Past, present, future: Often, one of these “time zones” will play a lead role in spiritual contemplation or practice. For example, a meditation may be oriented toward transformation and the manifestation of a desired characteristic. Or, a practice may focus retrospectively, with the intention to call up and release past pain. And sometimes, I create routines whose aim is to jettison oneself out of trying circumstances by tuning in to the “above and beyond.”
Each of these vantage points prove necessary at different times, for different reasons. Recently, however, I was reminded that contained within each and every moment is the opportunity for peace: Current challenges, future goals, and previous struggles notwithstanding, one can align with a sense of faith and its inherent peace, whenever and wherever.
I found my reminder in an unlikely spot, although its messenger had previously hinted at his bent toward philosophy and spirituality. The locale? My neighborhood wine store. My Mercury? The owner’s son. In conversations past, he had discussed his fascination with Stoicism and its origins. Our retail interactions became the excuse for abridged, yet intense discussions of Creation, Being, and Mysteries.
And then, nearly two weeks ago, I arrived at the store in an atypically cranky mood. The first snowfall had arrived, bringing with it a foot of snow… and no snowplow for our apartment house’s parking lot and driveway. My neighbors and I struggled individually and as a team to dig ourselves out: However, we all felt resentful, given that we each had received notice of a substantial rent increase. We were to pay more to receive less than ever before?
So, it was with exasperation, as well as aching muscles from shoveling that I entered the store. I was greeted with a smile, and I simply said that I was not feeling very smiley that morning. I tried to rally, however, and quickly noted that the weather forecast called for clearing skies and warming temperatures. I assured my “partner-in-philosophizing” that my positivity would make a swift return.
He was silent for a few moments, and then slowly, thoughtfully offered: “Sometimes in the morning, I listen to different preachers on the radio. This morning, one of them said that peace is not a destination; it is with us always, as we move along the path…”
I was somewhat embarrassed that I so clearly needed to be reminded of this: However, I thanked my messenger, and assured him that I would go about the rest of my day with that in mind. As I left the store, I once again shook my head at the ease with which I so quickly had been thrown from “peace along the path.” All it took was a snowstorm, and its resulting physical challenges.
Since that day, I have called upon the phrase many times. It is one that I use to stay present and in full awareness of my innate potential to proceed with equanimity. Each of us has that ability; it does, however, need to be brought forth and strengthened. Today’s practice moves the body forward and back, circling all the while, in order to bring one to a sense of physical centeredness. In that most immediate and empowering place, one then may tune in to the still calm within: that Peace that always may be found along the path.
To begin, stand tall and firm in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, with feet a few inches apart. Be sure to feel your feet in contact with the ground; be conscious of your body’s strengths and vulnerable areas; and with eyes closed, focus on the sound and flow of your breath. Stand, sense, and breathe for 1 minute.
Now, as you inhale, bend your knees into a squat, sending the buttocks back past the heels. Maintain a long spine as you bring the arms up alongside the ears. Here in Uttkatasana, or Chair Pose, take a few deep breaths. This posture is grounding and strengthening, and helps to stimulate both the Root and Heart Chakra with its deep squat and lifted chest.
Next, on an inhale, straighten the legs as as you rise and, with the arms still extended overhead, bend slightly backward. As you exhale, move forward and down into a standing forward bend. Then, inhaling, bend the knees and lift the torso and arms as you rise up into Chair again. Precisely and strongly embody this pose, yet do not pause: Instead, continue to inhale as you straighten to legs to push up and back into the slight standing back bend.
Flow through these three stations—Chair, standing back bend, and standing forward bend—with seamless breathing. As you move from one pose to another, the breath encourages the fluid transition from up and back to forward and down: You begin to inhabit the circularity of the movement. The ongoingness of the breath and circling vinyasa begins to remove the sense of linear time: Instead, your consciousness supersedes any sense of past, present, or future.
Continue the movement pattern with full breath awareness for 3 minutes. To finish, hang easily in standing forward bend for a few breaths. Then, lower yourself to the floor, and lie on your back. Here, another circling movement begins: Water Wheel engages deep and surface abdominal muscles, thereby stimulating the Second and Third Chakras. These energy centers contribute to feelings of stability and confidence, which serve as an invitation to Peace.
On your back, bring your knees in toward the chest. Inhale as you extend the legs straight up; exhale as you lower them to a few inches above the floor. Inhale again to draw the knees back in and up; exhale to lower. Continue for 1 minute, and then reverse the wheel: Inhale to extend the legs straight out from the chest to a few inches above the floor, and then up to 90 degrees; exhale to bend the knees down toward the chest. Continue for another minute.
The next physical piece initially requires strict vigilance. On your back, begin to move and squirm, seeking any areas of tension that may be holding negative emotions or obstructed energy. The challenge is that no part of your body should lift off of the floor as you wriggle: This is a highly contained, yet organic vibration. By limiting the range of motion, the movement hones in on deep and specific points that need to be released. Continue for 1 minute.
Now, liberate your body from any sense of restriction. Contort and squirm in any way on the floor: you may find that you want to lift an arm or leg, or even the head. Perhaps the back arches and lifts off the floor, or you want to roll from side to side. Whatever movement needs to happen, give the body the space to do so. Continue for 2 minutes.
Finally, with the body free, yet centered, lie on your back for Svasana. In this version, place one hand on the heart, and the other on the low belly, just beneath your navel: Whichever hand wants to rest on whichever spot is your intuition’s way of guiding you toward Peace. Breathe deeply into the calm, steady flow of physical and mental energies. Remain here, abiding Peace, for 5-10 minutes.