Presence and Peace in Moments of Change
One of the most popular and well-known rituals during the Jewish New Year involves dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination is symbolic of expressing the hope for a sweet year ahead. Round challah or egg bread is also eaten to symbolize the circle of life and the cycle of a new year. As the seasons change, and years flow one into the next, we are reminded that the only constant that we can always rely on is change itself.
It feels as if the transition from summer to fall is the most dramatic of the changing seasons when the temperatures and leaves drop and the light changes noticeably. The colours become more saturated, and everything prepares for sleep. One morning we awake to a new crispness in the air. In addition to environmental changes, there is also a shift in attitude and behavior. Back to school, back to the studio, new programs begin and schedules fill up. We shift gears and slide into the new normal.
Early in the classic Yoga Sutra, Patanjali defines yoga as “Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practise and nonattachment” (1.14). The two guiding concepts, abhyasa (perservering practise) and vairagya (nonattachment) are key to yoga. Practise requires will and discipline, and nonattachment is a matter of surrender, release and letting go. Abhyasa becomes firmly established when it is cultivated without interruption and with devotion. We become grounded in the practise of always returning to practise without being bound to past patterns. Vairagya is a state of mind when desire is gone and over time, through practise, vairagya becomes possible.
This September marks my thirtieth year of yoga practise. It is not possible to briefly summarize all that I have learned or what these years of consistent devotion has provided me with. My persevering practise, or abhyasa, has carried me through several life stages. Yoga buttresses my life. Studying the wisdom from this timeless tradition, we learn to focus with attention and discernment while on the mat. Taking these lessons off the mat, we practise letting go and surrendering to each change, breath-by-breath, moment-to-moment.
As my mother takes my elbow for support when we walk together, our son, standing on the threshold of adulthood, at times, pushes back. Our daughter is now balancing with one foot in and one foot out as she prepares to depart for university in a few days. The other night, our youngest crawled into bed to cuddle and chat. Supporting loved ones in different ways, I try to be steadfast with devotion while remaining open to change and fully present. I experience serenity and stability and feel the fullness of the moment. As I practise complete awareness and attunement I also let go and embrace each change as it unfolds. A sense of peaceful spaciousness within is felt.
Whether alone on my mat or with loved ones, I practise gratitude for my many blessings. Cherishing feelings of connectedness and abundance, I am most thankful for my yoga practise. Tradition will ensure that apples and honey welcome in the new year. And as I greet each change and hold it in awareness, I taste and savor the sweetness of the present moment.