focused on success or failure—striving, an activity lacks its essential joy.
Then I missed a class due lack of sleep.
Came back—somehow it was with a blank mind—and I simply did the practice. From the outside I doubt if my practice looked any different that day, but it felt vastly different. Honestly accepting, being, and doing what I am without trying to be or do, was bliss. Practice was easy, enjoyable.
I'm going out today! I expect it to be a strange and novel experience. One of the perks of faraway travel is that when going and returning, everything is seen with new eyes. It is also ironic that I've been sick in bed for 30 hours with an upset stomach and flu symptoms—not in India but here!! I will also eat something this morning. Hooray!
I might add that sleep has been a wonderful escape from the discomforts of being sick. But in the event all escape routes are blocked—awareness is always there!
Grace, Gratitude, Metta!
And this too is yoga!
Weaving yoga into everyday experience is the goal. When we can blur the lines between practice and daily life we are moving in the right direction!
- David Swenson