Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 29): Standing Still

The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet. (Lao Tzu)

Yes, this has been on my mind all week. I came across this variation on the famous quote which states that the journey "begins with a single step" awhile ago, but recently I have been chewing it over, curious as to why I am so drawn to the more "correct" translation of the ancient Chinese text?

I think it has to do with the notion of "doing" versus "being." I firmly believe that everything we do both knowingly and unconsciously are the small steps that add up to a long journey. I am aware that "no action is wasted on this journey" (another favorite quote, this one from the Bhagavad Gita) and seemingly small efforts can eventually move mountains, change lives.

But my tendency is to be in action. Recently, a friend was in despair about not being able to fit into her schedule time for making art as she had recently gone back to school and also was juggling family and work. And I heard myself in her words; I recognize that all too often I am busy thinking about all the things I want to be doing and not noticing - not celebrating - what it is I'm achieving in this moment. While it is a gift to have my creativity in overdrive, there is also this compulsive moving forward as if my inspired ideas were preparing to fly the coop.

When I teach a beginner's class in yoga, the first pose we learn is Tadasana or mountain pose. I joke that I am going to be teaching them the really hard stuff: how to stand, sit and lie down. Oh, and to be still. And relax. And do nothing. Which is, really, doing everything.

In Tadasana we talk about the correct placement of the feet, the alignment of the knees over the ankles, the balance of the pelvic basin, the rooting of the tailbone and the lift of the crown of the head. Then I ask the students to try and notice how the weight of the body is distributed across the feet: do they tend to lean forward or hang back? Collapse inward or roll outward? How we stand is very revealing.

When I stand in Tadasana, my tendency is for my body to slowly drift forward, like a car idling fast and ready to lurch into action once the foot is off the brake. I also let the weight of my body spills out as my feet roll towards their outside edges. What this means is my energy pools out from me rather than being gathering and mindfully employed. If I were to take a step forward from this position, I would probably be pretty wobbly and over time, would have strained ankles and depleted energy.

I am also reminded of a story about a woman who has lost a needle and is looking for it outside. When someone asks her where she lost it, she replies inside but it is dark there, so she has come outside where there is more light to see. When the people question her, she replies "I have seen you all searching outside, and I know now from my own experience, that what you are seeking is lost within." My compulsive busyness is part of my searching, but what I know what I search for will only be found within my own stillness and being.

So for me, balance in my life requires a little less stepping forward and more time standing still. Less doing and more being. Understanding where I am in this moment, feeling the earth beneath my feet and connecting myself to that grounding, stabilizing energy is the beginning of any journey. Then any action that arises does so from a place of centeredness and deep knowing of myself. As I stand, I lift and spread my toes, drawing into myself and settling fully and consciously into the space I occupy. From that stillness all manner of magic can - and will - arise. I just have to let it come and let it flow. I don't have to seek, I just have to be found.

The journey begins here, within me.

my first page for The Sketch Book Project; it seemed appropriate

Painting with a Purpose update: The winner of our Fearless Dreamer Lion is Amma O! Congratulations! I am thinking Cowgirl and I may have to paint a few more Fearless Dreamers for a few inspired friends out there ;)

This Friday will be our last painting for the campaign. We have surpassed our original goal to raise money to sponsor a child and if we can raise an additional $100 we could co-sponsor two more children! Please help spread the word and if you haven't had a chance to donate, now is the time! Details are available here and here you can donate by visiting our pledge page.


  1. Just reading your words and reflection makes me want to give Yoga a try...but only if I can take your class!! ha. You have definitely peaked my interest as I seek the balance I lack...both physically and mentally. Perhaps I should take a step as well...

  2. Our Celebrate Elephant made it safe and sound. What a beautiful piece of art. Ava agreed we can put it in Evan's room since he doesn't have very many pictures yet. I also love your business card :) Tell C Dog she did an amazing job and Ava says, "It is beautiful and thanks for giving it to us."

  3. I wrote a long comment saying how hard it is for me to be still and that I come from the land of Bhagvad Gita but have never read it. But blogger ate up comment!

    For the Sketchbook project I went with "It will be fun I swear", I was torn between this theme and "A Day in the Life of".

  4. We all need to slow done a little, even if only psychologically. Like the foot picture at the bottom.

  5. ouch at spelling above :)