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May 30, 2015

Breathing into a New Moon.

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“Few things are so pressing they cannot wait for a moment of breath.” ~ DKV Desikachar

What does it say about me that getting laid off was like being handed the key to a prison cell?

Once I fled, I found that same key fit the ignition of an old but persistent dream of being a writer. The road ahead was dimly lit.

I gaze up at the new moon, a bright shining sliver surrounded by black. This is how my life feels.

Maybe it’s the tides that shift my perception of the horizon differently from day to day—full of possibility one day, doubt and distraction the next. Distraction springs from a fear of lack: not having enough talent, money, companionship or faith to shine on. Fear rocks my new moon like cold, reckless hands on a baby’s cradle.

I have decisions to make, I think as I walk from my car to the yoga studio. I set up: unfurl my mat, get a strap, blocks and extra cushions (mindful of my cranky back, symptomatic of root chakra issues related to groundedness and security).

Susan, my friend and yoga master, brings the new moon to our attention. She speaks of merging into the fresh rhythms of life. She has just lost her father. I am losing mine.

I flash on a game of Chinese jump rope, kids standing there waiting for the right moment to jump in, nervous about getting in synch with the swinging rope.

We begin by sitting in stillness, just noticing our breath moving in and out. After six years of yoga, my stubborn “get ‘er done” mentality still underestimates the power of simply breathing, relaxing and noticing.

The stress of not knowing what to do next to move my life forward has encumbered my breath. I realize I have been holding it back. After just five deep breaths in and out my mind becomes malleable. I begin to warm to the present moment like some charismatic stranger. Haven’t we met before?

I start to recognize the places in my body that I’ve sealed off to the breath. I close my eyes and breathe deeper. When I worry about the future I forget to breathe. Or is it the other way around? Do I forget the breath, then fret?

Noticing I am still alive offers relief.

I open my eyelids halfway like Garfield after lasagna, fixing my drishti on the flame burning inside a glass votive in front of me. It reminds me of the flame within. First chakra, second? The flickering inside is growing static, rising steadily higher with prana.

We move into asana practice. There are forms I make with my body that send my tongue to the roof of my mouth, furrow my brow and make breathing feel counter intuitive. Eventually I remember to send breath into those places.

It’s like opening a window in a room that’s gone stale. The curtains billow, nodding their gratitude, a white flag of surrender.

Then I begin to move my body into a flow pattern. It feels squeaky at first, like a chew toy under a puppy’s bite. I toss, catch, volley back and forth a few times. Now the mind ceases to rattle in its cage as it’s soothed by the gentle cradling of breath and movement.

It takes effort, control, letting go of control. I begin to expand, a tiny pebble plunked into a pond.

After the dew of exertion visits my skin comes the refuge of child pose. The mind intrudes: this couldn’t come soon enough. I correct: this is right on time. Then I give in, and my mouth releases stuff of the wrongfully jailed prisoner in The Green Mile. I notice the effort of the burn and the silent pull of peace that envelops my huddled mass, yearning to be free.

By the end of class, the arc of my purpose is lit and lucid. I have no sense of fear or urgency. Breathing freely, I go home to write.

Tonight marks another new moon, richly symbolic of fresh starts and the rich mystery of the unknown dark. Astrologists say this is a powerful time to receive and set intentions.

Breathing is the first step toward setting my intentions—not figuring out whether to cash in my IRA, perfect my resume, make networking calls or find a job with benefits.

I don’t have to know this minute what I will do the next minute, hour, day, week, month or for the rest of my life. I am grateful for this eddy on the river. I will lead with the breath and have faith the rest will be revealed as it always is.

I will do the work of my heart, follow my breath, bend and shine like a crescent moon against a limitless sky.

“For 60 years I have been forgetful every minute, but not for a second has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.” ~ Rumi

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Relephant: 

How Important is Modern Asana to Everyday Mindfulness?

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Author: Holly Smith-Berry

Editor: Travis May

Images: Flick/Andy

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