Sunday, 10 August 2014

The view from the moon

I saw a lady eating a cucumber like it was a banana on the subway platform. I thought, interesting. Why not?

It made me think of an old art teacher I had at school. When we were out on lunchbreak, he'd turn our paintings upside down. We'd return to the studio and boom! a new perspective on the painting, its composition, what was really going on.

And that made me think of inversions in our asana practice; going upside-down to get a new view.

Yoga is about awakening; to the truth of the present moment. The banana-cucumber, the painting reframe, the handstand are all good ways to do this. When you are awake, you have a bit more spaciousness in the mind. A little bit more room to consider and experience what's really important today, beyond the mind's chatter.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes about this shift in perspective in his beautiful book, Fear. This extract is from the section Appreciating Where We Are.

'Imagine two astronauts go to the moon, and while they're there, there's an accident and their ship can't take them back to Earth. They have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They only have two days to live.

If you were to ask them at that moment, "What is your deepest wish?" they would answer, "To be back home walking on our beautiful planet Earth." That would be enough for them; they wouldn't want anything else. They wouldn't think of being the head of a large corporation, a famous celebrity, or the president of the United States. They wouldn't want anything but to be back here—walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature, or holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon at night.

We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from dying on the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious, beautiful planet. Zen Master Linji said, "The miracle is not to walk on water or fire. The miracle is to walk on the earth."

I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. Walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives.'

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