THE EMBRACE OF CHANGE
The threshold between late Summer and early Autumn is the most exquisite teacher on the willingness to participate gracefully in transformation and the art of letting go. As the seasons shift and the days become wrapped in longer nights of darkness, nature calls out for us to quieten, to draw our attention inward and surrender to more stillness. We are reminded to ground, to tune back in and let the dust of the high summer settle. It is in stillness and silence that we can see clearly and connect to a deeper understanding of who were are, where we are and what we need, with the attitude of acceptance.
It is in the dark that the first seeds of new life are created.
Yoga is a process of transformation; if you practice you know this already and if you have stepped into a yoga studio or class, picked up a book or had a conversation about the topic you have most likely heard something on this.
Transformation is an inherent part of the universe; the universe as we experience it, is essentially expressed through what we call spanda, the great pulsation, a constant throb between expansion and contraction. This gives rise from source to creation and ensures dissolution back to into that same source, in a continuous cycle. This pulse makes change the only certain thing. It is happening on both a micro and macro cosmic level, everything that is manifest is shape shifting and metamorphosing with each moment. So transformation is happening inside of us and all around us, all of the time. However, like the journey of the caterpillar into the butterfly, it isn’t a smooth ride and for human consciousness, requires great courage, trust and patience. In order to navigate our way through the winding, often dark path, we must be willing to step into one life long confrontation with ourselves. When we engage actively in the process of transformation and growth, present idea of self start to fall away, even to the point of complete dissolution; desires, ambitions and ideas of who we think we are or will become will burn up in their own flames and crumble to ashes. This can be a colourful ride and not always pretty, but that’s ok. The caterpillar quite literally digests itself into nothing in the darkness of its cocoon before it grows again and emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Inside of the cocoon the transformation process is messy and even gruesome, but the caterpillar does not protest or struggle. Nature ever continuing to teach us grace.
The Autumn trees are perfect examples of this grace; they remain anchored in empty presence and steadiness, witnessing and entirely free from resistance, they don't try to hold on as their leaves fall from the branches. Nature’s great wisdom recognises and deeply honours the cycle of birth and death, of creation and destruction, of abundance and emptiness. Knowing neither is better or worse than the other, it accepts every aspect of this ongoing process as an integral part of existence, part of the great Ananda Tandava, the Cosmic Dance.
Transformation is an unavoidable process which we can resist or embrace and let it teach us the potential to know beauty within each moment. Human life is made of infinite colours and textures, ever changing and morphing from one form to the next, but all equally extraordinary; every experience a reflection of the Divine whole. With this understanding in our hearts, in the height of challenge, even pain, maybe, just maybe we can allow ourselves to feel so deeply that it literally cracks our hearts open. Whether it is raging intensity or ecstatic joy, it makes us feel so alive that we shatter our own boundaries of self and merge with the vastness of the universe; our tears water the earth, our laughter sings to the stars and our breath dances with the winds.
So where does our yoga practice come into play within this dance of creation and dissolution? There are growing studies that give science and facts around neuroplasticity and shifts in the activity of brainwaves and so forth which is helpful to read about and explore but I want to speak more to the embodied experience. I love to think that every time we step onto our mat it is like a micro life cycle that keeps teaching us, over and over. It offers us both a space and the treasure trove of tools through which to self-inquire. Rather than our practice being an escape it becomes a safe space to be deeply intimate with ourselves so that we can face exactly where are now and with that, find our direction and way forward with acceptance and joy. As my teacher Sianna Sherman says, the greatest challenge is keeping the heart open in the face of adversity.
Yoga has the potential to empower us to stay in conscious conversation with life so that we can bring positive change to the world, starting at the very core of ourselves. Our true power arises when we can embrace all the parts of ourself, including those that have been buried, shamed or suppressed. We must give every aspect breath and attention so that they know their home within us, as an exquisite and essential part of our being that makes us who we are. Perfect, unique and extraordinary. We must look our fears in the eye as it is through shining the light of awareness on darkness and on our shadows that we illuminate them and their power is dissolved. We must face pain, inside and around us with the deepest presence and compassion so that there is no heart unheld by love. Pose by pose, breath by breath, prayer by prayer, we can slowly melt down the walls of separation and resistance in our own hearts, between each others hearts and in the collective consciousness. This is yoga in the way of transformation, transformation that integrates and brings wholeness rather than transcendence or hierarchy, that serves and heals, so that we can live SvaTantrya, radical freedom, rooted in our sense of self yet dancing intimately and fluidly within the ever shape shifting weave of life.