I’m reporting live from the home office of a software developer in the mountains of San Francisco while my friend, “Henry” who I convinced to go to San Francisco with me has a business meeting. The software developer and I both majored in Philosophy as it turns out. But the reason that he has this home office and I’m visiting it while I’m unemployed is because he has a double major in electrical engineering and mine is in English. Details…details…
Anyway, I might think this was more surprising and stranger if so much of my yoga practice this summer has not been centered around “Living the Transition.” Specifically, my main work this summer has been helping Shri Yoga transform from a studio loft to a grassroots movements in students’ lofts. Monday was the last time I’ll ever be in the old space and we moved almost everything out. In class, Elizabeth talked about how this was the first transition in her life for which she had ever been aware.
Whether or not we know it, as soon as we think a change is happening, we just want it to be over. The minute that I got laid off, I wanted to have another job again so I could literally just forget the whole thing had ever happened. However, the economy thwarted this plan, and I was left to sit for sometime in a place where I had to keep moving, but I didn’t really know where I was going.
Not knowing where you’re going will make you pay attention to what’s happening, which is essentially what Elizabeth was saying. She explained that if we are aware during transitions, we can discover things about how we move, and we may find answers and solutions that evolve naturally. She had us do several triangle poses, first coming into the pose from the ground up. The last time we did the pose, she told us to start from standing and not look forward, rather keep our eyes on our back hand.
Head turned and watching the back hand, but you stretch your torso forward and sort of naturally fall into the pose, with your front hand eventually landing on the floor (or shin). Personally, I struggle a great deal with creating straight and expansive triangle poses. But somehow, moving slowly, and carefully watching my back hand, rather than rushing forward into the final pose enabled to me effortlessly slide into what felt like a near-perfectly aligned triangle pose, without feeling any strain or even stretch.
Yoga Guy and I did a similar transition practice our last day together on the Cape, and one Anusara philosophy we applied was “root to rise.” We took all of poses out of order and allowed each other to take over leading in the middle of the pose, but every time we began to shape a pose, we consciously rooted our feet. legs and tailbones before allowing for expansion. There was no plan and little direction, but at each moment, we slowed down take stock of the reality of the instant.
When you have no obvious future, it becomes necessary to look at what already exists. And it turns out that even without planning, you discover many interesting things. But the reality is, we don’t live our lives constantly going through major transitions. I’m glad I’ve made the best of this situation, but I don’t wish it to go on forever. That said, I do think that the level of awareness that we can find in transition can be carried on to our daily lives, because no matter how many plans we make, it’s important to recognize that we’re always living the transition.
This message was solidified for me when I watched Adventureland and Revolutionary Road back-to-back on the airplane. If you have seen either of these movies, you know that Adventureland is all about having no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing, and Revolutionary Road is about hating where you are.
If you are paying attention, you’ll see that all the characters in Adventureland listen very closely to each other and themselves. There are plenty of problems, but miscommunication is typically resolved with a level of honesty that actually verges on being unrealistic. (But that’s another story.) Characters have goals, but they modify based on an understanding of events and experience.
In Revolutionary Road, whenever the characters think they are stuck, they speak but barely seem to be having the same conversation. The couple in the movie makes a plan to move to Paris to escape the suburbs. In their case, the feel they need a big transition to make them happy. When they think they are transitioning, they become happy and connected. I don’t want to spoil anything, but anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the past year knows that Revolutionary Road was a tragic movie, so, let’s just say that plans get foiled.
But I noticed that there is one morning when the couple, finally entrenched in the suburbs, has breakfast together. Their location and future is allegedly stagnant, but each of them independently (and tragically, for different reasons) recognizes that the breakfast is a small, but powerful transitional moment. To me, this was the only time in the whole movie when they were actually speaking to each other, watching each other and in the present moment.
To be happier and more communicative, we don’t need to abandon our routine and fly away to some imaginary Adventureland. But we do need to treat each moment as a transition, even it’s just from 4:33 to 4:44. When we finally land in our pose, fancy or simple, planned or unplanned, we will embody clearer creations.