Thursday, March 17, 2011

Presence of a Mountain

In the last post, I discussed the difference between living in disaster mode, as lawyers are often required to do, and living in the present, lest we create disasters within ourselves. Talking about being present, however, is different than being present. In theory, it is easy to discuss, but how do we do it?

On my Facebook page, I have a daily weekday tip, and each week has a theme / intention. This week’s intention is “remaining present.” On Wednesdays, we focus on an asana that exemplifies the week’s intention. This week’s asana is Mountain Pose or Tadasana.

Like trees, mountains have a lot to teach us, and mountain pose embodies the attributes of a mountain. Mountains are often created by earthquakes and volcanoes, the very environmental situations dominating our lives these past few weeks. The Southern Alps, running across New Zealand’s south island, have been created by the coming together of the Pacific Plate and the Indo-Australian Plate, which lie along the Pacific Rim of Fire, which has been causing all the recent activity. At any moment, these plates can create another earthquake moving the mountains and changing their structure.

But when the plates are not moving, the mountains just exist. They majestically rise up, holding steady, looking strong against the sky. While I have no research to back up the statement, I would argue that most people are awed by mountains. From Mt. Olympus, where the Greek Gods lived, to Mt. Sinai upon which Moses was provided the Ten Commandments, mountains hold a strong place in our lives and our collective stories.

In many ways, tadasana could be described as a simple pose and not very physically demanding. It could be described simply as standing. It is, however, like so much of yoga, not about outward appearance; it is about what is going on inside. Tadasana is about finding the inner strength of a mountain and rooting down through the feet, feeling deep into the Earth and then lifting the crown of your head up, straight above the spine, like the peaks of our grandest mountains. It is about finding grace and strength, all while “simply standing” and being present.

Interestingly, our greatest lesson of Tadasana may come from English. In English, “tada” is what we say when we want to call attention to something, to create fanfare but also for accomplishment and pride. It is a word of presence, of becoming present to the extraordinary. Thus, in an interesting play on words having nothing to do with mountains, the English explanation “tada” is about presence, and Tadasana, Mountain Pose, is about bringing us to the present.

Tadasana has one more purpose. It is a posture of its own, but it is also the posture from which all standing postures begin and to which we return after each standing posture. It is the place where we regroup, find our breath, and find our center. No matter where we go, whether it be a sun salutation, a balance posture, or a warrior sequence, we come back to the steady concentration of the mountain. When we are on the mat, tadasana is our home, it is our sense of presence.

Tadasana, therefore, can bring us back to the present moment at any time. We can invoke the power and grace and majesty of a mountain. No matter how scattered and crazy life gets, the mountain just gets more stable. It reaches higher to the sky with each shake of the underlying tectonic plates, and it becomes even more beautiful to view. We can embrace this power when we feel scattered, when we feel like the world is falling out from beneath us. In that moment, we can tune in, be present, and rise up like the mountain and say, “tada” I am here, I am strong, I am present.


© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved
This blog is not affiliated with Fulbright or Fulbright New Zealand, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

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