19 August, 2013

Spirituality through shared experience

Today was Hatha with Jo.

I had no idea class would be with Jo, since the time slot is usually occupied by Patrick. But I was glad this was the way it happened, because I hadn’t seen her in a long time, and it was the right energy for today.

The first half of the hour featured two sets of most of the poses. In an hour class, I know that when this happens there will a compensation on the back half of the class, with many poses being skipped, since the time simply has to add up to an hour, no getting around it. So, while we did two sets of Dancer and two sets of Standing Head-to-Knee, and others, we only did a single set of Side Angle, no Rabbit, no Pigeon, no Hero, no seated stretches. But it was just fine.

The class was reasonably full, but not uncomfortably so. It started off unheated, since they had forgotten to turn on the heat, but that was remedied pretty quickly. Still, starting from a balmy 85 degrees, it never quite achieved the “surface-of-the-sun” climate that often occurs in that room. For that, I was thankful, and I received a fair amount of teasing (well-deserved) from Jo about the heat, given she is well aware of my philosophizing and whining about temperature.

Jo had a few words that landed on me today. She talked about how, in order to love anyone else, or to be loved, we must first learn to love ourselves, exactly as we are today. Not about some future more perfect self. Not conditionally. But now. I thought, and am thinking now, about how to love myself as I am right now. I am not saying that I don’t. But perhaps, how to better love myself. This is the body I have been dealt, and I don’t know what the future holds. This is the mind I have been given, and I don’t know what will be my path from here. Can I find a way to better love who I am now.

The second thing Jo said was that we should take a moment to recognize why we are here. We often hear about setting an intention, or a dedication, or a devotion - whatever way you want to put it. And she noted that we are all here for a reason. “Look around the room, and the class is full. The classes are always full. Everyone is here for a reason.” And, for once, I stepped outside of looking at that mirror as a tool for criticizing or admiring my own body, or for checking out someone else’s impressive rendition of a pose, and I stole a glance in the mirror of about 30 other yogis and yoginis, with their eyes closed, and their hands at heart-center, each of them committed to this same thing. The practice. There might be 30 different reasons why we’re standing there. In that moment, I felt a sense of connection and beauty in this shared experience. I didn’t feel separate.

I don’t know what it is to be spiritual with the kind of certainty as some who attach it to a religion or a god. But looking into the mirror and seeing myself as being in union with 30 others – unity of purpose – even though probably 27 of those 30 people were complete strangers to me – that feels like something I can only label as a kind of spirituality.

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