It’s funny how just when you think you’re finally getting this whole life thing down, something comes along and hurls a curveball you never saw coming and hits you where you’re most vulnerable. Maybe funny is the wrong word.
For me, the past few months has been one, long, obnoxiously extended curveball. For a while there over the summer, I really did feel balanced and whole, like I was ready to take on anything. But as the Zen parable reminds us when we become accustomed to positivity, “It will pass,” and everyday comforts that I once took for granted are now being challenged and threatened.
So where does yoga fit in with this tale of change? Honestly, yoga has become increasingly difficult. It is terrifying to move through the asanas in silence, staring down my greatest fears. There is no escape in yoga. There is no passing scenery, no full contact adrenaline rush, no rules to adhere to. It’s just me, my conflicting emotions, and my fruitless search for solace.
Luckily, however, yoga comes with thousands of years worth of wisdom, and some of that knowledge is tailored especially for difficult emotional times. Yoga encourages openness, and while being open may invite pain, it is also the only way to allow healing wisdom to penetrate the heart. By literally giving up and giving in to the inevitability of impermanence and the possibility of pain, yoga practitioners can use their practice to discover who they really are, where they stand, and what they stand for. Tibetan Buddhism uses the expression “ye tang che” to describe this joyful hopelessness. Translated, it means “completely exhausted” or “totally fed up.” I must admit, I’m there. I’m ready to give up, to give in, and to submit to joyful hopelessness. And I’m terrified.
So today, I need a mudra. I need a symbol, a gesture, something to help me down this path of openness. The lotus mudra seems appropriate here. According to a variety of Buddhist and yogic sources, the lotus flower blooms above the water while its roots remain deep in the mud, making it the perfect symbol of openness, regeneration, and a change from darkness to light. The lotus mudra is achieved by placing the heel of your palms together with the thumbs and pinky fingers lightly touching. The knuckles remain separate, and the fingers open up like the petals of a blossom. This mudra is usually held close to the heart, and I can honestly say that it allows for an openness and expansions that I haven’t found with other mudras. It is beautiful and welcoming and safe.
So here’s to change, and to openness, and to life. And if I’m lucky, just when I’m getting used to personal disaster, “It will pass.”