About fifteen years ago I went on a two week rafting trip out west. The trip had been organized by a group a few years before and when one person dropped out, I was invited to join them at the last minute. At the time I had been working long hours for months and had not taken any time off. Though it would not have been convenient for anyone on our programming team to take a vacation for the next five months, I was going to have to start taking days off anyway and my boss and I decided it was better to take leave then than a few months later.
The trip was wonderful and within a few days the worries and concerns of the last several months melted away. A week into the trip we hiked to a waterfall. A large section of the trail was a boulder field with rocks of all different sizes and shapes. I stopped in the middle to take a picture of a mountain and while trying to find the optimal shot, I stepped on a loose rock. The rock shifted and I fell, breaking a finger on one hand and jamming several on the other hand.
The guides were paramedics and though they bandaged and splinted my hands well, I was useless for the rest of the trip. I could not paddle, carry anything, or even cut my own food.
In the days that followed as we floated down the river, it slowly dawned on me that I was extremely unhappy and it had nothing to do with my hands or the trip. As I thought about it, I realized my job had taken over my life. I was regularly working twelve or more hours a day including weekends on a project that had very little chance of succeeding. I had lost my life outside of work entirely.
When the project ended six months later, I left the company and became a consultant so I would have more control over my hours as I tried to figure out what to do next. After a while I realized how much I enjoyed my weekly yoga classes, and over a period of seven years, left programming to become a yoga teacher.
Most of us do not have the luxury or desire to just sit for days on end without any diversions. I would not have done anything of the sort if I had not slipped on the rock, and I probably would have continued at the same frantic pace for years. I doubt I would have slowed down on my own, and my life would have taken an entirely different course.
With telephones and computers we are accessible twenty-four hours a day and there is television to fill our down time. It feels wasteful not to be busy doing something every minute of the day. It is no longer part of our culture to sit on the front porch and watch the world go by. We do not give ourselves the gift of time.
Without time to relax with no distractions, we often do not truly see what is happening in our lives. The thoughts and feelings that are below the surface are stifled by our constant activity.
An important part of Hatha Yoga, the physical form of yoga, is relaxation. Restoratives are a category of postures where the body is supported, and they are usually held longer than other categories of poses. Though some restorative poses are active, many are restful so we can relax into them and just be. Final relaxation or Savasana, done at the end of every class, allows us to integrate the active practice we just completed. Our bodies are quiet though our minds are aware.
Over the years, I have seen many students in restorative poses and Savasana come to realizations about their lives. Some insights have prompted changes, others acceptance.
How long has it been since you have had a few minutes of stillness? Can you find five or ten minutes a few times a week to relax and let go? Try it, who knows what you may discover.