By Heather Van Dalfsen, MEd, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT | Photo Credit: Heather Van Dalfsen
When my 7th grade English teacher offered this writing prompt, I sat up with my attention.
“Short, detailed slices of your life,” he repeated as he moved around the room in his cadenced, heavy-heeled walking pace.
He loved his students, he loved words and he knew how to mine experience after experience from teenagers’ growing minds and hearts.
After watching him walk by my desk, I was ready. Big, bubble cursive letters across the top of my paper read I REMEMBER and I began.
- Fields of grass
- Humid summers
- Bikes, radios, riding horses bareback, no helmets, no watches, no cellphones, no deadlines
- Big blue sky, clouds, heavy humidity, storms, thunder, tornado warnings, then sunshine and more stifling humidity
- Shade when in the woods, the white ribbon trail from the white ribbons my best friend’s brother tied on the tree trunks – connecting our houses on either side of the quarter-mile swath of dense pine and maples
- The tree at the edge of the woods, rising above the roof of my parents’ home, perfect ladder-like branches to the top, sitting there within the tree’s canopy, among initials lost in the texture of the bark
- Breathing with the tree
- Listening with the tree
- Dissolving into the coolness of the breeze through the branches, tucked away, high above everything, quiet, alive
It was then that the loss of time and ease of effort lured me into deeper pauses of presence.
I sensed it and liked it, yet as a pre-teen, wasn’t sure what to do with it. So it was tucked away as memories.
Decades later, I remember. Those moments rise-up with clarity, especially when in the presence of trees, soft winds and humidity of summer. Timeless. Effortless.
- I ask myself: How has my relationship and understanding with those timeless moments
- I ask you: What experiences invite you into a few breath cycles or longer pauses of mindful, present awareness?
- What movements or moments feel natural and intuitive to you? Walking, biking,
climbing, time with horses, being in the presence of trees? other examples?
- Which of your senses supports you in being present?
- What symbols in nature are you most connected to?
- Sit down, write, reflecting with: I Remember…. What rises-up for you?
Short ‘Yoga Snack’ Practice to support being mindful and present in the heart and heat of summer:
- Find a favorite space outdoors or indoors
- Sit or stand and sense how you are connected to the earth, ground or floor
- Take three steady breath cycles – breathing in and breathing out
- When external warm temperatures or a sense of heat within yourself, explore three breath cycles of Sitali or Sitkari Breath – a technique I call ‘cooling – calming’ breath
o Sitali Breath – stick out your tongue and curl it – another option is Sitkari Breath, tongue softly placed behind the top row of teeth, the bottom row of teeth slightly dropping from the top row of teeth
o Inhale along wet tongue, ‘sipping in’ inhale
o At peak of inhale let tongue touch roof of mouth and pause
o Exhale through both nostrils as tongue relaxes, jaw relaxes, let shoulders relax, sense the soft gravity pull of the earth
- Practice ‘cooling -calming’ breath for three breath cycles, softening eyes to closure
- Then Breathe freely
- Listen to the sounds of the space you are in
- Notice what you feel through the hands, along the skin
- Sense the colors and textures of the space, even with eyes closed
- Continue to breathe freely as you open your eyes
May these reflections and short practice support you in remembering what you always have known – your ability to pause and be present, understand and trust your wisdom and integrate it into your life.
Donna Farhi shares her wisdom that reflects the depth of these practices:
“When we begin Yoga practice, we are signing up for a lifelong apprenticeship with our Self and to the Self. Nothing can replace the minutes, hours and days of practice, observation and just plain old trial and error involved in a lifelong apprenticeship. It is the very slowness of this apprenticeship that is the healing, for in slowing down we fall into a more natural rhythm with life and with ourselves. Thus we gradually change, gradually understand, gradually integrate….” From Bringing Yoga to Life