seeds of bliss
Travel, yoga and Houston, Texas – three things I share with the subject of the front-page New York Times article last week on The Yoga Mogul, John Friend. Writer Mimi Swartz strikes a balanced pose on the yoga guru phenomenon inlaid in the economic buckle of America’s bible belt, my birthplace, and his “celebration of the heart” philosophy of yoga. I have not studied with Friend; but last month, thousands of miles from home, I did make a friend through yoga, whose name I do not know and whom I shall never see again.
It was the last of a four-week US tour, which took me from Houston, to Boulder, to Los Angeles. One glorious SoCal morning, I stepped outside for one last walk down the sandy trails of Pallisades Park, floating high above the wide sandy beaches of Santa Monica. Under a tall canopy of palm trees, the hot summer sun, clear blue skies, and cool sea breeze drew me out into Nature one last time, just for the pleasure.
I was in good company. A larger-than-usual assortment of LA’s beautiful people were there with me for what my father would have called their “morning constitutional.” Power walkers, dog-walkers, runners, bikers and skaters covered the trails with cell phones, water bottles, sunscreen, and the determination to get fit.
There were plenty of students, too, with teachers staking out proprietary patches of green for fitness al fresco. One cluster after another, devotees practiced tai chi, kick boxing, resistance training with stretchy bands, and head stands on black rubber mats to smooth out Mother Nature’s bumps and bulges. Perhaps the most devoted were a dozen young mothers, surrounded by baby carriages, flexing and toning, as their instructor called her moves holding one baby on her hip and rocking another in its carriage.
I made my usual walk past them all, past the rose gardens with the friendly gardener, past the modern obelisk memorial to American armed forces, to my usual turn-around. On my way back, I saw what was for me the most inviting class of all. A solitary man with not even a mat was poised on a slight hill in the shadow of a stately palm, doing yoga. Something inspired me, and I decided to stop and join in.
I found another shadow three palms’ lengths away, and lowered myself into it. Shoes and socks off. Cell phone aside. Conscious that he was there across the sunny divide, but with no particular attention on him, I grasped the green grass with my toes and started my daily practice.
Down on my back, arms overhead. Knees to chest. A plow. A cobbler. Sitting straight. Folding over legs, hands gently holding soles. Staff and sage, twisting. Stretching cat and downward dog. Mountain and warrior, humble and proud. Through my paces, grass on my clothes, aware of my partner on the lawn, present with myself and the quiet earth beneath us both. Finally, for a handful of moments, simple relaxation, appreciating my favorite view of the world – blue sky through tree leaves high above me.
I stepped back into my silver Pumas, retrieved my silver cell phone, and stood. Something in me said, “Acknowledge him, this anonymous friend who has shared this moment with you. You are separate but not, connected through your simple connection with Life. Appreciate it.” And so I turned. As I raised my hand to wave goodbye, he raised his too. The faintest smile on my face went with me through the rest of the day. Bliss.
It had been a busy and encouraging trip. I was in LA that week to present the final in a series of “QuickStart” evenings on The Wheel of Creativity. I was also there for meetings – from lawyers to potential partners – to clarify my vision, define my message and outline next steps. But, if there were a defining moment for the entire week, it was this one.
Every moment bears within it the seeds of bliss, the opportunity for what John Friend calls, a “celebration of the heart”. Looking past the beautiful hard bodies on the path beside me to the beautiful heart of one other human being here on the earth with me was a simple choice. And it was a creative act.
Ms. Swartz closes her NYT session with John Friend by quoting from an email in which he links artistic expression with the discipline of Yoga, through intention. I couldn’t agree more. But the yoga of creative expression extends far beyond art to every aspect of life, because the creative process is Life itself; and, consciously or not, we are always engaged in it.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, my Santa Monica friend, I thank you for creating that moment with me, and for how it changed my day. Namaste.