Snakes in the Grass

Not long ago a whole group of kids were playing after school in the neighborhood park. All of sudden, two kids came tearing out of the wooded area at top speed, screaming their heads off.

“A snake! A snake! A SNAKE!”

Predictably, my two boys – Jack and Will – immediately dashed up the hill in the direction of the snake with an eager look in their eyes.

Standing on the playground area it was hard to see exactly what was happening. Both of them bent down. Jack pick up a stick. There was a collective gasp among the kids and parents as he gingerly poked with the stick. Then he tossed the stick aside, reach down, and picked up…

…a rope.

What happened is an example of a avidya. (And in fact, a classic Indian example often told to explain the concept!)

Avidya is sometimes translated as the English word ignorance.

My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ignorance as “lack of knowledge, education, or awareness”. But it wasn’t that a lack of education or unsophistication that caused the first two kids to think they had seen a snake. Of course they know what a snake is and looks like.

However, in order for them to have seen that ‘snake’ in the first place, their minds discarded the possibility that it was a rope. Then their minds filled in the blank so they saw a snake in the rope’s place.

It was a kind of confusion or mistaken identity that caused the problem.

Avidya as not ignorance as Merriam-Webster defines it but more like a false impression.

The correct information or understanding is still there, it just gets obscured by something else. When all of the kids finally saw the rope as a rope, the snake was gone and everyone had a good laugh.

This kind of mistaken identity happens all the time, and not just to elementary school kids. We see situations, experiences, and other people unclearly all the time.

I’d even argue that we rarely see ourselves clearly.

So yoga is giving us the opportunities to figure out if we are seeing clearly or identifying with our misconceptions. It’s only with dedicated practice and a healthy dose of non-attachment that we can cultivate correct “sight” and see the ropes and snakes as they really are.

The Call of Autumn

I’m so weary of this hot late summer heat. And while it is a big relief to have the kids back to school and the corresponding routines settling into place, this transition back into the fall has me feeling all out of sorts.

In an effort to ward off my fall transition funk, I took a wonderful Yin Yoga class with the predictably phenomenal Machelle Lee. During class, she reminded me of this old Krulwich Wonders piece I heard long ago on NPR about what happens to leaves in the fall.

Of course this season gets its name because the leaves from trees fall. But what is actually happening is much more fascinating. If leaves were to stay on the tree in winter, they would photosynthesize during the warm part of the day and then they would have water in their veins, which would freeze. That frozen water would cause the leaves to die. With the leaves dead, the tree would died shortly thereafter.

Perhaps even more fascinating, as a way to defend against this possibility, the leaves don’t actually fall from the tree. Instead, the tree develops these cells that cut off the leaves. Basically the tree pushes the leaves off. It’s as if the tree is saying, ‘Get out of here, leaves; it’s time for me to cut back and hunker down for what’s to come.’

This is the call of the season:fall leaves

Get grounded.

Pare down.

Take care of yourself.

 

So consider this your official autumnal invitation to get back to your mat. The fall semester at Willow Street begins Tuesday, September 6. Check out my full list of weekly classes.

And there is still space for you to join my annual fall retreat. There is one room for 4, 2 spots in a room for 3, and one spot in a room for 2.

Plus, if you are ready to take your yoga practice to the next level, the Willow Street Immersion begins September 9. It is such a huge honor to be a part of this program.

Hope I’ll see you soon!

Back to school

It’s back to school time in Chez Lemerise. What strikes me the most is the change I see in my kids and their friends after being away all summer. It’s not just that everyone has grown a few inches and are wearing new shoes, but there a clear shift in their energy and mine as well.

It is such a big time here that I sometimes forget that not everyone has this big transition at the end of August and the beginning of September like our household does. And yet in class last night one of my students remarked how even though she doesn’t have kids, she can feel the back to school enthusiasm and it renews her interest in yoga.

Whether you or members of your family are heading back to school or not, it really is a great time to recommit to your yoga practice. If a weekly class isn’t in your schedule these days, check out one of my workshops. Or maybe you need a whole weekend away. My fall retreat at the beginning of October can fit that bill.

I hope to see you on the mat this month or maybe at that PTA meeting.