By Christopher J Holmes
Take a few moments to reflect on the times you have felt truly at home, either in your body, or in the world. Or both. Perhaps you have felt at home with a dear friend or a partner. Maybe it was a vacation spot, or in one of the homes you have lived in. Does the memory of an activity arise – sitting by the ocean, surfing, hiking in the woods? Feeling at home means feeling welcomed.
Pause and breathe.
Try turning the feeling of being welcomed towards yourself. Look inward and repeat to yourself. Welcome...I’m glad you’re here. Welcome.
Pause and breathe.
Welcome every aspect of who you are. Welcome your gifts and pleasures. Welcome the personal characteristics that please you. Welcome the sweetness of feeling your inner and outer environment. Your breath and movement. Your stretch and sigh. Savor. Welcome yourself. Make yourself at home. Be tender and undemanding as you hold yourself within your gaze.
Pause and breathe.
How does it feel to make yourself at home? Allow yourself to release in the experience of feeling at home in your body. What are you aware of? Caress all you sense with the attitude of welcoming. What do you notice? Safe in the feeling of being at home, how does your breath flow? What is the quality of your body and mind?
Pause and breathe.
When you feel welcomed, all is well.
In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, verse 2.46 reads as follows: Sthira Sukham Asanam. This sutra is invoked regularly as applicable to seated meditation, as well as to the practice of yoga poses. The common translation is “Be steady (sthira) and comfortable (sukham) in your seat, or pose (asanam.)” Alternatively, rather than translated as an instruction, it can be thought of simply as an observation: “Asana is a steady and comfortable experience.”
And what of the “good ride?” I submit the felt sense of a good ride - ease and balance - comes with the feeling of being at home.
Whichever translation you find resonant, an important point is that steadiness and comfort are co-creative. Steadiness generates comfort, and comfort begets steadiness. The dynamic interplay of the two accomplish wholeness. Let’s delve a little below the surface.
I lifted the hefty Sir M Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary off of my shelf and found this. Sthira: Steady, unwavering, with courage, without doubt, resolute. These are all adjectives which apply to meditation. The unwavering dedication to practice. The courage to look inward and be present to our true nature, both the sweetness and the challenges. The resolve to return again and again to our cushion.
I was reminded of the book “Kundalini – The Evolutionary Energy in Man.” It is an autobiography written by Gopi Krishna – a yoga master who passed away in 1984 at the age of 81. In it, he describes the intense awakening that overtook him from his meditation practice. But I always found the more captivating feature of his experience was that he awoke early each morning and meditated, sometimes for hours. He did this for nearly 20 years, and while he cultivated great discipline, he reported that nothing much else happened. Nothing. Until of course, something did. But returning to his sitting practice each and every day was an exercise of great resolve.
I then flipped the pages of my dictionary to find Sukha: having a good axel-hole. Having a good axel-hole!? Yes! In ancient India, chariots were built with large wooden wheels. Imagine a long thick plank of wood, with periodic holes drilled and wooden spokes inserted. The wood, probably soaked in water, was bent into a circle, and the spokes joined a circular hub. The center of the hub – the axel-hole – was slid onto the axel of the chariot. A good ride on the seat of the chariot ensued if the wheel was built well; if it had a good axel hole.
It follows that an apt translation of Sutra 2.46 is “the resolve to have a good ride.” Maybe that translation strikes you, as it did me when I conceived of it, as light-hearted and even silly. I must confess that I always look for some light-heartedness and silliness in my practice. It seems necessary given the depth of transformation that I, and I imagine my fellow teachers, reach for. But I also gravitated to the practicality of this interpretation. It is, after all, a strong foundation and smooth ride that allows prana to do the delicate work of untangling the knots of misunderstanding that limit our expansiveness.
Where is our resolve to be found and nourished?
Where is our resolve to be found and nourished? It’s in all of the things that we consider container strengthening; good sleep, hydration, nutrition and regular practice. And it is also embodied in skillfully aligning ourselves in our seat. As described in our body-centered practice from October 6, it’s the way in which we align our deep center, floating ribs over pelvis and nesting our head on top. There will be more on this in future discussions of structural integrity, but a look at the recording of that practice covers some of the details.
And what of the “good ride?” I submit the felt sense of a good ride - ease and balance - comes with the feeling of being at home. Of looking in and tenderly welcoming ourselves in the safe environment of our inner abode. A recollection and affirmation of the times we sense “all is well here.”
Chris Holmes is an inspired anatomist, teacher, and bodyworker serving groups and individuals, helping to deepen their sense of personal empowerment through body awareness and healing. He has worked with thousands of clients and students for more than 20 years, guiding practitioners to cultivate an easeful and vibrant body/mind/spirit relationship. Chris’s extensive knowledge of structural imbalances, combined with his research studies, practical experience and devotion to the human healing process, supports others in enhancing/regaining their natural sense of wellbeing. He is truly excited to be working with the Thread community.