Friday, January 29, 2010

108 SUNS

Although I wrote this piece just a day or so after the event and Christmas has come and gone, the effects of this winter solstice celebration still live on for me.

(A little illustration is to come. It's too late now to use the scanner as other beings are tucked safely into their beds: Rod's snores drift down from the bedroom above, Flippy has been happily ensconced in the freshly done laundry all night and Maya, after an enthusiastic bout of leaprosy, has flaked out on my bed - a tiny little black speck nestled in a billowy nest she's created in my soft, blue, flannel covered duvet.)

*SO IT IS NOW A FEW DAYS LATER (it's Feb 1st as I write this colourful commentary) AND, AS YOU CAN SEE, I HAVE ADDED THE PICTURE. Rod, my own personal little Holmes on Homes, is working his butt off creating a calming, oasis retreat out of what was once only a bathroom (note: not our bathroom, sigh). Flip, my Big Beautiful Girl, is now sleeping, Princess and the Pea-like, on a pillow in the bedroom. And Maya has finally given up begging me for more food, attention, play, pats...and has made a tactical move by laying on the carpet right in front of the doorway. I'll have to walk over her to get outta here. And so, she has cleverly assured herself of my undivided attention. Love Sponge that she is; I will be unable to ignore her.
Now I know that you all waited with baited breath for this image to appear (probably checked and rechecked this site a few times a day even) so perhaps you're a little disappointed, expecting more from me - artist/animator that I've been - but, I find stick figures perfect for yoga diagrams. They have a life all their own and I like how their little butts appear and disappear in certain poses. Kind of symbolic - you work your butt off doing these things but in the end it's still there.
Remember this site is for my own amusement; kind of like being the Queen of a very small, really really small, tiny, rarely visited country. So, as befits all rulers, I can do what I want.

One thing that occurs during the Christmas season is the winter solstice and with it the yogic tradition of doing 108 Sun Salutations aka the practice of Yoga Mala. One sun salutation (surya namaskara) consists of 12 yoga asanas (postures) linked together in a rhythmic flow co-coordinated with the breath. Each surya namaskara represents one bead on a mala (a string of beads) and the breath is like the string that links them all together.

This is my yearly ritual. For me the festive season doesn’t officially begin until 108 suns have been completed, preferably in the company of others who observe this tradition. It is my Christmas prayer. Love, gratitude, hope, joy and more are all expressed in a celebration of the gift of this physical life through the inspiration filled movements of each salutation.

I have done many Yoga Malas in my life and no two have been the same. It is as varied as the person leading the flow. However, some things stay the same:
- Celebrants come together in the spirit of satsang (sat = true, sanga = company) or of like mind.
- Each individual reflects on the year that has passed and their intention for the year to come.
- Respecting one’s own needs, adaptations are made and one rests when necessary.
- The process begins and ends with a unifying chant (OM being the most common).
- A lengthy savasana (relaxation) is enjoyed at the conclusion of the rounds at which time one spontaneously descends into effortless, quiet, stillness

On Dec 20th as I write my intentions I’m reflecting on my visit with my *Mom. As I witness her fall into the decline of dementia I feel I’m drifting away with her; she seems such a familiar part of me. And after spending time with her, anxiety about what awaits me as I age escalates. So I must detach, let her go and make a conscious effort to re-attach myself to, and become immersed in, the demands of daily waking reality when I leave. Some days this isn’t so easy and this is one of them.

At De La Sol yoga studio where this yoga mala is taking place, Katie has decided that each of us will participate by announcing at intervals of 5’s how many salutations have been completed as we move through all 108. So, for example, when we finish the 5th sun the first person to her right will announce, “That’s 5”. When we reach 10 the person to that person’s right will declare “that’s 10” and so on around the circle. Thus I am the holder of numbers 20 and 95.

We begin to move to the beat of a drum on CD.

Now, the amazing thing is that it was more difficult for me to keep track of #20 than #95. Most often yoga mala is done to a rhythmic beat of drums or music; sometimes we move in silence to the sound of our own unified breaths but never before have I been asked to keep track of the repetitions.

I’m not sure I like this.

My mind, so used to drifting into the flow, is rebelling against this newfound mindful aspect. As we get closer to #20 I become more anxious. Will I be embarrassed, by a slip in awareness due to a wandering mind, just like my mother’s? Just the fear of this sets my mind and emotions into a spin increasing the likelihood that the dreaded outcome will come to pass. And, for the fraction of an instant the numbers fade away. When I return I realize I’m either one number behind, right on or one ahead of the count.

Self-doubt magnifies compounding the problem. I know Katie said that we are to announce the count after the number is completed but in my own practice my habit is to count in advance of the salutation to come.

The room feels restless. Is it just me or are the other participants feeling this too?
When the time comes tenuously I announce, “I think this is 20 or maybe 21?”

“20”, confirms another yogi.

With the heavy responsibility lifted off my shoulders from then on my mind sharpens with each salutation. Somewhere around 80 the music stops; we flow as one on the rhythm of our breaths. When it is my time I announce “that’s 95” seamlessly and glide through on target as the last #108 is declared.

A good thing about getting older - stamina increases - it’s true. I feel strong. Unlike many of the younger ones, my breaths are even and I’ve barely broken a sweat.

And as I drive the home on the 403 it seems that never has my vision been crisper, the night sky shone more brightly, my spirit been so light. Not since my lomi training have I felt as united with others in the flow of traffic – like a tiny blood cell propelled within the circulatory system of some great, infinite being.

Never has my mind been so sharp and clear; my emotions so peaceful, filled with hope and gratitude, nor have I felt more present than at this moment … the most precious gift this Christmas could present to me to grace the year to come.

Click here on *Mom - for a sample visit.

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