Many times I've asked the question of someone who lives in a place surrounded by beauty (i.e. a kickass view): "Do you ever become immune to the beauty around you?" A little less than a year ago, I moved to a house with a gorgeous view. I'd always wanted to live in a beautiful nature scene such as this one and at the time, it felt like a dream come true. I can happily say that even after 10 months, the view hasn't gotten old (yep, it still feels like a dream come true). I still thrill when I look at it. Every time I look out the windows, it seems like the first time (and that's saying a lot because I stare out the windows...a lot!).
When I went skydiving for the first time, I asked my skydiving buddy (I call him my buddy, as I was strapped to him) how long he had been skydiving. I think he mistook my question as a need for reassurance and replied with a smile, "Fourteen years." That's when I got to my real question: "Does it ever get old for you? Do you ever feel like, 'Here we go again jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet -- it's just another damned day at the office.'?" He assured me that it was always a thrill and never got old (and certainly didn't feel like some old, boring job). Despite the frequency and the familiarity, it still held passion for him.
Sometimes daily exposure to something, familiarity, routine, repetition can squelch the passion one has for it. It's easy to get complacent and become blind to the beauty, the love, the passion that drew us in the first place. This happens in relationship all the time, unfortunately. In fact, sometimes the very thing that drew us to a person in the first place becomes the thing that drives us away/irritates us the most later on in the relationship. What would happen to the divorce rate if partners made a choice each day to be attentive, aware, present with each other?
Same goes for one's relationship with one's yoga practice. I've been practicing for well over a decade now, and, it's not the same as when I first started. It's quite similar to a romantic relationship -- in the beginning, I was in lust with my practice. I couldn't wait to get on the mat. I couldn't get enough of practicing and I would often sign up for workshops so that I could immerse myself deeper into my practice. I ate, slept, and breathed yoga. I bought yoga gear, yoga clothes, yoga accessories. Then I became a bit of a yoga swinger (hmmmmm...perhaps this is where I diverge from my relationship metaphor). I experimented with a variety of yoga styles and yoga teachers. Next came a period of contentment and deeper intimacy. I stuck with one style and I went deeper with it than I had with the others. After a while, it became less about what I practiced and more about how I was being in my practice. I came to my mat for reasons deeper than I-want-to-master-this-pose-or-that-pose.
My yoga practice has become a living, breathing thing -- ever changing. These days I tend to focus my practice around two different styles of yoga (I choose by tuning into my body each morning to see which one it wants that day). When I'm running late or in a rush, I find myself wanting to skip my practice yet when I don't, I lose track of time and by the end of it find myself thinking, "Wow, that went by quickly." In some ways it's more predictible than it used to be and in others it's the very opposite of predictible. Still, it's a bit like a partner with whom I've been in relationship for a veeeery long time -- it's seen me at my worst, my best, in sickness and in health, in times of joy and sadness, and when I'm at my most vulnerable.
Just recently I completed an incredible photography course called The Deepening (doesn't that name just draw you in?!?!?) offered by the brilliant Catherine Just . I tend to be a bit of an information/course taking junkie, as I love to learn new things. After a while, it can get a little old. I didn't want to learn something or try to fix, improve or change anything. Instead, I wanted to see what was already there. That's why I signed up for the course. One of the assignments was to do a daily photo. Every day, you'd take a photo of the same thing whether it be yourself or your unmade bed in the morning or the view outside of your window or your morning coffee/tea ritual (check out Catherine's Nap Series here which is a breathtaking daily photo of nap time with her son, who is rocking his extra chromosome, I might add). One of my daily photo topics was, of course, yoga.
I must admit that my first thought was, "Well, that's not very interesting." Ah, spoken like a true old timer who isn't exactly seeing things with fresh eyes. After all, it my practice wasn't all that interesting, why would I still be doing it for the past 15 years? Perhaps I had become complacent in my practice, neglecting to see the beauty of it. Perhaps I needed to express more gratitude for my practice. And what better way to do that than to pay very close attention to it? So snapping pictures on my camera phone I did. Every day, I brought my camera on my mat with me. My fellow Deepening coursemates would make all sorts of comments about the pictures I posted in our forum. It was almost like seeing my practice through fresh eyes.
I am so very glad that I chose to photograph something that's been in my life for a long time. I examined my practice in a way that I'm not quite sure I've ever done. I realized that, yes, my yoga practice is, in fact, a relationship which means that I have to pay attention to it, express gratitude for it, be present to it. I've been reminded that you need to give in order to receive. I am extremely grateful for my yoga practice and I'm so very happy that it's stuck with me through the times when I've ignored it, taken it for granted, avoided it, paid little attention to it.
I'm also grateful to be able to share it with you and the lessons learning from daily attention to something that's been in my life for so long. I think it's important to remember to look at things in our life with fresh eyes. It's important to be present, appreciative, and attentive to the details and to the things and people that are familiar to us. When we show up fully, a whole new world opens up to us.