Sunday, March 15, 2009

Using Obstacles Creatively

Obstacles can be annoying, a challenge or an absolute blast. On the river a rock creates an obstacle for the flow of water. Depending on how close the rock is to the surface of the water, there are various features that are created. A rock way below the surface might create a small wave. A bigger rock closer to the surface can create a bigger wave. When the rock is just below the surface of the water it creates a hole. Rocks that are above the surface of the water create eddies, a calm spot or relatively calm spot, where boaters can stop and take a break.

For the beginner, the rocks in the rivers can create difficulties. Beginners hit rocks, get stuck in holes and flip on eddy lines. As a paddler gains more skills these same features create interesting challenges where the paddler can learn control and begin to use these features to make river running easier. The advanced paddler takes these obstacles to a whole new level where the challenges become fun and a way of playing with the water. Surfing a wave in a kayak connects the paddler with the energy of the river in an ecstatic dance.

Some obstacles change with our skills and attitudes. However some obstacles need to be avoided. For example in flood stage on a river the same rock creating a friendly hole can create a hole that would be dangerous to enter. So we need to be honest about what we can handle. We need to be aware of our skills and listen to our fears. Are our fears rational or habitual? It is our sensitivity and awareness that will lead us to our truth in that moment.

Yoga helps us to recognize our obstacles. As we become more aware of our breath and balancing the muscular and organic energy, contractive and expansive energy, we learn the skills to change our obstacles or overcome them. First we need awareness, then discipline, practice and patience. Some obstacles will shift more quickly than others. Some obstacles will remain things we need to avoid. But all obstacles are teachers. They help us define our edges. They push us into recognition. They help us become more sensitive and strong.

Listen to your breath. Sometimes stillness is our obstacle that we seek to avoid. But stillness is where we find our center. It is where we become more alive. It is where we find replenishment. Sometimes a task or person may be our obstacle. The question to ask is what can I learn from this. How can I find compassion in this situation? How can I use this obstacle become more open and honest with myself? Life often unfolds in mysterious and unexpected ways. But being open to the journey is where we find our true peace.

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