In the previous year (2013), I had some great new experiences:
For the first time, I got my legs into Garundasana (Eagle).
This may sound trivial, but it is miraculous, considering I thought this to be a physical impossibility at the start of the year. I am sure my orthopedic docs would consider it impossible, considering the state of my knees and hips, and the numerous injuries they’ve sustained. It was also virtually impossible, given the state of my mind, spirit, and resultant attitude. Only when I accepted some hard realities in my life and released them with gentle understanding, did I reach a state where this type of contortion was possible, a state that required not only physical flexibility, but also a more open heart, mind, and spirit.
For the first time, I got my body into Ardha-Padmanasana (Half Lotus).
This appears to be trivial as well, but is actually a huge step for me. Not only were the physical ‘limitations’ of my knees and hips factors, but also the series of unexplored muscles in my groin and pelvis, and the (perhaps most importantly) state of gentle acceptance of Self and others that is a prerequisite to achieving rest in this pose. Like with Eagle, I wasn’t trying to achieve this pose when I did – that attitude would have precluded any chance of being there. Instead, it just sort of happened as I was being gratefully and gently present in my body, exploring my ‘edge’ of performance, of being. I never imagined I would ever be able to be in this posture. And it is definitely a posture: physical, mental, and spiritual.
For the first time, I performed Hurdler pose.
Hurdler is an improbable pose, at best. I wasn’t even trying to perform it; the (magical) teacher just gave the cues and I did what she said (without expectations) and…viola! there I was. It was beautiful; only to be experienced from a state of strength, grace, and allowing. Unlike Eagle and Lotus, I haven’t been able to (or haven’t really tried to) duplicate it since.
I learned to truly rest in Scorpion pose.
Scorpion is a beautiful pose. In my current expression, my legs just dangle over my head. In theory, some day my spine will be strong and flexible enough to allow my toes to touch my head (second picture). For now, I just be here, where I am. I learned to do this pose first in 2011, and refined it in 2012. It wasn’t until this year that I came to the point where I could genuinely rest in this pose, savoring the energetic benefits of it, and sublime experience of being it. That is huge…to me.
I began blogging.
Although I began sharing notes on MySpace and Facebook (to selected aurdiences) after returning from Afghanistan, it was only this fall that I made an actual blog, and opened my heart to share it with the world. That is an intimate thing, and a big step for me.
I taught my first Yoga Nidra class, and my first classes at the Neurosculpting Institute.
Yoga Nidra is a super-helpful and easily accessible method of deep relaxation. It is immensely helpful and healing to all of us, especially those who have suffered trauma (PTSD, TBI, etc). It is rarely taught of utilized. I gave my first class on Nidra at the Neurosculpting Institute, which was in itself an honor. Teaching (sharing, guiding) such a powerful method is immensely rewarding. I plan to do more of this in 2014…
I made my first organic smoothie, and got a Ninja Blender.
With my first organic juice and purchase of a juicer in 2012, I followed up in 2013 with acquisition of a Ninja blender and began to make organic smoothies. I love this method, as juicing leaves a lot of unused roughage, stuff I suspect my body needs. Smoothies leave all those good kale and watermelon ‘leftovers,’ giving my digestive system something healthy to chew on. This may sound like another trivial and questionable benefit, but its implications for my lifelong health and performance are incredible. Bring on the phytochemicals…
I got a garlic press and a vegetable steamer tray, and made my first viniagrette dressing and my first artichoke.
Okay, this one is trivial. Perhaps. But to a single guy who had only the basic cooking utensils around, it is important. Now I can make a viniagrette dressing for my guests, or steam an artichoke or broccoli for my sweetie, if She comes over. That’s huge.
I began to practice slack-lining.
People over fifty rarely (or rarely used to) take up new sports that could result in falls, accidents, or injuries. People over fifty usually experience reduced strength and balance, too. That is not going to be me…at least if I can help slow down that inevitable decline. I got my grandson a Gibbon slackline for Christmas, and we are both learning it together (as we are those shoes with wheels on the heels…heelies). Not only is this helpful, but fun. I hope to keep it up, and some day be this incredibly old man doing yoga poses on a slackline.
There were many other great things in my year, perhaps not ‘firsts,’ but beautiful nonetheless:
I reconnected with three old junior/high school friends, one of them one of my best friends of the period, one a lover, and one my first love.
I accepted my lover as she was, with all her ‘faults’ and decided to love her not only in spite of those, but because of them.
I began snowboarding again after a five year break, something I love and previously did a lot of.
I learned a lot more about recent development in neuroscience, and about PTS(D).
Naturally, a little rain must fall as well, if nothing else but as for leaven for the high points.
I broke up with my last girlfriend, someone who made a special impact in my life and development. Even though mutual, it was very hard.
My relationship with my brother shattered, partly in conjunction with the above-mentioned breakup.
Overall, it was a pretty good year – hard, but ultimately good.
Perhaps the most important thing I did not mention, perhaps because it is early and perhaps inappropriate to speculate on the future at this point:
On a Friday the 13th, after more than five months alone, I met the woman who is my koan; in Her presence, my mind stops and I drop instantly into the heart. I met the woman I suspect could be the woman, the partner and soul-mate I have been looking for all my life. If this is true, then meeting Her would be the most important event of the year, if not of my life.
These activities (achievements, experiences) are all relatively mundane, in the big (or even smaller) scale of things. Yet they are important to me and my personal development, or reflective of it. As I look back, the things I’d like to have added to this list are not fascinating journeys or trips to far places, not material or career related. The ones I want to have on next year’s list are about service, to society, to others, to myself. They will be examples of where I helped in practical, tangible ways to make this world a better place.
Sure, making the world a better place starts with making yourself a better, nicer person; I know that. Yet I find a desire (need?) to effect change in more positive ways, more directly helpful ways. Still, the three primary foundations of positive change are effecting it in self, in family, and in intimate relationships. From that basis, we can then branch out to help others.
I am excited to see how next year’s list looks, and to experience the things I plan to add to the list.
“Some people pray to God: be here now to help me. I pray: help me to be here now.”