Simple Gifts

A few years ago, I was visiting my grandparents in West Virginia. We were going through pictures and my grandmother started to recall a trip they took to the beach when my mom and uncle were little kids.

What really makes this memory vivid for me is that my grandmother, after telling us all about this trip said, “When we got home, I asked the kids what their favorite part of that trip was. You know what they said? They said their favorite part of that whole trip was when we pulled off the side of the road and they got to see oranges growing on trees. Out of all we did, that’s the one thing they liked more than anything.” I could tell that this still surprised and delighted her all these years later – being able to give her children a beautiful moment. The look on her face from her sharing this story is what keeps it in my memory.

I think we’ve all had this experience, of taking a trip, having a night out, or similar experience and then finding that what we thought was supposed to be the “best part” is overshadowed by something so simple. So simple, it often ends up being free – like the smell of jasmine in the summer or a brief interaction with another person (or dog! Personally, I like surprise dog kisses.)

Bringing this to yoga, I’ve really simplified my practice and slowed down. What I’ve found is that while focusing on flashier poses, I had lost the simple delight of a really great tadasana. I see it in my students because I have been and am often there myself, “Oh I really want to get that pose – they look so great and happy.”

Well, it won’t mean a thing if the road to that more advanced pose is rocky and perilous. Ever been to a beautiful spot or gone out for a night but the car ride was so miserable it ruined the moment of arrival? Same thing. For me, spending the past several months healing from a year of pushing myself into unsupported wheel poses bears witness.

Early in my practice, I remember a teacher telling some students who were eagerly trying to flail and jump their way into handstand (which, to be honest, we have all done at some point and will likely do again): “When you think you’re at an intermediate level, you run the most danger of getting injured and letting your ego take over. Take your time.”

It’s sneaky, that little monkey ego with its expectations. I am making an effort to take my time and feel what it really means to be grounded and properly aligned in poses I thought I “had” while I was keeping up the whole yoga dialogue of how we don’t “get” poses.

I’m finding that by slowing down and taking my time, one breath at a time, I’m finding lovely little moments in my practice I would have overlooked before. By learning how to make those little spaces for myself, I’m learning how to provide opportunity for others to have them as well. (At least that’s my intention.)

The best part? It is spilling off my mat into the rest of my life. That’s why we do this crazy asana thing, right?

I think that’s why that memory popped up in my mind yesterday. It’s the beautiful moments that sneak up on you when you take it slow, take it easy.

So enjoy the beach, enjoy the hotel, but stay open to the possibility of experiencing the simple miracle of an orange tree.

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