Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taking it to the edge . . . and beyond

The yoga paradoxes continue. Yoga teaches us to go to our edge, but not beyond. What is this edge? In a posture, it is the point where "awareness" becomes "pain" (as my teacher so eloquently puts it). Awareness is when you feel the muscles, feel the stretch, feel the strength, feel the core. Pain is where you cannot walk, where you want to cry. This edge is not, however, static. As our practice grows, the edge moves. As our awareness increases, and our bodies adapt, they can go farther. As we recognize our bodies changing, the mind, heart, and spirit follow (or guide - sort of a chicken/egg argument).

I learned this week that there is a huge difference between knowing this in your head and knowing this at the deepest level of the soul. Like many lawyers (and many others who have gone through 20+ years of education), I live my life in my head. That is what I have been trained to do. That is what society teaches us is best. We are taught that just being, doing nothing, these are signs of sloth. We should be more productive. For years, as my yoga practice has evolved, I have spoken often of its benefits, of letting go, being at peace, and breathing. I have spoken of relaxing and the physical benefits that yoga can create. And I have been in acute pain. I hold my tension in my shoulders, and recently it has moved to my leg. Not awareness, but pain. Though my brain was telling me one thing, the ingrained learned responses were doing another, and my body was none too happy about it.

In the middle of class on Thursday, I winced in pain, and the teacher saw it. From across the room, she mouthed, "if it hurts, don't do it." Well, duh! But that is when the light bulb went off. That is when I finally got it - inside my being, not in my head.

What do we prove by going so far? To whom are we trying to prove it? Does showing up at work earlier than everyone else and staying later than everyone else make you a better employee if you are unable to be productive because you are so tired? Is it possible to be productive when you have neglected your body to the point where you cannot even sit through interviews? I once had an interviewer stand the entire interview because his back hurt so much - why would I want to work at his firm? Prior to class on Thursday, I had been less than fully productive at work. Friday, I was a maniac and got more done in one day than I think I got done all week. There's the yoga paradox - when you finally let go, finally give in, the world opens up, and you suddenly have all the time you thought you had lost. My working edge had shifted. I had reached it earlier in the week, but on Friday it moved, and I was able to move, and work, with it.

As I sit here today, the leg has not miraculously healed, and even with my best intentions, the shoulder is still tight. But the pain is subsiding, and the awareness is growing. My personal practice today was slow but nearly without pain for the first time in months. The lawyer in me thinks that I can learn anything by reading about it. I mean, that's what we do as lawyers, we read. The societal American in me thinks that I can be successful by being "perfect" and "productive." The yogi in me knows that neither of these work. On Thursday the yogi pushed its way in a little bit farther. And yes, the lawyer and the societal American started to do better. This is a topic to which I know I will come back often, as Thursday's kick-in-the-butt was just the first of many. But it was still huge. Lest we not forget, "the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step." Until Thursday, I thought I could take that step in my head. Today, my feet are on the ground, and they know which way is forward.

Going beyond my edge did nothing for me except cause me pain. Going to our edge, and being aware of it, is how we grow. It is at the edge that we learn, that we hold steady, that we build strength. Then the edge moves, and we grow with it. Going past that edge causes pain - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This edge is an important place. It is at the edge that we see ourselves at our very best and risk being our own worst enemy. When we learn to recognize our edge, anything becomes possible. In this week of Thanksgiving, I am so very grateful for finally understanding this on a deep, deep level.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, for your support and your comments.

Blessings and Namaste.

© Copyright 2009. Rebecca Stahl. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. The edge is a difficult place to find. In hockey, players are taught to play on the edge, the edge of being within the rules and taking a penalty. In my life, it's about the balance between work and play, whether the play is watching hockey (which I do a lot) or playing golf vs. working. Where does my edge take me? It depends on the needs of my work, the needs of my play, and the needs of my relationships. I have learned that, if I work too hard I can't get enough done and if I don't play enough I am not very good for me or my work. And, if I don't pay attention to my relationships, nothing feels right. Ultimately, I find that the edge is a fine line between taking care of all the things I enjoy, i.e., my work, my relationships and my play.

    Thanks for articulating the importance of that fine line and that edge that is so important.