Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stop and Smell the Flowers - The Practice of Slowing Down

I was contemplating what I wanted to do for this weeks post, when inspiration came to me from an unlikely place: Lolly-knitting Around

When was the last time you slowed down? Have you noticed how much we rush from place to place? We buzz from work to home to the kids soccer practice to the grocery store to the cabin to the meeting to the kids piano practice to the luncheon to the relatives to Target to walk the dog to...

STOP! Take a BREATH! Take two! In fact! Take several!

One aspect of yoga is the state of slowing the mind down, but the question arises, how can we slow the mind down if the body is running on automatic? Personally, I think the two go hand in hand.

Point of observation: I spent a lovely weekend up in Grand Marais doing a bit of hiking and hanging out. Nothing encourages hanging out more than when you are camping and it is 52* and raining. Thankfully, we were in a camper. One has a cuppa hot tea and perhaps another, you play some cards, contemplate the fog, read a book, let the dogs out to piddle and have another ‘cuppa. Life. Slows. Down. However, when I pulled into the drive way Monday evening, I found myself winding back up again: everything had to be unloaded, the laundry done, the dryer’s busted, quick run the vacuum around, unpack the hiking bags and suitcase, gotta check e-mail, put dishes away. How do we manage to lose that calmness so quickly?

For those of us to practice the Ashtanga series or a Vinyasa flow, it seems almost contradictory to try and slow the mind down when we are moving and flowing from asana to asana, but that is what the Ashtanga practice is in part designed for. Recall the purpose of the ujjayi breath: a controlled breath that acts as a focus for the mind...to calm the mind down. A set sequence where we are focusing on the pose we are in for 5 breaths.

In many yogic traditions, asana is done to help calm the body before a meditation practice. For if the body is calm, then the mind can focus on internal aspects rather than that foot falling asleep.

There are other ways to slow down: one of my favorite is on a beautiful afternoon, after I’ve come home and let the dogs out, I just sit on my front steps and watch the birds in the yard. Gardening is another favorite (specifically, pulling weeds or cultivating). You just can’t hurry when you are gardening. Recently I’ve taught myself how to knit. It’s amazing how calming this simple activity can be - I feel productive, yet my breath slows, I’m watching my stitches as they grow into the project, my mind is counting the pattern...and I’m suddenly aware that an hour has gone by and I am content to sit for another hour. It’s a beautiful place to be.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered slowing down by any means, but I’ve come a long way. What ways have you found to slow down?

“Yoga is the cessation of the fluxuation of the mind”. Pantanjali

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