Friday, September 30, 2011


A brahmin once asked The Blessed One:
"Are you a God?"
"No, brahmin" said The Blessed One.
"Are you a saint?"
"No, brahmin" said The Blessed One.
"Are you a magician?"
"No, brahmin" said The Blessed One.
"What are you then?"
"I am awake."

~ Zen Lesson

While I was lying prone in bed last week, I came upon this lesson former yoga teacher training books. I'd first read the quote about 8 years ago, just as I was beginning my R.Y.T. program. I found it to be enlightening, encouraging, helpful and compelling. I was excited to become a yoga teacher! I knew that I'd be "living what I love" in my new career. The extraordinary concept that I could actually get paid to practice yoga, and to share it with others, was still a novel concept to me at that time. I studied the wisdom words by everyone from Moses to the Buddha to Thomas Merton. My program of study was especially wide ranging. Not only did I learn an incredible amount about anatomy, but I also apprenticed in the 15 most common forms of yoga practice. It was both overwhelming and edifying, and unnerving and revitalizing. I had phenomenal teachers and surprisingly nasty ones. I met lifelong friends in my classes, as well those who took competition (in a 'supposed to be non-competitive' atmosphere) far too seriously. Through all of these lessons, over my 8 months of study and practice, I kept coming back to this first lesson: I asked myself if I was "awake". I felt, at that time, that I was. Every cell in my body told me that I was finally waking up from my lifelong trance-like slumber.

Now that I'm older, more jaded and, hopefully, a bit wiser, I've learned how unconscious I am most of the time. My thoughts of being awake, 8 years ago, are laughable in their innocence. What I had envisioned to be a "one time alarm clock moment", even a 'born again' experience, was simply not the case. I think that, regardless of one's religious beliefs or personal practices, the art of being awake isn't a singular event: it's a lifelong goal for which to strive. I can't possible undo decades of absent minded and heedless practice overnight. In our culture of repetition and unconscious habit, it's tough to remain mindful in everyday life. I seem to operate on auto-pilot through much of my day. Before I'm even aware of it, I'd gotten up, made breakfast, gotten the kids to school, taken the dogs for walks, done the errands, paid the bills and even taught a yoga class, all without consciously being aware of these actions. Living mindfully aware, in the present moment, requires a great deal of practice, I've discovered. I tend to get so caught up in daily routine that my sense of being 'awake' slinks into the background.

I'm no longer a yoga instructor. Unfortunately, my surgery last December made that career impossible to continue. However, I have discovered a bit of a tough lesson: even being a yoga teacher did not make me immune to falling into daily amnesia. I often taught six classes per week, in addition to my other 'jobs' as mother and wife and committee member and volunteer. My daily practice and classes simply were added to my 'to do' list. 

It's my hope to find a bit of time each day to "wake up". I'd like to have my reflections and prayers become more than my 'wish list' of 'wants'. I would to get out of bed each morning not just stumbling towards coffee, but as a conscious experience of the new day being the precious gift it is. I truly understand my ignorance of 8 years ago as a wistful enthusiasm. I just hope I can poke that same hopeful, eager, but exhausted woman I was back then. Perhaps in my gentle (or even forceful) nudges to my psyche, I can revivify that former earnestness, but temper it with cautious awareness.

The alarm clock has gone off! I'm awake!  But I'm learning that waking up is easy. It's staying awake that's much more challenging.

1 comment:

sbl said...

Not only profound, but your photos and quotes down the side of the site are wonderful.