Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Bearable Lightness of Being

Growing up, the best part about being stuck at Camp Lutherdale the first two weeks of August each summer was getting to watch the movie The Red Balloon. It’s French, won all kinds of awards and was filmed in 1956. So yes, my younger friends, it was a hot new release when I first saw it.

I suspect The Red Balloon has pretty obvious Protestant overtones (persecution, redemption, ascension, etc.); it was, after all, Lutheran Camp Approved. But as a kid, all that registered was that tragedy can be followed by magic. Also, that sadness is heavy and happiness is weightless.

Training with a new teacher last week, I sensed the airy pause in her jump forward from Down Dog as we warmed up side by side through rounds of Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutation. We paused to go deeper into the move—not a jump, after all, but a fluid, flying arm balance—to find and hone the essence of its weightless quality.

While she stood with her back against the wall, I faced her in Down Dog and practiced sending my sit bones up, toward the ceiling, instead of forward. Each time, she caught my hips against her torso until I trusted the shift onto my arms and could quietly, lightly touch my feet to the floor between my hands. I began to have the sense of being barely tethered to earth, and in that balanced hesitation, a weightless, timeless blink of happiness.

Feel for lightness the next time you practice. Find enough space between flesh and mat for electricity to arc from one to the other. Leave a whisper between your palms in Namaste. Converse with treetops as if you held a thousand balloons.

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