Staring at swallows

In my job, I work for 12 days on, and then have two days off and I’ve started taking myself up to a friend’s house in the hills behind the village to treat myself to a couple of days of complete rest. Fasting; long, slow yoga practices that can take all afternoon if I feel like it, with a little nap-break in the middle, formsilver birch skyal meditations, or just sitting watching a bee cleaning itself for 20 minutes. Just giving myself permission to do nothing and seeing what unfolds. Sometimes I read for a bit, then lie and stare at the swallows and wonder when they’re going to migrate north. I let the day unfold as it likes, without feeling compelled to achieve anything in particular. If my day ended up as a 13 hour sleep followed by 11 hours of napping, then so be it. When I first arrived I felt compelled to DO SOMETHING with my days off, as if it would be a waste of life if i didn’t cram activity into my time off and yet these DO NOTHING days are fast becoming the most incredibly rewarding experiences of all.

wheat harvest morocco

image credit luca gargano

I watch four men cutting down wheat in a field. We’re just 5 minutes drive from a surf tourism/fishing village that only got running water and electricity within the last 20 years or so, and up here life continues as it has done for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. A small combine harvester would have the field cleared in 20 minutes, and it will probably take these guys 20 days to do it at the rate they’re working, and that’s OK. They are absorbed in their task, working together, enjoying the beautiful evening air as the sun starts to set and, perhaps most importantly, connected to the earth. And so I watch, and I learn.

Yoga is a whole life practice and I keep having to remind myself of this each time I find myself getting impatient with the process and my consistent inability to be disciplined. Slowly, slowly. LIttle by little is how progress is made. It ebbs and flows like all things… tides, breath, life itself. The journey seems to start with the breath, with listening, with Now. The life-force breathing energy into the lotus flower, so that the next petal can open. Every breath, every moment there is an opportunity to blow right at the flower, to tease the next one open.

Every day is an awakening, every day a realisation. As the levels of wisdom deepen and my understanding increases, as my knowledge simultaneously increases and falls away, and the petals keep unfolding. A flower that is fed by merit; a flower that drinks only the milk of human kindness. If we want the next petal to open we have to feed the plant with our virtues. Foremost must be our patience as all the huffing and puffing in the world won’t force it to open before it is ready.

For someone who used to make decisions for the sake of making decisions, the best bit is that I don’t need to decide anything, I just need to commit to the practice, whichever branch of it I need. Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, Raja, Hatha, Kriya. Yoga postures, meditation, study of the texts, chanting, doing nothing, daydreaming, being there for a friend, floating in the ocean, every minute of it is part of the practice.

And time and time again I feel lost, like I can’t see where I’m supposed to be going and so I have to just keep coming back to the map in my hand, written by those yogis who walked before me, even if they never made it to the summit, just to know you’re on the path is comforting enough.

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