Monday, December 7, 2015

Living Better With Yoga Part 2

Whenever I travel, I like to take yoga classes. This past week, I was in Florida and took advantage of the offerings from a sweet space called The Zen Room. (If you're in the Cape Canaveral area, stop in, because the place is great and surrounding Cocoa Village is a treat.)

I arrived a few minutes prior to the posted class time, in order to introduce myself and do all the paperwork, etc. What I could tell from walking up to the door is that there was a class going on inside. As I got closer, I realized they were sitting in meditation. This sitting practice broke as more of us arrived and students began moving meditation cushions to make space for yoga mats. At the beginning of the class, the yoga instructor informed us that there was a meditation intensive (my word, not hers) going on, and that some of the meditation students would be joining us for yoga and that we were invited to stay for meditation after yoga. Well, I never pass up an opportunity to sit, so I was very interested in staying!

After Julie's lovely, just-what-I-needed practice to move my breath, joints and muscles around, I plopped myself down on a cushion and listened to Roshi Danny offer instructions and tips on how to sit. He is an approachable teacher, easily laughs and very inviting (as I've found most of the people I met in Cocoa Village to be). Once he explained the different ways to sit and remain comfortable and advised us not to suffer during our sit, he invited us to turn and face the wall. After resettling, I began focusing on my breath. I heard the AC unit shut off, and the wind around Cocoa took that opportunity to really pick up. As lightweight items began to blow around the room, I heard a few people rise and shut the doors. Rochi struck a few items to make clacking and chiming sounds that would indicate the start and end of our sit. 

And then I was alone with my breath, my body aches and my thoughts.

I usually have an easier time meditating in a group than alone. That morning, however, my thoughts were in control. I kept trying to yank my mind back to my breath, back to my spine, back to anything other than the stories, the plans the entertaining chatter of my mind. Roshi offered us a tool: count the breaths; he invited us to count to 10 breaths and then repeat, or count to our age, or to any number that we like. I was able to count to 3 before my mind veered away from my breath. I kept counting to 3. After a few minutes of this, Roshi said:

Invite everything in to your mind and everything out, like a swinging door. In... And out.

With that image, and that invitation, I was released from the grip of my thoughts. I used that image and slowed it down to match my breath. In... And out.

The wind.
Roshi's words.
The village.

It all came together in a theme: acceptance.

An old, beloved Zen master was asked, "What is the final koan?"
He replied, "I can't tell you the last koan, but I can tell you the answer. The answer is love."