Lessons from Nepal #4 - Flat is Boring

While staying in Nepal, our guide frequently encouraged us to hire a cab to get around during our daily excursions.  We frequently complied with his request, as it was quick and provided work for the cab driver, but occasionally we opted to walk.  Our guide reluctantly complied with our wishes, often leading us through fascinating business and residential areas.  We were thrilled to watch the locals going about their daily lives and slow down to really see Nepali life.  Our guide was not impressed with these decisions, so we finally asked why he didn't like to walk.  "Flat is boring" was his reply.  Makes sense, the man does make his living as a trekking guide.  Flat walking did not offer panoramic views or cardiovascular challenge.  In cardiology, flat line refers to being dead and without a pulse.  Time to get off the flat line.

Moderate challenges did reward us with breathtaking views and new experiences.  By stepping out of our comfort zone and confronting slippery paths, leeches, and questionable roads, we were rewarded with the experience of a lifetime.  It is often like that in yoga as well.  When you are willing to step just beyond your comfort zone, amazing things can happen.  

In practice and in life, you need to experience both the flat lines and the uphill battles.  You need a moment to pause and reflect, and a moment to power through a challenge.  This is why there is more than one style of yoga.  We can't spend our entire practice resting in shavasana or sitting in meditation, but we can't spend the entire time giving 100% physical effort either.  

The challenge is to be happy with whatever life is throwing at you.  Can you enjoy that flat and easy path as well as the uphill battle?  Can you balance the rest and the work?  Try finding the balance between the sthira (strength and steadiness) and sukha (ease, relaxation, joy).  This is our challenge, and it is the work of a lifetime.

Namaste - Beth

Lessons from Nepal #1 - Open Heart

My husband and I were walking along the lake in Pokhara, Nepal enjoying the views of nature, shops, and people that we saw along the way.  An elderly Nepali man was sitting near the path splitting wood with a handheld tool.  As our path crossed the area where he was working, I became fascinated and paused to see what he was doing.  "Eyes broken",  he questioned as he stopped working.  I was processing his intent and did not respond in words or expression.  A louder and angrier "eyes broken" met my silence.  You could feel the hostile energy as his eyes met mine.  We quickly continued along the path, and I was filled with fear.  At a week into our trip, this was our first day without our guide, and I longed for the ease that came with his guidance and friendship.  We were truly in another world.

Later in the streets near our hotel, we passed an elderly Nepali woman.  Her gray hair was pinned back, she was carrying a bright pink umbrella to shield herself from the afternoon sun, and was wearing a beautiful pink sari.  There was a beauty and grace about her, and I admit that I stared a bit too long.  My eyes met hers and I gave her my warmest smile.  She greeted us with a "namaste", and we returned the greeting.  After we passed, her friendly voice commented, "always smiling, never talking".  Her words stuck with me as we continued on our way.

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." - Rumi

We all hold some sort of barriers.  I believe that every interaction can be a lesson.  Both of these encounters point to some of my personal barriers.  Caution and reserve are my protective bubble, and they are driven by fear and shyness.  They are a barrier to experiencing love and friendship.  They can close relationships before they even start.  Would the man have responded differently if I had said, namaste, may I watch you work?  Maybe, and maybe not, but his words can be a lesson and a gift. 

I found most of the people in Nepal to be open, loving, kind and giving.  I have new friendships that I will treasure forever.  It is also glaringly obvious that as a personal practice, I must begin to enbrace these qualities.  My meditation, my yoga practice, and my daily life will focus on breaking down barriers and finding an open heart.  Very often, what you give is what you get.  Give what you seek, and it will return to you.

  "Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, 
and the life of the candle will not be shortened. 
Happiness never decreases by being shared." - Buddha

Happiness and love are contageous.  Take a few moments to ponder each of your interactions (even the negative ones).  They are a gift, and contain lessons that will help you find what you seek.  Each day, share a little more and watch the beauty that unfolds.

Namaste - Beth