“Mindfulness has two functions. The first is to get in touch with the wonderful and beautiful things all around us. The second is to get in touch with the difficult emotions, like anger, fear, pain and sorrow inside and around us. Mindfulness can help us recognize and embrace these difficulties and transform them. Not only is paradise available in the here and now, but hell is available in the here and now also. Mindfulness practice helps us get in touch with both wonders, in order to be nourished, and… in order to heal and transform.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In Tuesday’s online class, my yoga teacher coaxed us through a number of novel variations on cobra pose, which I’ve never much liked to begin with, even in its most basic form. Cobra pose is uncomfortable, I don’t have much flexibility in my upper back, I can’t breathe fully if I lift my shoulders more than 3 inches off the mat, my mind goes to the next thing as an escape hatch… (Remarkable how much inner chop it stirs up.) I did it anyway.
And then a miraculous thing happened.
In Wednesday’s class, without any effort at all, cobra pose took on an altogether new-fuller-more expansive expression like I have never before experienced. I was flying, unfurling, blooming.
The practice of mindfulness is like this sometimes: hard and uncomfortable and stifling and attached to all kinds of mental machinations about how much it sucks and how much we, personally and individually, suck at it. And yet we keep practicing. We have to suspend our disbelief… even if it isn’t enjoyable, even if it feels like being mired in mud. Weighed down by all of that aversion and resistance, we miss the fact that those very aspects of mud are actually preparing the soil that is us, fertilizing the lotus that is us, to bloom.
Then sometime down the road when we least expect it, we see the fruits of our practice pop up… perhaps in a slightly longer pause between being irked and reacting, perhaps in a moment when we have the small joy of unfurling in a new way.
So keep at it. If it feels hard, do it anyway. Something is waiting to unfurl.
Jess Stevens, writing mindfulness for Isabella