A MBSR Graduate’s Testimonial
Mountain and Mindfulness
Yesterday in my yoga lesson, I just couldn’t get into Mountain pose, Tadasana. I’ve been practicing yoga for about three years now. The first year, I spent most of my time asking, “is this right?” or “which way is the right way to do this?” That language still creeps in sometimes when I forget to leave my perfectionism outside the studio with my shoes. So, I’ve done Mountain plenty of times. I know how to do Mountain. Generally, I love Mountain. It just didn’t work yesterday. My feet were planted firmly on the ground. I lifted my toes, placed them down gently, keeping the arch in my feet. My legs were activated, building from the ground up, just enough tension in my legs to feel energetic, and there it stopped. I shifted my focus to my upper body. Neutral spine, drop the shoulder blades, chin parallel to the floor – but my upper body was just . . .there. No matter how much I focused, I couldn’t feel any energy. I couldn’t feel much of anything. My body was where it needed to be, but from the legs up, the asana was just a bit numb. Try again (I didn’t get to be Type A by giving up after just one try). Feet in position, toes, legs, ok, it feels good, then . . . blah. Try once more – this is where frustration generally starts to set it – and still … nothing. I looked at my teacher and said, “ok, today my Mountain is just more of a foothill,” and we laughed. Yes, we laughed. Laughter is one of my yogic intentions. Laughter, that outward sign of my ability to recognize that there is more to life, and even my practice, than the perfection of a pose. Then my teacher said, “or you could say that your Mountain is more of the Appalachians than the Rockies.” Aha – not better mountains, not worse mountains, not right or wrong – just a different mountain. Just like the left and the right sides often react differently in a pose, and I’m learning to say “differently” rather than better or worse (or “stupid left side”). Appalachians are different from the Rockies, but they are both mountains. Then she added, “and of course, the Appalachians are the more mature mountains.” She was, of course, right. Never would I imply that the Appalachians are mere foothills, but yes, the Appalachians are the more mature mountains; the older mountains; the ones that have been around just a bit longer; learned just a bit more about how to exist with the conditions. (A bit longer? Say about 400 million years longer) Once upon a time, the Appalachians were higher, sharper, fiercer, and less friendly to their inhabitants. Since then, wind and rain and other natural forces have rounded the mountain peaks, but the adapted mountains still exist. So, what can I learn from this Appalachian Mountain? I can accept my limitations, some days strong, other days flexible, but still a mountain. I can laugh like the Appalachians do in spring; cry like they do in winter, but still be a mountain. I can be an Appalachian on some days, a Rocky Mountain the next, and who knows – maybe someday even a Himalayan or an even newer mountain as yet unborn. Mountain, foothill, acceptance, laughter, Tadasana. — K.