Elegantly Balanced

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 I can picture her even now, some fifteen years later, a very charming woman in her early 70’s, trying without success in a Yoga class to cross one leg over the other. (as above)

 She laughed as she tried and laughed when she failed. Which endeared her to me! Impressed with her nobility of spirit, I hoped she would come back to class to try again!

 Alas, she didn’t, and I haven’t seen this gracious lady since. I have, however, often thought of her with affection.  

 Did it really matter whether she would be able to get the one leg over the other? In one sense, no, for the deepest meaning of yoga is the freedom to laugh while making the effort. 

 Thus, seen in this way, she was a great success at the Yoga class for laughing as she failed to do the pose! 

 Many times in contrast have I seen great flexibility, but without grace and laughter. I’ll choose laughter and joy any time over a grim determination to succeed.   

 However, if she had come back to class, I am sure that I could have helped her to sit as elegantly and as poised as the woman in the picture above! 

 In so doing, my friend would have received an important physical benefit for her hips and back. 

 But more than that. She would also have found a way of elevating her spirit even higher than it was!

 For this posture is a bliss pose. Anyone who learns to sit in this way will find that her mind will calm and spirit soar.

 Which is also true if you do the same movement of crossing one knee over the other while standing.

 Try it, if you will. Try standing while balancing on one leg. Gradually begin to cross one knee over the other. Relax into it. Stay there a while and then ease out of it. Pause and notice the effects. 

 One thing you may notice is that your troubles have vanished. Focusing in this way, effectively shuts down that part of you that is addicted to worrying about everything. 

 You will find that you are rising above your anxieties into another zone, into another level of being. 

 As such, you are becoming something of a dashing figure! You will have begun to dance like Shiva, the Lord of the dance in East Indian spirituality. And your life will improve.  

 When you look at the statue of the dancing Shiva, the Nataraja, you’ll see that the dancer is crossing one knee over the other, just as I have described. It's an elegant balancing act.

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 Two things are happening here at once. There is an elevation, while at the same time, the life is being crushed out of a malevolent little dwarf!

 That dwarf is symbolic of the obstacles and delusions we face. The dancer is crushing the life out of any barriers that stand in the way of an expressive, elegant, balancing act.   

 It might even be said that this posture is a defiant act! The dancer is defying gravity, defying limitation.

 The movement involves a determination to affirm the best impulses of one's higher nature and the refusal to be a slave to the lower impulses of one's baser nature.   

 A parallel is to be found in the Sioux dance, where it is understood that the best dancer is that one who can keep his foot raised in the air, suspended, as it were, until it is time to lower it.

 Here, too, the point of the dance is to find a certain elegant balance of expression.

 The foot is only lowered when the beat of the drum is heard, thus establishing a harmony between the drummer and the dancer. 

 The art of the dance is to participate intelligently with the beat of the drum.

 If you keep putting your foot down when there’s no drum beat, it’s an indication that you are in distress. You are out of harmony, out of sync with the rhythm of your life.  

 You are some kind of clunker, if you inelegantly keep putting your foot down at the wrong time!  

 For me, Yoga has been a way to attain, as best as I can, a certain elegance of balance in my life. I make no great claims. I just know that the discovery of Yoga helped me to function better than before. 

 Before the discovery of Yoga, as a way of centering and balancing my life, I used often to feel unbalanced, uncentered, out of whack, as it were, with my own inner, hidden life. 

 In fact, I was not aware that I even had an inner life! Certainly nobody I knew talked about that kind of thing. 

 Which was true as well during the years I went to Theological Seminary where there was no focus whatsoever on meditation. Thus I was externally focused, and did not know how to turn within.

 When stressed, my habit was either to pace around in the house or to watch television. I really did not know what to do.

 I never knew that by doing a few simple Yoga postures, or by sitting for a while in meditation that, I could radically alter my state of being.

 Sr. Edith Stein wrote in her book, The Hidden Life that each of us has an "internal and individual structure" that longs for self-expression. Surely if we are to find some level of balance it will depend on directing our attention to that hidden life.

 She was saying that each of us have to find way a way to express our particular structure if we are going to find some some kind of elegant balancing act in the living of our lives. 

 The life you were meant to live, said Sr. Stein, is written in your very nature. It is coded in your soul. 

 This hidden life, warns Sr. Stein, is "so particular and individual" that, it is of the utmost importance to avoid importing images from outside ourselves that do not fit who we are, or ever will be.

 Each of us is "unique and unrepeatable," says the Sister, and thus there is a great danger if we import and impose upon ourselves foreign models that could squash "our own individual traits and character."

 The Sister’s challenge is for each of us to find our hidden life, or higher life, and to live it out with every fibre of our being. 

 And then, like the dancing Shiva, we will rise up in triumph. Acting in accord with that higher and deeper self, we will begin to achieve an elegant balance.

 George Faludy, is another who upon surviving two concentration camps, issued the challenge to find our reason for being through obeying the dictates of our higher natures

 While a political prisoner, Faludy, in an effort to feed the souls of his fellow inmates, led them in the study of the great masterpieces of literature.

 Some watched Faculdy with his students and mocked their efforts. They said how foolish it was to waste valuable sleeping time on lectures and discussions.

 Faludy tells how he then watched the scoffers, who, by ignoring the needs of their higher natures, and who had therefore effectively knocked themselves off the balancing beam, withdrew into themselves. 

 The scoffers became after a while hopelessly unbalanced. Their experience was a disintegration that left them "lonely and merciless" towards others. 

 He would then notice when one of these uncentered scoffers would suddenly one day walk off into the snow to die.

 These had been the ones, he said, who had been the most determined to survive, but who, instead of caring for their spiritual needs, concentrated on nothing but food, sleep and warmth

 Those who endured the camps were those in contrast who studied poetry and Plato’s Socratic dialogues to feed their inner lives.

 Thus engaged, their spirits were armed. The effect was to prevent the collapse of the body. 

 Addressing graduating students at the University of Toronto some years ago, George Faludy concluded his address with these words:

 "Our whole fragile tradition of art and thought is neither an amusement nor a yoke. For those who steep themselves in it, it provides both a guide and a goal for surpassing all the half-baked ideologies that have blown up at our feet in this century like landmines.”

 The point of this article is to emphasis the inestimable value of a daily practice of tending to the soul as one’s top priority through a focus perhaps upon a Yoga/Meditation practice, and the study of the great works of literature and spiritual texts.

 It is through such means, that we increase our chances of getting a little better at expressing some kind of elegant balancing act in a world where everything else but, an elegant balance, is the norm.

 Sunchair, Fade