Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One big hot room

I am coming to the end of my stay here in Spain. In another few days,  I'll be flying to London – just to get a visa – and then on to Thailand, where I will be studying Thai massage in Chiang Mai for the next few months. This will be quite a change in my environment and in my daily routine. So it is the perfect point to take a step back and reflect upon my time here in the Hondon Valley.

It has been an opportunity for me to look inside, to consider what is important for me, to explore life in a very different way. Living alone in a different culture and in a rather remote location forces one to be self reliant – to see how comfortable it is in one's own skin.

But when I look inside, I don't necessarily like everything that I see.  Don't get me wrong; I like some of it, but not all of it. When I give myself the gift of time, then I like to think that I will use it well. But did I?  I wished I had taken some trips to the north, to the Pyrenees, to Barcelona. But then I consider why I took some trips and not others, and that tells me something about myself. I could have made more progress with my language study; I could have read even more books; I could have written more; and I could have made more inroads into my chess playing. And of course I could have practiced more – that's a given. But then I remind myself to stay in the moment, so I will not permit myself too much time to regret about what could have been!

But I do understand myself a little better: I needed to change my environment so that I could see what would happen. How would I react? Not necessarily in the way that I expected. So my time here, in this different environment, enabled me to learn quite a lot of new stuff about myself. That has been a good thing.

Time to connect some dots: trying out a new environment, stepping out of previous habits or established comfort zones, encourages change. And with change is the opportunity for growth. We don't always take it but nevertheless the opportunity is invariably there. Did I take advantage of all the opportunities for change for me in Spain? The answer is probably no, but I do not regret that. Instead I am grateful for the experiences and the knowledge that I found here – and I am confident for the growth that will follow. I am not sure of the direction where that growth will take me but if I keep my mind and heart open then I am sure that the Universe will shove me in the right direction. I believe in that.

Like breadcrumbs in the forest, those dots lead me back to the hot room, which is a challenging environment by anybody's definition. So is it not reasonable to expect change and growth to follow from every class? Every time that we go into that hot room, we challenge ourselves, not just with the heat and the humidity, but with the discipline of the practice. The discipline requires us to pay attention to the postures, to push our bodies to produce the best on any given day, and to focus our mental capabilities as we breathe and search for that elusive stillness.

We should expect that environment to encourage change – both physically and mentally. We talk much about the physical changes in the body that come from a regular practice, but our mental characteristics are equally challenged. Each class leads us to greater faith in our own capabilities; increased determination as we hang on when our hearts and nerves and sinews are screaming at us (remember Kipling?); extraordinary feats of self control as we hold ourselves in the asanas; better and better concentration as we find ourselves in the mirror, settle back on our heels and breathe; and finally the gift of patience, knowing that our practice and our lives grow in small steps, one slowly forming and then fading after the other, like footsteps in the sand, secure in the knowledge that such growth comes in fits and starts, and never, ever in a straight line. Such is our practice and such is our life.

Maybe I should think of my summer in Spain as having been one big hot room! So I can expect that change will follow on from my time here, but perhaps not in any way, shape or form that I might have imagined. I should have left my expectations at the immigration desk on the way in five months ago – just as I tell students to leave their expectations at the front desk before class. But I know for sure that change will follow, and just like every yoga class I have taken, I don't regret a minute of it!

Next time I write, I'll be in Thailand again. I cannot wait ...