Last Saturday, I was on my way to teach a 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training session that was to begin with an outdoor asana practice open to the public. There was a slight chance of rain in the forecast, so the studio owner was to make the decision about practicing outdoors or practicing in the studio with only the teacher trainees. Throughout the 45-minute drive, the sky was threatening to rain. It would drizzle a little, then stop, drizzle and stop. Thinking that we’d most likely cancel the outdoor location, I used my drive time to adjust my class plan toward the teacher trainees, incorporating anatomy and yoga philosophy concepts we would cover throughout the day. About 45 minutes before class, the studio owner decided to proceed with the outdoor class since the location was dry and it looked like the weather would hold. Mentally backtracking, I began going over my original plan again. I parked my car and started walking over to the lawn, and it began drizzling. To make sure people didn’t slip on their mats, I planned to incorporate postures could keep us close to the ground, keep the same anatomy focus, and accommodate the needs of the general public. My mind was in a whirl—teaching here, then there, with the public, without, dry, possibly wet, back and forth! Finally, in the few minutes it took me to walk to the site, it started raining—really raining.
I canceled the outdoor location and let everyone know. Class was supposed to start in 15 minutes. I like to sit and find quiet space before I teach, and instead I was frustrated. I knew I couldn’t teach my best in the state of mind I was in. This job is my passion, my future, and I didn’t want to fail! I was not in the calm, centered place from which to teach a solid yoga class. Walking back to the studio, I saw my thoughts and emotions raging like a tempest! And, as often happens to me, a lyric entered my brain—“you can dance in a hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye.” This song, by Brandi Carlyle, succinctly reminded me of what I already knew: I have the calm I need inside of me. We all do.
I turned inward, bringing awareness to my breath. There, I could still feel the quaking of anxiety, so I took my awareness deeper—and I found it. The eye. I centered my awareness there for the rest of my walk, five minutes at most. In that short time frame, a new plan had come to me by the time I arrived, and the day flowed seamlessly from there!
Practicing yoga gradually teaches us to do it while keeping our awareness centered inside of us. The Sanskrit word for this is pratyahara, and it means turning our senses inward rather than gathering information from around us. This simple practice brings us to the present moment—one of the tools for reducing stress and anxiety. When we allow our thoughts to be centered in the past, depression can set in as we long for things past and review our failures. When we take our thoughts into the future, we invite anxiety! Worrying and trying to figure out all of the possibilities can be overwhelming. Both situations can be a waste of energy, as the past cannot be changed, and the future cannot be certain. When we place our awareness in the present, we realize we can manage it—this one moment. Undoubtedly, we have all the tools and skills we need to handle this very moment. For example, right now, right this second, all I need to do is type the words that are in my head. That’s all. In the next moment, I might be editing a sentence, but I’ll do that then. So right now, I just have to type. And I can type.
Saturday while I was walking to the studio in the rain, all I really had to do was walk to the studio in the rain. That’s all. I didn’t need to have all the answers for later. In that moment, I just needed to walk. By centering my attention in the moment of walking, my mind quieted and created space, and the answers showed up.
Being in the present moment means repeatedly making the conscious decision to stand in the eye of the hurricane. To be in the quiet space, trusting that you have what you need for that moment. And doing it again in the next moment, and the next. You can dance in a hurricane, if you can learn to stand in the eye.