September 18, 2013

Sitting with the Stillness of Autumn. ~ Claire Wilson

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

~ George Eliot

I love rainy days, they remind me of home. Rainy, grey, British days are one thing we’re famous for.

I’m not talking about the British rain that can last for weeks, but that the occasional rainy day is a perfect thing. As I type, it rhythmically drums against the window, reminding me to take things a little slower, that all things change and that the claustrophobic heat of the past few days has broken.

This rain reminds me that autumn will always follow the summer, and a good day will come along just when we need it most.

Summer is now quietly melting into autumn, a time for reflection and looking inward. The days shorten and the darkness creeps its way in to the late afternoon. Curtains are drawn and fires are lit. We cocoon ourselves against the coming winter with soups, stews, slippers and the warmth of the laughter coming from those gathered around the table.

Autumn has always been my favourite season; the return to school, to routine and friends, seeing the leaves turning the most beautiful shades of orange, red and brown, lighting candles and shutting out the world was always comforting.

This is also the time of year when my mind is naturally drawn more to the fifth and sixth limbs of Ashtanga yoga, Pratyahara, the control and withdrawal of the senses, and Dharana, or concentration. It is not yet meditation, but another step on the path of my yoga journey.

Autumn is the best time of year to refocus on my practice of sitting and breathing. Pratyahara bridges the gap from the external practice of asana to the spiritual inward path. By resisting the desire to constantly react to sensation and distraction we become present in the moment.

“There is only a single moment when we can truly be alive, and that is the present moment. Being present in the here and now is our practice.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

By turning our gaze inward to our emotional and spiritual well-being, we move a little closer to realizing our true Self.

Over the summer my practice of sitting and breathing would be outside, with the birds and the sounds of the garden calming my mind, but as the mornings get colder and darker, I retreat to the place in the house that is just for me, my yoga space. This is my refuge from the chaos and noise of a busy home.

The cold mornings make it much less tempting to climb out of my cozy bed, so armed with a blanket I make my way to my space and I sit. The house is quiet, the children are still sleeping.

These few precious moments before the day truly begins are a time almost magical as they sit between sleep and the beginning of the day. I sit and I am thankful for the day yet to come and that I have a warm and safe place in which I can just be quiet.

This is not easy for me: my mind and I know each other well and we like to chat back and forth. The mind seems to enjoy highlighting my doubts, my fears and insecurities, trying to make me believe that these things define me, that they are me. I am better at sitting after my Ashtanga practice when my body and mind have been stilled by the union of breath and movement as I flow through the asana, but something about these autumn mornings demands that I begin the day in stillness.

In the dark quiet of the room I sit and I bring my awareness to the breath, I slow it down, lengthening my exhalation, matching my inhalation. I set the timer on my phone, but usually it is my son who comes and climbs in my lap and lets me know that the day has begun and there is breakfast to be made and school bags to be packed.

These precious few moments of quiet at the beginning of each day may not seem like much, but they are everything.

They prepare me for the day ahead. Instead of rushing headlong into the morning, this time of stillness can bring answers to questions I may have or problems that needed solving.

They can bring clarity and calm.

And so, in the quiet of the mornings, I sit and I breathe, turning the gaze inward, concentrating on breath, and I know that whatever the day brings I have begun it the best way I know how: by letting my mind know that I will not listen to the seeds of doubt and insecurity it whispers.

Om Bhavam Namah:  I am a field of endless possibilities.

I am me.

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Assistant Ed: Renee Picard / Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Claire Wilson