I look back at the last decade of my life in retrospection as I cross over to my next decade today. Of the many things that has taken place, beyond the detailed 1,3, 5 & 10 years plan I had written under that tree in Flagstaff Gardens when I was 20. I did not get many of the things that I wanted and had planned for. Instead, I was given many more things that was bigger, better and beyond my own 20 year old capacity to ever imagine and let alone dream of.
You know one of those golden moments when someone utters something so profound that it sticks with you throughout the day?
That happened to me today.
An authorized level I Ashtanga teacher is in town until October and I have been dropping in a few times since last week for Mysore practice. It was only yesterday I got to ask her for coffee this morning. I almost didn’t make it to practice this morning though. Woke up with a heavy head and spent a full minute in front of the bathroom mirror wondering why I am up at 5:45am on a public holiday AND on the only day I have successfully cleared out my classes since I first started to teach full time.
Knowing that traffic would be pretty much non-existent, I took my time and made a bowl of oats with cinnamon, apple and a dash of maca just in case I need it for all that jumpbacks later. Need it I did alright. By my 10th chaturanga (four-limbed staff pose) I am flat on the mat, puddles of sweat randomly forming where my chin hits the ground, and more threatening to trickle into my eyes and nose every time I’m turned upside down in a downward dog. The jumpbacks might as well be called crawlbacks.
My head was still swimming in a haze of heaviness. I lost count of the times I stood on my mat for a few full breaths wondering what I am suppose to do next. The haze of confusion eventually ended about 1.5 hours later when I was lying down in the final resting pose and realised I forgot to turn upside down and balance myself on my head before actually calling it a day and silently hoping the teacher won’t notice. Isn’t that sometimes the beauty of what Mysore practice can be on days like these? :p
Wishful thinking indeed. Because she did come up to me after I sat up and sweetly asked “did you do your headstand?” to which I sheepishly smiled and whispered as quietly as I could so the others won’t hear “crap! I forgotttt”
So breakfast happened. To which I could not be more thankful for that cup of steaming long black. It cleared some of the clouds in my head enough for me to have and absorbed some well meaning, intelligent conversations and useful tips for my upcoming Mysore (yes as in the place in India, not the practice) trip.
And we spoke about ageing and scaling back. Because of the intensity of the practice and the physical fitness that it demands, with age one is naturally expected to scale back his/her own practice. And we are talking about around the of 50 and above, when introspection of ones own life takes center stage.
I knew of this topic from some articles I ran into online previously but had never discussed about it extensively especially with someone as learned as this particular teacher. Naturally, the first question that popped in my head was “well what’s the point of ALL that hard work advancing through all that different series, and having to face your own self every single day 6 times a week on that mat only to have to let it go 20-30 years after you start??”
And before I could ask, she said midway through a sentence with another guy on our table “and that is it! Doing it to let go. Like life and death, because eventually we will need to let this, our practice, and eventually life all go anyway. Just like when you are given a sequence, and the minute you master that you let it go so you can focus on the next one, and the next one..”
Which obviously rang so many chimes in my head and the cogs began to kick into place.
How beautiful it is to lead your life with that in mind? In every decision that you make, and in every single moment that you experience, be it a happy, amazing moment, or the total opposite of these, it is so you can learn to let go. It encourages the mind to set itself in a place of non-attachment, to the outcome or to the sensations felt so that your attention is always in the present. Not in the past when things seemed better than the now, or in the future when things “could” be better than now.