A friend recently sent me a beautiful card with the phrase, “Change… the only constant” under a picture of ocean water washing over stones and sand on the seashore. Together, the image and the phrase shared so much. The words, a simple platitude, caused me to see the photo with a different view than I would have otherwise. Instead of only seeing a pretty scene, I also saw the rythmic power of the water, the solidity of the rocks and earth, and the endless, inevitable rubbing of each against the other. Change is happening in everything all the time. Yet so rarely do we recognize it.
Often, life changes without my giving it much reflection. Each morning I wash my face, giving only scant attention to a new line or freckle. Winter turns to spring. A friend moves away to a different state. An election happens, and new people inhabit the various public offices, for a while. A good opportunity arises to teach somewhere new, and so I must give up teaching somewhere else. Summer turns to fall. News comes that a friend’s father has died in faraway country. My hair grows back so fully it’s hard to remember what it looked like after I shaved my head, but I think there was less gray. The radio reports species of birds that never lived in New England before have now made it their winter home. I drink a glass of water, and a while later, my bladder feels full. According to current stats, these days about 4.3 babies are born on earth every single second. It’s happening on all levels, and it’s happening constantly. Just like those ocean waves are even now slowly rubbing the rocks into new shapes.
Recently, a particular ending made me want to pause and notice.
The first round of a program I began in the Fall of 2014 ended. It’s a one-weekend-a-month format that runs for nine months. Last year, I called it Living Yoga, Living Joyfully. Ten participants and I embarked on a learning, healing, practice journey together. We delved into the activities of asana, pranayama, chanting, friendship, mindful eating, and sitting and walking meditation to see if each of us could discover how to more fully integrate what matters to us into our daily lives.
Over the course of three seasons, these ten folks got know one another “from the inside out” as one person put it. As I reflect on it, the community aspect was quite simple and also profound. As we neared the end, several students mentioned wanting to do the course again. I suspect it was not so much because they felt the need to review the material, good as it is, but because they appreciated feeling connected with each other and with me. And I appreciated it too. In the end, when we’d had our final weekend, shared poems and songs and artwork with each other, most decided it was time to move on. It reminded me of the ancient and famous lines from William Blake, which speak of the potential joy in embracing change:
He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
The Living Yoga students learned much and well in our time together. We let each other go. Some will continue to come to weekly classes with me; others live too far away to make that possible. Still, through our shared learning, we all carry each other forward. Silent, invisible support is now with us on our journeys. As one teacher of mine says, “Even if we do not see each other again, now that we have met, we are connected.”
Time flows on. Inquiries are coming in for the next Living Yoga season, which this time will be called Living Yoga, Living Mindfully, not because joyfulness isn’t present or important – indeed it is both. The change in the title will, I hope, make it clear that the course isn’t about using yoga postures to become that super, fit, invicible person you always imagined you wanted to be. It’s about learning to live well with what you have here today, and learning to let go of what you don’t need anymore. It’s about developing a way of practice that suits your personhood, one that you can carry with you through life’s changes, and that can change with you.