My childhood was punctuated by a series of transitions as regular as a drumbeat. They were not easy, thought they were an integral part of the rich and complex terroir in which I grew up. I learned, early on, about the deep bittersweetness of goodbyes. My family’s moves, back and forth across the ocean with a metronomic every-four-years cadence, engraved into me a deep fear of change. Transitions, farewells, and endings all cause me deep discomfort and often tears. This truth is an essential part of who I am (and I know I’m not alone in this).
A couple of weeks ago in a yoga class, I realized something new about myself and transitions. As I moved through a sun salutation, the poses as familiar as a long-known language, my breath carrying me like a stream, it occurred to me:
The transition between poses is as important as the stillness within them.
I’ve been practicing yoga, with varying degrees of regularity and commitment, for over 13 years. And for every one of the thousands of practices those years have held I’ve thought that what I was learning was a lesson about stillness, about holding, about enduring, about breath.
And of course I was learning that. I’ve learned so much about those things – mostly, about abiding, with myself and others – both in class and in my life. But suddenly that day I saw, with a flash of insight that almost embarrassed me because it was so obvious, that the moving between those poses that I held was equally as important. I’ve always liked the vinyasa part of yoga, probably because the being still is so hard for me. But if I’m honest, “liking it” has manifested mostly as moving quickly through the poses, and I realize that is not the point of the vinyasa. Instead I need to pay equally close attention as I move my body, my breath, and my mind, up and down and around and through.
I need to honor the transitions just as I do the holding.
I’m sure it’s not an accident that this realization comes right as I feel I stand on the threshold of another transition with my children. They are so incredibly lovely right now, so full of the golden life that is, to me, childhood incarnate. And yet I see the end of these days like the storm clouds we watched on the horizon as we drove to Storyland (I hope not for the last time). I know something else wonderful exists on the other side of that horizon, I promise I do – my own childhood of goodbyes taught me that – but I still dread the change.
And yet. And so. The lessons keep coming. Breathing, breathing, into another transition.
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