"Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself." 

- paraphrased from Bhagavad Gita

The topic of aging has surfaced again thanks to teacher and Ashtangi extraordinaire, David Garrigues. Today my thoughts are ever more focused, largely a result of his post a few days ago.

When I started this blog, I had hoped to get answers and clarity about aging, life, and yoga by way of comments and discussion here. If I knew what others were feeling and experiencing, perhaps I could better understand my experience; however, answers have not appeared! And even if hundreds of us had discussions here, I would have still realized this: it is not (entirely) possible to find/know Truth outside myself.

I am the expert—as we ALL are experts of our own bodies, hearts, and realizations. So this is what I know is true about aging, yoga, and life (same things!): resisting and denying the inevitable is just as useless as TRYING not to resist and deny. In an odd way, energetically they are the same thing.

Does that make sense? One of my teachers always says: let everything be as it is. This gentle guidance results in a sense of freedom and peacefulness for me. It encompasses everything—enjoying life and even resisting life (and aging). If you fight it some days and love it other days, observe it and enjoy it either way.

And here's another discovery: there is a huge anxiety and fear about aging out in the world that most of us automatically support. A big part of it is trying to hold on to things as they are now. But listen—yes! things are going to change because they are always changing and always have been

If every moment is approached with a beginner's open, non-judgmental mind, and with awareness, all will be well. The truth is: there is no better or worse or progress. Such words are weighted with an inherent sense of judgement and comparison, and words such as "dissolution" and "death"—are understood almost universally with an unconscious negativity. However, they can be neutralized by substituting CHANGE in their places allowing us to experience curiosity and acceptance about what IS. 

Take your practice, these and all words/thoughts with mental lightness, be curious, and enjoy! Not only will your practice be joyful, your life will be beyond beautiful.

Have I been able to do this every day all day?   NO! 

Sometimes I am like this: 

Sometimes inside a transparent shell and  led by conditioning:

Obsession, M. Roland

Sometimes, all prickle and no sign of me:
Car from movie "Mad Max: Fury Road"

What stays the same is the observing and enjoying. It's fun to "fluff my aura" (words of yet another teacher) and get all exhausted trying to get a pose, feeling frustrated, angry or successful about whatever, or ranting about age. Underneath, it feels like a game, a bone thrown to ego to make it feel like it's accomplishing, feeling, and changing things. 

Where I'm at in my practice and life at the moment is a willingness to be on the edge, to think and act big  because what have I got to lose?  What am I waiting for? Nothing! As Karen Cairns, who is close to my age, has said, she has learned to live with uncertainty. Me too! (And the fact is ALL of life is uncertain.) 

And it's crept up on me, but I have also learned to tolerate the consequences of being myself! 

metta! metta! metta!

David Garrigues' Facebook page with comments on aging

I'm going to include below a lovely statement by Mary Taylor (Richard Freeman's wife)  about Ashtanga (substitute "life" for Ashtanga words) and aging. She says it with such grace!

But a fundamental reason we practice is to bring deeper and subtler levels of awareness to the body, mind and emotions on a daily basis. A foundation of the practice—beyond the particular poses we might be practicing—is watching changes within these fields of experience, and catching oneself sooner when the mind is “being lazy,” when we’re believing our presuppositions rather than observing what’s actually arising, when we’re trapped by samskaras or overrun by the obstacles that are constantly tossed in our path. Our minds all have one part of them that wants to rationalize its way out of practicing—that can convince us it’s hopeless to adjust alignment or take a second look with a teacher at a persistent injury or mental state that is blocking the path that might deepen our insight. 
So as you age you may find it harder to do certain poses like you’ve always done them, to move so swiftly through the forms as you did 10 years ago, or that you are actually feeling lazier than you used to. All that’s good to see and to work with, with a sense of kindness and curiosity within the context of breathing, and an integrated practice. Once you’re hooked, (and 12 years counts) yoga is with you forever—it’s already ruined your life! Short answer: Always look again.


my brother wants hot chocolate


It's Sunday, at last a quiet moment to reflect.

But on what? Events and emotions feel so densely compressed these days, they cannot even be observed. Maybe if opened, peeled apart, inspected one at a time, the truth/beauty in them can be seen.

On the surface, it all looks manageable. Went to California and attended a remarkable retreat where I experienced wordless and unmoving silence, a vast nothingness (that was something); did my yoga practice every day; meditated with and beyond sleepiness for the first time (hooray); and enjoyed good food and cold Tahoe weather. At the end when retreatants "re-entered" the world, I felt sadness because I had no one to hug(!) and because my heart was already breaking from family stuff. 

There was no savoring the small satoris. In Woodland my brother was lying prone in a bed at the far end of a darkened room he shared with two other men whose TV's were at shout volume. His curtained cubicle contained a hanging TV, an old, beige land-line phone, and a table that swiveled to and from the bed, which offered cookies, books, and a pee-bottle. In the corner, behind a wheelchair was a window with blinds pulled down. Black butterflies adorned an event calendar pinned to a framed cork board, and below it, was a note written in block letters:


I started to cry. How could this be? My brother here in this strange place, alone, apparently dying? But this was not about me. My brother has always been indifferent to surroundings, clothes, material things, and appearances. Underneath an unhappy, "difficult" (in the extreme) nature was/is a loving, charismatic man with a monk's focus  toward the world. He had in fact, wanted to become a monk and entered the Christian Brothers Order his third year of high school. Believing that he was too young to make such a decision, our parents  insisted he abandon this life choice. I have wondered without assigning blame, if part of the source of his problems was that parental interference. Of course, who can know where other paths might have led? 

We talked. I cried. Was he happy? What did he think of dying and being in hospice? How was he feeling? I trimmed his overgrown and neglected beard and mustache. I brought him pen and paper; held his hand (while sitting in the wheel chair moved from the window corner), watched him eat overcooked zucchini, ignore a slab of pizza, and experience physical pain; I showed him emails from our cousins, pinned up a drawing from his granddaughter, and true to my conditioning, tried to fix things—things that cannot be fixed.

He is very sharp minded and tough. I believe it will be a while before he leaves. His family and everyone are doing their best for him and for themselves. 

All is as it should be. Even deep deep heartache.

Is there anything more powerful than birth and death? Love is too small a word. 

And yes, this too is yoga.


Got to add these 2 beauties again

by Jean Valentine

In blue-green air & water God
you have come back for us,
to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us & I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.
But nothing that comes now, after,
can be like before.

Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms,

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us

wherever we are then.

I want to look at death
with eyes like my own baby eyes,
not yet blinded by knowledge.
I told this to my friend the monk,
and he said Want, want, want/

from a poem by Chase Twichell