Change As A Privilege

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
– Alan Watts

icyclesI was on retreat in upstate New York this April, right when the pollen started to fall from the trees in Brooklyn.  Upstate, nothing had yet to bud at the tips of the branches. Winter takes longer to let go there – creating an additional season which feels like “Winter Letting Go Into Spring”. And for the four days I was there – things constantly changed. Pictures of the lake I took on the first day were impossible the next as it has risen a foot. Icicles that had clung to branches over the stream had melted when I woke up. The stream itself was much fuller than I see it at other times.

I might have thought the lake on the first day with less water, unblemished by the debris of the melting shoreline, was best. Or I might have liked it better with icicles raining down to the earth, or when they were still crisp and frozen. But it was all just change, and it wasn’t good or bad. It was just beautiful awesome change.

How can we be with our own changes in such a way?

Because we have this impetus, or maybe it’s just me, that change must be evolving, or at the very least for a purpose.  And if it’s not, then it’s feels like “what’s the point?”.  And I think we carry this through as a consolation in yoga – we see how everything is changing, and we think of it as evolving, or at the very least having a purpose. Generally it is, it does. But to regard change as just beautiful in its own right, without deciding about it, is a powerful practice.

How can we be with our own changes outside that need for evolution and purpose?

embersIf we feel absent of change – to know that the fire needs excellent embers in order not to extinguish easily – even if left untended for a time.

If we lean towards good or bad identification with change – can we let that go and rejoice in the change itself – the ability we have to change – the honor of it.

Doing so keeps things from being rote – you have to pay attention because at any time you can fall down or balance  in handstand.  Change allows for us to study, investigate, and work on ourselves. It keeps our beginners mind available to us, and keeps life from becoming rote.  Think how boring asana would be if there was never any change.

If change didn’t throw us into actively investigating our habits and cultivating curiosity – that would truly be an “otherwise what’s the point?”

In his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, Richard Feldman spoke of change as a privilege. Which is a perspective we could all work towards sharing.

“And Detroit is really not only the epicenter of the crisis and the pain, but also, as we’ll talk later on, the epicenter of a tremendous amount of hope and rejuvenation taking place.”  In speaking about Detroit, he speaks about so many corners of our lives. In those corners can we step back from the pain, step back from the rejuvenation, and just witness the change – the privilege of change?


Cross Pollination


David Montgomery, a geomorphologist (a geologist that specializes in the study of changing topography over time), was recently in conversation with Krista Tippett for her radio show, On Being. Among many insightful thoughts, David shared his interest in promoting cross pollination between science and religion.  His recent book specifically works towards bridging what he has often experienced as a rather contentious relationship between the two.

My teacher, Michael Stone, recently co-led a retreat working on bringing together Judaism and Buddhism study and practices. Not in an attempt to Frankenstein the practices together, but to engage in dialogue.

“Religion is a long conversation going on for thousands of year about what’s important, by people struggling with figuring out what’s important, and how to open up to what’s important with each other.”

The ability to open up that conversation between religions allows us to see our particular perspective’s blind spots. I believe that if we’re very honest we would agree, without loss of faith or love, our own particular religion is not perfect.

We would similarly, without loss of faith or love, duly agree we are not perfect. This idea of cross-pollination is just what we need more of in our practice.  Reading yoga books alone only gets us so far. Meditation and introspection alone only get us so far.  Practicing asana without feedback or guidance only gets us so far.

When I engage in conversation with my fellow explorers, their conversations come back to me over the weeks to come – snippets and threads that inspire me, move me pass blocks, or just point out blind spots I had no inkling to even look for.

1) Thank you to my fellow explorers – you have impacted who I am more than you know.  Be grateful to your own – let them know.Yarn and knitting needles_1

2) Be willing to cross-pollinate.  Engage in conversation with other yogis – but also with Buddhist, Christians, Atheists, Scientists, Artists, Lovers, Poets, Athletes – anyone who has a passion and exploratory spirit is ready with insights to share, even if they don’t know it.  Ram Dass was giving a lecture and noticed an old lady in the front row. He knew there was no way she way there to hear about all the drugs and alternate realities and yoga practices and gurus and such. And yet everytime he went a step deeper, he looked over to see the lady nodding – totally on board and getting it. At the end they spoke, and she said how he was so right on. He asked what her practice was. She told him it was knitting.

3) Join us for Yoga Between the Lines and Satsang: Meditation & Dharma Discussion for some cross pollinating in Brooklyn!

Yoga Between the Lines starts a new book: The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass in May

Satsang meets this Thursday: 7:30pm at Mala Yoga – $15