May 3, 2011

A Gardener’s Take on the Growth and Maturation of a Yoga Practice.

As our practice deepens, our youthful, excitable hopes evolve into steadfast, secure trust.

In the last week or so my gardens have really sprung to life. Tiny peony pips have become lush, eighteen-inch plants laden with perfectly round buds. The bleeding hearts in the corner garden are hanging with their pink and white blossoms. Out of nowhere the lungwort in the rock garden is enormous and vibrant with its speckled leaves and purple and pink flowers. The delicate columbine that I so love have proudly shot up and are starting to bloom. The slightly overgrown lilac that I forgot to prune last year is even taller and heavy with its fragrant, lilac flowers. The hydrangeas climbing on the garden shed have gone from a bare tangle of branches to full leaf, as have the trees all around our yard.

While the drama of the blooms and the pace of the growth are exhilarating, what thrills me even more are the days when the perennials first begin to poke their little heads up from the earth. You see, I’ve been creating my perennial gardens for about ten years and I’m still never quite sure what will come back to me each spring. There are certainly faithful old friends who return to their spots year after year — the astilbe, the fern, and the hosta in the shady, damp corner; the Eva Calum flox and the iris around the birdbath. But each year I fill in holes with something new. This year I’m experimenting with something called Obedient Plant and balloon flowers. While it will be fun to have them this year, I’ll have to wait and see if they feel at home enough here to come back next spring.

Whether the plants I purchase “survived” to return another year used to be a point of great concern for me. My high hopes for having a beautiful, self-sustaining flower garden created some worry. “Would I buy the right plants?” “What if this one died?” “What if I didn’t like the way this one mixed in?” Over the years in my garden, however, my hope has evolved into trust. I no longer worry about what will come back. Instead I patiently check the ground all through April waiting to greet my old friends. I now know that they’re coming. I may not know who exactly will show up or when, but I know – I trust — that I will once again get to reap the joys of my years of planting and playing and trying new things.

It occurs to me that a yoga practice evolves in much the same way as a perennial garden. (Though, thankfully, it doesn’t take as long to get established!) Each time we step onto our mats we are tending our practice. Often without our awareness, we find that certain postures feel just great to us and become regular fixtures in our practices. At the same time, again often without any conscious decision on our part, some postures will simply stop returning when we practice. Maybe they are a little out of reach for our bodies right now. Maybe they are uncomfortable. Maybe we just don’t understand them yet. Because they quietly fade away, we may not even miss them or ever understand why they didn’t work. That’s OK. It really doesn’t matter. Our practice remains rich and filled with postures that are benefiting our bodies, minds and spirits.

As our bodies open to become more flexible, we try some new postures or go deeper into old favorites. Just like a trip to the garden center, we go to class. Every once in a while we’ll “splurge” and come home with a posture that caught our fancy. It could be that we’re trying a posture again that didn’t work before. It could be something brand new to us that looked like it would feel great. Who knows?!

As time passes in the gardens of our practice, we discover a rich mix of consistency and surprise. As our experience in the gardens of our practice deepens, we watch our youthful, excitable hopes evolve into steadfast, secure trust. As we become rooted and attached to the gardens of our practice, we discover that our anticipation of growth is as satisfying as a fully leafed out, brightly blooming plant. As we mature, we begin to relish the fact that we can be deeply curious and, at the same time, totally confident in what will work for us – either today on our mats or this spring in the flower beds. We may not know what is coming, but we are one-hundred-percent certain that it will be wonderful.

Each time we come to our mats can be like a walk through a garden in the springtime. Enjoy the discovery of how your garden is growing and blooming. Relish the fact that this spring’s garden will be unlike any other garden you’ve had or will have. It is precisely the perfect garden for right now — and it is beautiful.

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