Today I turn 45, if I live a long life and die due to the fragile, worn out qualities of old age in a human body, I can rightfully say I’m at the middle of my life.
All that being pondered upon, something about getting older brings me nose to nose with the reality that chance could sweep in and today could be my last day. To me this isn’t morbid or scary but rather a call to unveil my heart – to let it breath the fresh air of life in the moment, eyes wide open, walking the hairline tightrope of pleasure and pain.
My kids are stretching their wings perched at the edge of the nest. This reminds me of watching the young eagles in the tall cedar trees next to our house. Did you know that eagles screech in the middle of the night? Sometimes I wake to their call through the crack in my bedroom window, the crack that lets the fresh air and sounds meet my body.
I don’t think the eagle’s soul-heart pulsates with the tearing ache that my 45 year old mama heart feels when they chase their one year old young away from the nest, but really I don’t know, and I never will. In February the midnight eagle calls tell me there’s a different kind of ruckus happening in the nest, this is when next year’s brood is swirling into creation, the sound of eagles mating.
Eagle sex, we don’t call it that do we? Sex might be something that only humans do, it’s a casual kind of coitus that can be distant and irreverent or profoundly sacred, lifting us to the ether. In the animal kingdom coitus is called mating and mating, fulled by body chemicals ruled by the forces of day and night, leads to creation.
When sex becomes creation it’s a moment of keen, single celled fertilization, a new life born into potential. The romantic love of my mother and father was born and died before I was 3 but it lasted long enough for them to make me. Creation is fueled by the human soul-heart seeking love. The art of loving is a practice.
Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (non attachment) are two important and primary teachings from the yogi sage Patanjali and his body of work, The Yoga Sutras. The two work together.
Practice (Abhyasa) means staying on course in order to attain and maintain tranquil stability, from the inside out. The key is we have to do this for a long time without a break and when we do there’s no end game, we just keep going deeper and deeper into the unfolding of our unique soul-heart.
Non attachment (Vairagya) is a fine companion to practice, it’s the art of noticing then letting go of the many versions of pitfalls that distract us from the path of practice, things like: fear, aversions, attachment to things going a certain way and wanting things to stay the same and definite.
Just like I don’t know when I’ll die or whether or not eagles feel from their soul-heart, I don’t know exactly how Patanjali meant for others to interpret and utilize his hard earned wisdom.
After 20+ years of studying this body of work that is called yoga I’ve realized that much of my job as a teacher is to embody what I learn and delightfully tempt others to spin this knowledge into something that brightens up their life. I’m pretty sure that the only way to way for anyone to do this is to embody the wisdom (to practice).
Practice is creation. We practice creating an inner environment of tranquility within our soul-heart, and we practice with the spirit of “I won’t give up on this” – this is Abhyasa.
Sex, birth and death are tremendously powerful moments, sacred moments. For humans (since I can’t speak for the animals), everything in between these sacred moments is an ever-changing canvas of mini deaths and births, many nuanced versions of pleasure and pain. At this time of mid-life I’m sure my job here is to be awake and to feel this, all of it and to let go of the sh^t that doesn’t serve me.
Letting go is a mini death. My responsibility is to not gum up the flow of creation by shutting down or numbing out or freaking out – this is the art of “I will do my best to let go” – Vairagya.
It’s not easy to feel the tearing and the joy and the passion and the drive and the mini deaths that want to live through my soul-heart but I’m going to keep at it. I have to do this because something that’s bigger than me wants to live through me. I might name that something Love or God or the Great Mystery – I haven’t decided what to call it but many more than me claim it, name it and own it for themselves.
So here I go, one more sweet day at a time to love harder while opening up to the pains. One more day I’m going to practice going slow enough to feel the fresh air in my lungs, to hear the screech of eagles in the distance, to feel the rip of letting go and the freedom of being alive. One more day to share this life with you.
Please my friend, always remember that if you have disappointments and challenges and a hard time staying on track towards the what your soul-heart desires – you are not alone. This is what it means to be human and this is why so many of the great sages that lived thousands of years ago wrote how-to manuals and told epic mythological teaching tales – they were seeking for divine answers to help the masses.
Let’s heed the most tender battle cry. Let’s listen up to the quiet whisper of what’s calling us, let’s decide to practice that listening with diligence and let’s forgive ourselves when we get off track. Let’s return our attention to love and creation and death – again. And again. And again.