The older I get, the more I appreciate the simplest things. Yesterday morning, Olivia and I took a walk on the beach sharing our mutual excitement for our upcoming trip to California. As we passed Ani, our favorite “coconut lady”, I remarked how I was going to miss her and the daily routine of chatting and fetching coconut water. In a comforting way, Olivia took my hand and said, “Mama, sometimes you just gotta let things go and keep on.” I wasn’t exactly torn up over it, but quite impressive for a 7 year old! We obviously speak the same language.
Our teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Be it in the form of family, the grocery clerk, your lover or the trash collector-when we wake up to the world around us there is so much to be gained. We don’t always have to get hit over the head with life lessons. “A-ha” moments don’t need to come from heartbreak or tragedy, or losing a job (maybe all you need is a 7-year old to mirror everything you say). Taking the small stuff to heart allows for our practice to steadily ripen in the softest, sweetest ways. There is so much we can learn (and re-learn) every day as long as we are paying attention.
Besides Olivia, Nature is one of my greatest teachers. She isn’t always subtle and often very matter-of-fact. When we observe long enough we see that there are slow, constant cycles of birth, growth, and decline everywhere. This is the ongoing nature of all things and all relationships. This is the Tao. Embracing this truth taps us into our own, ever changing and fluid existence. The “letting go and keep on” keepin’ on that Olivia refers to is a reinforcement of this notion of impermanence. The ability to truly go with the flow keeps us unstuck and very present.
However, this isn’t a license to wander aimlessly through life with our feet off the ground, running from things that challenge us and striving to always be in our happy place. Rather, it is a deep acknowledgement that nothing lasts forever, and that everything holds the qualities of arising and passing. Author Michael Stone mentions this in one of his teachings, noting that we would suffer less if we viewed things less personally, and more “phenomenologically”, (I love that word). It somehow lessens the importance of the me/my little suffering and connects us more humbly to the cyclical flow of Nature that we are a part of.
The formal practices of asana and meditation cultivate the ability to listen and become increasingly aware of our body and breath, the point being that we use this attunement in our daily lives. As T.K.V Desikachar reveals:
“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
Look around your world today and find the simplest teaching. It could be when talking to a stranger who looks deeply into your eyes rather than their iPhone. It could be a toddler marveling at a seashell on the beach, or your dog contentedly basking in the sun, or a blade of grass that has grown one inch taller since the last time you looked. As Mary Oliver writes in her poem, “Mindful”,
“….it was what I was born for- to look, listen and lose myself inside this soft world-to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant- but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these-the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?”
No awakening is ever too small or too trivial. Marvel at something today long enough to smile, reflect and appreciate. Happy Friday.
With love and peace.
Om shanti shanti shanti.