(This essay was written on September 9th in Mill Valley, CA during the fires).
This morning, for the first time in my life, the sun didn’t come out. It’s almost noon and it still is dark as night. The smoke from the fires raging all over California combined with the fog have created a red blanket so thick, you’d think we all woke up on Mars. It’s shocking and disorienting. It says to me what I’ve been feeling for weeks now is that the world as we knew it before is no longer and in this time of such intense change, nothing can be taken for granted. Not even the faithful sun. With so much uncertainty, we are on the edge of the unknown at almost every juncture in life. This is not necessarily negative, even though the unknown can cause anxiety. This edge, the place where the known meets the unknown, is the only place where growth happens.
I have a yoga practice that I do almost daily, which is hard for me since I tend to be lazy especially when it comes to physical activity, but I think of it as a metaphor for this edge/growth thing. I like doing the poses on my own because I can take my time with them, and with each one, I find the spot where I feel like I can’t stretch anymore, can’t hold any longer, can’t reach any further, and then I go a tiny bit more. I’m looking for that sweet spot, that place where I know if I apply pressure, my practice will evolve. I don’t just push myself, I explore the awareness in my body to see where I can find more space, more information, more potential. If I were to do yoga every day, but stay in the place I am comfortable, I may maintain my ability (and some days, that’s enough) but I won’t evolve. In the situation we are all in right now, we are being pushed to that edge on so many fronts. There’s little comfortable or familiar about life right now. But just like the yoga poses, if we bring our awareness to the moment, we can find space and creativity in this uncharted territory.
If ever there was a time to let go of attachment, it is now-attachment to expectations, attachment to certain outcomes, attachment to whatever your idea of how life should go. I say this because in unfamiliar waters like these, anything can happen, and it will most likely not be what any of us expects. When you keep your awareness to the present and work with what is, not what you wanted or expected to happen, you can stay creative and nimble. I was going to have my kids do a painting today for their school work. Nope! Apparently, my expectation that the sun would come out to let my kids see colors is just one of the many things I take for granted. So instead we read a book on Mars and they’re now playing a Martian game. Rather than trying to force what I wanted to happen today, we went with what is.
This much change and uncertainty at once is not an easy thing to handle. It’s forcing everyone to grow and evolve at a rate we’re not used to, and with growing there are always growing pains. Personal and societal evolution is a messy business. And when things are really tough for my friends and students, the last thing I do is point out the opportunity in the trenches. Sometimes you just want to just sit in it for a bit and be pissed off and angry and frustrated. For me personally, however, knowing there is tremendous purpose and evolutionary benefit behind all these trials helps me to move through that frustration quickly. In the back of my mind I know at least it’s all not in vain. By the time this year is over, we will all remember our 2019 selves and hardly recognize them.
Kristen Vandivier is an instructor of Vedic Meditation and the founder of The Vedic Method and Meditation Without Borders. She is regarded for her ability to make profound teachings relevant to everyday life and her mission of promoting meditation for social change. After completing an intensive curriculum of training under renowned Master Maharishi Vyasananda Thom Knoles, including a three-month immersion program in the Himalayas, Kristen returned to found her practice. She lives in Mill Valley with her husband and three small children.
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Originally published at https://www.thevedicmethod.com on September 9, 2020.