The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Aqua Bliss

Meditation has been the bane of my yoga practice. By no means is it my sole bane, but it is one of the more significant ones, surpassed only by my chronic inability to joyfully kick up into a handstand and remain blissfully immobile for the next two minutes. Ah's a battlefield like no other. For me, at least. While others float out of their 'state of nothingness', I'm trying to stumble out of my state of grogginess. Every time - and I mean EVERY time - I attempt a spot of meditation, I fall asleep even before the last verbrations of OM fade away. Time, space and caffeine intake are irrelevant. As long as my mind knows it's about to be subjected to meditation, it does a quick cartwheel of glee and informs my body that it's time for savasana. As much as I would love to say that I have been serenely plodding away at it, the truth is that my frustration has successfully kept me far away from my meditation cushion.

Then, I moved into my new apartment. My balcony overlooks the pool and one afternoon, I cast an idle look at the shimmering sheet of blue and decided, 'I want to swim'. First time that thought has popped into my head in a decade. So I did. I could barely manage two laps that day without feeling like my lungs were about to disintegrate. My limbs felt like lead, my right ear was blocked for the rest of the day and my eyes stung from the chlorine. Yet I surprised myself by slipping underwater again the next day.

Two weeks later and I can now swim 15 laps without collapsing in mid-pool. And two days ago, in between lap 10 and 12, a sudden thought struck me. If walking meditation existed, then why not swimming meditation? After all, the purpose of meditation is not to empty the mind but to learn to be completely present in the moment.

Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says that "walking meditation is one of the ways to contemplate peace. Bring your attention down from the level of the brain to the soles of your feet. Breathing in, we make three steps, and we may tell ourselves with each step, "I have arrived. I have arrived. I have arrived'. And breathing out, we make another three steps, always mindful of the contact between our feet and the ground, and we say, 'I am home. I am home. I am home'"

"Life is available only in the present moment, in the here and the now. And when you go back to the present moment, you have a chance to touch life, to encounter life, to become fully alive and fully present. That is why every step brings us back to the present moment, so that we can touch the wonders of life that are available. Therefore, when I say, "I have arrived," I mean I have arrived in the here and the now -- the only place, the only time where and when life is available, and that is my true home."

Committing that little mantra to memory, I pushed off in the breaststroke and with each parting of the water, repeated each line silently. When I reached the other end of the pool, I turned around to begin the freestyle, repeating each line with each arch of the arm in the air.

I drew awareness to how my feet moved, how my knees felt with each kick, how my arms sliced through the water and the steadiness of my breath. I tried to make each move as graceful and effortless as possible. Of course, that in itself took effort! Thoughts raced through my mind - what was I doing, how could I relax more, should I keep my neck straight or bent, how clean is this water, where is that wildly kicking child? I didn't come anywhere close to meditation that day.

Then the next day, something gave away. My mind finally grasped what I was trying to do and consented to giving its full cooperation. Suddenly, I was aware of exactly what each part of my body was doing and how it was doing it. And after some time, I realised how wonderfully quiet it was underwater. As my mind drew all this in, my body relaxed more. Each stroke became an expression of consciousness, of complete freedom. I felt like laughing in delight!

When I finally climbed out of the pool, I decided that for the timebeing, this would be my meditation. I had found a path my mind and body revelled in and that is more important that being able to sit in padmasana for hours, ignoring the shooting pain in my knees. And I was once again reminded that yoga isn't a one-size-fit-all practice. It is a practice that can be moulded in any way that brings your mind, body and soul one step closer to our destination.


Blogger Jane Sunshine said...

I find your self-discovery journeys remarkable.

9:07 PM  
Blogger starlight said...

*blush* you're making me all embarrassed, Jane! but thank you so much for your kind words. though i'm sure it takes countless of hard rapping on my thick skull before i understand what i'm supposed to learn!!

12:39 AM  

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