Lately, I have found myself in the seat of the teacher more than ever before.
Sitting in front of a room of people, encouraging them to find their breath in order to simply feel what is real, beneath the wandering mind.
I look around at the faces, the bodies and the hearts of those who have come to practice and I grow simultaneously curious and humble; curious about each of the individual stories and array of emotions filling the room and humble that I get to partake in these individual and collective journeys.
The more I teach, the more I question and the more I question, the more I learn. I’m finding that the most powerful parts of the yoga practice, both as teacher and student, are the first and last moments of class; those fleeting moments of stillness and quiet; when we step into the role of the observer, allowing ourselves to land exactly where we are.
Landing—what does this even mean?
I used to consider landing a measure of success on the ice; when I would land a jump it was simply the opposite of falling out of it. Thus, landing was results-oriented and a testament to how well-executed a jump was. Today I see the concept of landing in a very different light. I see landing as the foundation of everything—a necessary skill to cultivate in order to even begin practicing the art of presence.
Before we can even become present to our own lives, we must first ground ourselves in what is real, taking physical, mental and emotional inventories in an effort to notice where we are in order to see where we want to be.
The first and last few moments of a yoga practice are often moments of stillness and quiet for a reason. They are moments that are meant to draw us inward towards our souls, in the midst of the moving world around us and at times, even within us. As we land in our bodies, our minds and our hearts, we begin to notice what we need most. From here, we can begin the most fundamental and significant life practice of all: that of being present.
To land is simply to ground. We ground ourselves in order to grow, root in order to rise.
Letting go of the past and not focusing on the future are not novel concepts invented by enlightened beings or die-hard yogis. We are all familiar with the concept of presence and the benefits that being focused on the here and now can (and does) have on our general well being. However, for those of us with wandering minds, actively working to play catch up to passionate hearts, to “be present” is like saying “go win the lottery”—it sounds fantastic, but is not so simple.
One of the reasons I love the practice of yoga as much as I do is that it is deemed a “practice” for a reason. It undeniably, without fail, pushes us to an edge that forces us to land on neutral ground, quite literally. Standing on our hands isn’t typically mastered right away which is why we begin from the ground up, building strength internally so that mind can not only transcend matter, but so that mind simply becomes matter.
As we land, we lay the foundation to fly.
I frequently think and write about the concept of presence, viewing it as more of an art than anything. In my eyes, like any artistic endeavor, the practice of presence is a consistent work in progress in which we, as dreamers, lovers and thinkers are the artists and creators. We are the ones responsible for cultivating our own masterpieces, and like any artist, we must begin with a blank slate, an empty canvas. A dedicated musician takes raw emotion and translates it into melody—one lyric, one note, one string at a time.
The greatest of art forms—the novel, the painting, the song— they all start from somewhere, usually rooted in emotion, going on to build depth, color and meaning.
To land physically is to simply ground and be still.
To land mentally is to become the observer of our own thoughts rather than one who reacts.
To land emotionally is to energetically feel all that arises in the center of stillness and in the midst of movement.
Landing is less about completing and more about beginning. It holds no promises and certainly is far from comfortable; this is why the healing practice of meditation is considered a skill that must be worked at with great discipline. Sitting in stillness and landing in nothing are like open invitations to receive all the things our minds, bodies and hearts actually need most.
Landings are not always graceful and smooth; sometimes it takes longer to land than expected, and sometimes we go through an entire yoga practice or an entire day without truly landing or grounding ourselves. This is what it feels like to go through the motions, and we all do it from time to time. But until we actually land where we are, as we are, we can’t get to where we want to go or become who we want to be.
Therefore, presence is a dynamic practice and process of beginning over and over again; landing, flying, falling and landing all over again…
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Queen Yuna at Flickr