Mock palm trees & mocktails

By Jana Hill
Yoga Instructor

It is nearing spring but it feels like winter. A mix of snow and rain are dropping heavily on newly emerged crocus petals, causing them to droop. It is as if the sky is writing a poem about the year: rain mixed with snow, chilling a sometimes sunny season, in a year full of unraveled ends and new beginnings.

Life has categories. Home. Family. Friends. Work. Mental endeavors. Memories. Hopes. Plans. Events. Politics. Problems. Those categories create a mental buzz that is at times hard to slow, and harder to pause. I work sometimes to meld it all into a singular, continuous set of moments. At times, one category is up, one is down. One part is running smoothly, the other is in need of action.

Often, I stand solidly in the middle of it all, panning with an inventory-gaze then a nod, before moving on to the next to-do. Sometimes I apply effort to parse it, and figure out what is next, because intention shapes the moments to-come.

Sometimes I just take a moment to gaze at the “palm trees.” On my Island, there are mock palm trees outside of the studio where I teach yoga. I suppose they have some technical name, but I don’t really care what that name is — they look like palm trees. It is Sunday, and today I taught a combination flow-and-Yin to my most joyous student, who I once held in my arms as she played tug-o-war with my hair, then attempted to bite my nose. In the background I can hear a booming voice that sounds much like a grown man, but isn’t. I recall his first kick, issued at the interior of my bellybutton.

Today, I made the day a pause.

At times, my roles spin and I get that sensation of perpetual motion, without a pause. Other times one, a pause within a moment can be so intense it creates a bubble; as if an invisible circle is being drawn around my “now,” just to demonstrate how imperative that moment truly is.

There will never be another “now.”

On this Sunday, I sipped a mocktail of apple cider and ginger ale, that the joyous student has made, just for me. It is a day full of nothing remarkable, and remarkable in just that: its silence and its calm, all playing out on an Island with “palm trees.” It is cold, snowing, and muddy outside. But that really doesn’t matter. Unremarkable days can parallel a tropical paradise, if you just give that “now” your full attention.

In my yoga classes, we have been working the pause: in the breath, and in the poses. In one moment, then the next, we watch a freeze-frame of “now.” Partial entry to DownDog. Pause. One more phase into the pose. Pause. In the pose fully, scan, pause. Inhabit it. Live it. Breathe.

Practice pauses on the mat and your brain chemistry and body-memory will react off-the-mat. Living now-by-now, one-moment-by-one. Pausing as a punctuated end of a moment; parsing out a section of life that is palpable and more finely viewed. Better defined. A beginning to a breath. An end to a breath. Some sort of order to the chaos of life.

My past  year has been full of pauses — some that I saw, others I missed. The human mind is dismissive and racing — we apply steadiness and calm, with practice. My past decade had even more moments that raced by and filled the world I perceive. Not all moments were invited and embraced — some were ones I would have liked to avoid. I have, like many other people, watched both moments and people come and go. Tried to experience more than mourn. Tried to solve more than fret. It has led me to a revelation of what I am doing in yoga: We are handed a myriad of choices — we flow with life or we fight it. No one answer is right for every moment. Courage is defined by knowing which choice to make, at which moment.

Life cannot always be calm. We practice so that we’re steady, knowing when to surrender and when to fight.

I can’t always see the moments with pristine clarity, like I did this Sunday. But I come back to  yoga again and again, knowing that The Practice is fierce: a daily cultivation toward a mind that lives every moment to its fullest. Yoga switches on intuition and satya, and daily practice keeps it on.

I find my moments both louder and more quiet, with yoga as my constant passenger. I hope you do too. Now go find your pause, in your moment and in your pose. Go on vacation today — sip a “cocktail” and live among the “palm trees.”

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