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Not Only Existing, But Living

I have lived nearly all my life in California, and have raised a family in the same home for the past 18 years. This week, the movers came and packed up all the material representations of my life to store until my husband and I are ready to place our things in our new home in Florida, 6 weeks from now. So now I need to find a way to live rootless. I’ll be physically in California, but staying in someone else’s house, then I’ll be on the road across the country, then back across the country for a week, then finally in the new home. Dismantling our house has been emotional and any time I think about how it will be a while before I am replanted I feel breathless, like I’m at the top of a roller coaster with the threat of nothing to catch me below. I feel fragile.

A friend recently advised me to notice these feelings of fragility, this sense of heartbreak and to remain with this feeling for as long as I can. This is going to be a practice for me. As with any practice there will be days when I feel like I get it “right”, that I am living with the uncertainty and not freaking out… and other days when I will give in and allow the inevitable meltdown to happen.

I am inspired by the students I have had the privilege to work with over the past 12 years, especially those facing cancer and their own death. This has been my last week of teaching regular classes here in California (I hope to be back for special events), and I tried to give them back a fraction of the inspiration they have given me by sharing a story of a friend of mine who always motivates me to live – not just exist, but to really live.

We are all living under the threat of death, but some of us are closer to the end than others. I don’t believe we get to chose how close we are, but we do get to decide how much we will make of each moment. I told my students that their medical team is concerned with helping them to continue to exist, but that I am concerned with helping them to live. By studying and managing our breath, body, mind, patterns inside our bodies and outside, our relationships and fears, we learn how to live, not just exist.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re given an acre of land to farm, and every day we have the task of sowing new seeds; we can chose to sow weeds, beautiful flowers or nourishing food. What’s important is that we don’t let it go fallow. I use this acronym in my training to remind teachers how to work with their students, and their “acre” of yoga practices:

Awareness: build proprioception, interoception and awareness of thoughts and patterns

Circulation: move the joints – from periphery inward, as well as mobilize the spine in all 5 of its directions (elongation, flexion, extension, rotation, side bending)

Relaxation: 20 minutes a day of some mindfulness practice, which could be a combination of breathing, mediation and active relaxation

Education: know your tools, know how your body works and never stop asking questions!

I’m going to use my ACRE every day to practice being rootless and fragile but still connected and fully alive. It will be a practice that I’ve watched so many others do and have been inspired by. What will you plant in your ACRE?

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