November 11, 2011

“In Between” Is Where It’s At.

Re-Focus, Re-Charge and Re-Balance In Between Your Highs and Lows On and Off Your Mat.

At first, when I had to circumnavigate five gigantic Christmas trees to get to the Halloween aisle to find the finishing touches for my daughter’s costume, I thought it was just a Walmart thing. But it’s not. CVS has two full aisles of Christmas decorations, I glimpsed Santa at the mall, the local shopping center has decorated its lampposts with greenery and lights, and I saw my first Christmas commercial on television last week. Apparently, our merchants have decided to completely skip over the month of November.

I know November is kind of an “in between” month, wedged as it is between two major kid favorites, Halloween and Christmas, but it seems kind of crazy to skip it. In fact, I’ve always felt like November is a perfect buffer between the two holidays. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are a nice window of normalcy between two frenzies. This year, the arrival (finally!) of crisp, clear, fall weather after the torrential rains of September and October’s snow storm, has deepened my affection for this quiet month.

“In between” times don’t get the credit they deserve. Because they’re quieter, calmer, more “regular,” they don’t stand out. But their gifts lie in their inconspicuousness. “In between” times allow us to settle into the rhythm of our days. They allow us to focus on the basics that enrich our lives – family dinners; getting homework done before bedtime; regular exercise; making time to read a good book; low-key gatherings with friends. “In-between” times, when you think about it, are the “meat” of life. It is in these times that our most meaningful living happens.

To be sure, the “mountain peak” times of holidays and vacations are fabulous. These peaks in our years can even serve as motivators to inspire us during our “in between” times. But without the regular life of “in between” times, these peaks would lose their allure. Just as we would soon tire of cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I imagine if we were on vacation all the time, we would soon tire of our holiday “high” and get a little home-sick for real life. Our “in between” times make the peak times of our lives even more enjoyable.

To be sure, the “valley” times of crisis, work stress, illness and even tragedy are profoundly difficult. Interestingly, what we typically yearn for during these challenging times is not a vacation. We yearn, instead, for the quiet routine of our “in between” times. We long for the familiar rhythms of daily life. We crave normalcy. “In between” times can be restorative (and even restful) amidst the highs and lows of life.

I teach and practice a flowing type of yoga where the postures (asana) are linked together by a series of movements called vinyasa. In these vinyasa, we move through a series of three, very familiar postures – low-plank (chaturanga), up-dog (urdhva mukha svanasana) and downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana). Early on in my practice, these “in between” movements seemed like distractions from what I viewed as the “real” yoga – the asana themselves. At that time, I viewed the postures themselves as the peaks and the vinyasa as the valleys of my practice. Like most of us, I craved the peaks and dreaded the valleys!

As my practice has evolved, however, so has my appreciation of these “in-between” movements. Whereas the vinyasa used to feel taxing, difficult and even monotonous, when I practice these days, they feel restorative after the hard work of the asana. They feel like coming home. They feel like a nice window of normalcy between periods of excitement, challenge and high energy. As I move and breathe on my mat, the vinyasa are opportunities to recalibrate my breath, to re-focus my mind, and even to re-balance my body after a deep twist, or backbend or whatever the last asana has required of me. I now see that the “in-between” times of vinyasa allow me to ready myself for the next “peak” (or “valley” – some of these postures are wicked hard!) of asana. Without these “in-between” times, my energy would flag and my mind would wander long before I came to the end of my practice.

Again, my experiences on my mat reflect my life experience. After the sugar-infused ruckus of Halloween, what I’m craving is a little downtime; not the high-octane, ramp up of Santa, stockings and jingle bells. I’m ready for a little decoration-free space in my house. I’m ready for a little routine every-day-life. I need the “in-between” time of November to recalibrate, refocus and recharge my energy. If I don’t get it, if I allow the merchants to lure me into the holiday whirlwind without it, my energy will certainly flag long before Christmas Day arrives. And we can’t have that, can we?

May you each enjoy a peaceful, quiet, routine November!

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