The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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Curating Silence

I’ve noticed in the last year that the word curate has become quite a popular one in our collective consciousness, especially online. Curate was once only reserved for museum directors; now anyone can curate. People are curating all kinds of stuff –everything from Rumi quotes to smoothie recipes, to bumble bee prints to workout music to favorite talk shows.

But sometimes all this stuff needs a rest.

I would like to create a space to curate silence. You can think of this blog post as just that space –a museum of silence. If you think about one possibility of a museum –a history museum, a place of antiques, or things that have become extinct; curating silence makes even more sense.

If I were to take silence out of the world to curate here, these are some places I might extract it from:

The car: When I turn off the radio, or CD player, or podcast I’m listening to, it is quite quiet in my car. It’s amazing how much more of the world outside my car I notice in this silence.

The living room: When I turn off the TV, shut down my laptop and Internet, the living room silence and snowbecomes a very quiet space. It even opens up space for conversation with others.

The forest: There is a lovely silence about a forest. Although the more you quiet there, the more you may hear.

In a cup of tea: You have to be silent when sipping. Tea is a liquid that somehow creates a hush of mind and body. With hands grasped around warm mug; stop talking, stop breathing, stop thinking even, at least for that one little sip.

And then another.

The predawn morning: There is nothing like the quietude when people, pets, machines have not yet awoken. When I can muster the courage to pull myself out of my cozy bed for a little extra me time in the morning, I never regret it.

I love doing my yoga in the space just before sunrise. The darkness there has this way of enveloping me, squeezing the thoughts to stay in their place. Squeezing my body to stay centered in the pose. The daylight expands my thinking into all that I will be doing for the day, and my mind gets carried away with the sun. But this soundless time before all that is priceless.

The night: Nighttime is made to be a quieter time. Darkness has a way of silencing. Too often, we shut out the darkness. Extract darkness to extract the silence from the night.

silence and snowSnowfall: Falling snow, like darkness, seems to have a way of winding down the earth into silence.

In our minds: This is sometimes one of the hardest places out there to find silence -but it is there. I find that meditation is an active work in progress in muting my mind. Some days, the task seems near impossible. Then there are those other sweet, sweet days when merely focusing on a few deep breaths draws that silence up like a spring.

I found this passage I had written a few years ago about a first snowfall that explains what I’m getting at. It encompasses three of the best places for me to find silence –snow, darkness, and morning:

The house is still quiet, still dark, only lit by the white from outside. I am sitting at the dining table looking out into our Christmas tree farm backyard; the snow falling now, slowing, but it’s there, stuck to the trees, laying on the ground, clinging to the browned leaves still on the cherry tree, even to the little cherries that no birds are feasting upon this morning. Everyone snuggled into some cozy nook, hopefully. And now all the movement of falling snow has stopped. So much energy falls from the sky, impregnating the air all around; only to bring complete stillness that lays heavy on the land. All that energy stops on tree branches, ground, roof tops, pressing into us, creating a vast silence; opening up some space for it; a quieting. Brown leaves remain on trees covered in snow, stilled in their process of dying. This silence here, creating enough space for my voice to come back.

You never know what you may find in the silence.

And lastly, this blog post: Yes, even here. My gift to you all is a moment of silence.

Sit in front of the screen. Close your eyes, if you are able. Shut off the TV. Insert your earbuds, then don’t turn on any music. Bring your laptop or ipad to a quiet spot in the house. You can even pretend you are still reading, pretend you are being productive. Go ahead, it’s worth the fib. Then let yourself experience a moment of silence, or two, or three, if you can spare more. The thing about silence is once you find it, it tends to multiply. You tend to find more pockets of quietude in the day to add to the space.

Ok. Ready? Go …

silence in snow

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Facing Fear in the Snow (Meditation of Change)

So often just getting out of town, away from home, even if it’s not that far, gives me the distance to find perspective in my life. And more often than not it takes place outdoors. A few weekends ago (my birthday weekend –the perfect time to be confronted with my fears), my boyfriend and I set out on a light-snowy day to have an adventure in the woods. I’d actually agreed to go camping in the snow, in a snow fort even, a quinzhee, to be precise.

Just getting som021e fresh air in my lungs and my mind to focus on nothing more than my footsteps in the snow was a good start. But it was during a break in shoveling our snow pile, Jason’s turn, that my mind started softening and opening up to what it needed to learn. I realized what this adventure was, it wasn’t about me feeling old, and needing more excitement in my life, it was about me facing my fears.

Fear is always there. We don’t actually like to think about our fears or acknowledge them, but here I was with some of our most basic fears staring me in the face –the cold, and the dark. And sometimes simply being with the fear, or in it, is all it needs to melt away.

Out there in the woods, meeting others on the trail I didn’t realize how many of the things that I loved I could still do in winter too. Out here, it was hoppin’. People didn’t let the weather stop them. They still hiked mountains, went camping; it was just a completely different experience in the snow and cold, but no less enjoyable. You really do just need to prepare – put on enough layers and even the coldest day is do-able. I spent the whole afternoon quite comfortable. When I found myself cooling down a little, I just moved around some more, walking further down the trail, finding the most beautiful part of it just a little beyond, where it hugs closer to the snow-covered river, pockets of running water and icicles peeking out.

We finished our snow fort and began the hike back to our car to treat ourselves to a nice meal out or, rather, in. Hiking to the car in twilight allowed me to confront the dark gradually, being with the dark as it slowly crept over the day, the forest closing in on us at times on the trail, then opening up to the last bits of daylight.  It wa007s never too dark to see, but if I were inside I would have already turned on the lamp. Twilight brought a stillness to everything around us and we walked on steadily and quietly, the now gradual decline of the path making for a quick and pleasant walk.

The walk back up the trail, with full bellies and tired legs was a bit more challenging, but no less beautiful. The soft yellow glow of our lamps was enough light for comfort and instead of feeling vulnerable and scared of the unknown darkness ahead, I felt open and free, every now and again peering up at the snow-covered spruce branches and hazy crescent moon.

It was those moments in the woods, standing perfectly still, not feeling coldness creeping over me, not feeling uneasy in the dark, just feeling, that it seemed so simple –anything could be faced with the right equipment.036

I think something opened me up in that cold snow woods that weekend, cracked through the shell of fear I’d built around my heart. And often when entering new stages in my life I build up this wall of fear, cocoon myself in what little familiarity is left in my life, protection from the new, the unknown. I’m ready to keep that shell cracked, to really open up to the new, and to even greater possibilities than I first imagined.

Here is a meditation I have been taking out of my toolbox lately, that a wonderful Kundalini teacher suggested for dealing with times of change: Meditation of Change. I’m only beginning to understand how my ego’s fears are hindering my acceptance of change and only beginning to learn how to crack through the shell to access that higher self that is always at peace with the rhythms of life’s changes.

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