As a teenager, I would fix my gaze on the back of my eyelids when I couldn’t fall asleep. Initially I would see a relatively flat screen of mottled black and light, like an old UHF channel with no signal. Staring at this, I would wait for the moment the flat screen suddenly expanded out to a limitless night sky. Without recognizing it as such at the time, this was a full-bodied experience. When I reached it, I knew I would instantly fall asleep. I called it “Going out into the Universe.” After I left for college, life simultaneously accelerated and unraveled, and I forgot.
Ten years ago or so I began to meditate by focusing, somewhat begrudgingly, on the tip of my nose. After years of practice, despite my struggle with the “uninspiring” object of focus, I finally plunged into the universe again. It was just a brief dive, usually at the end of my meditation, and instead of falling asleep, I stayed alert. This is when I recalled my organic teenage experience. “Oh!”, I thought, “This is ‘Going out into the Universe!’” Albeit through my nose . . ..
My yoga practice tagged along behind my meditation practice for many years. Today, despite meditating and practicing yoga regularly, when I roll out my mat and step on, I face a chaotic, static-filled channel with the volume turned way up. So, while many a yoga teacher has instructed to “Leave it on your mat,” my mat feels like a flat screen— way too small and two-dimensional to hold it all. My practice involves coaxing myself to release all my thoughts throughmy mat, deep into the Earth’s core, which ultimately is another portal into the Universe. Yes, OK, like the nose.
Whatever “hot mess” is currently active in my life, whether a conflict with another person, my concern for the state of our world and the Earth, or often my own internal systematic self-persecution, I breathe it down into the Earth and beyond. Sometimes I use self chosen mantras— breathing it all out into “Thy,” and breathing to myself and all the world, “will;” or exhaling, “I,” and inhaling, “Am;” and when I can convince myself, breathing out, “love,” and inhaling, filling, and seeing all around me as, “Love.” I release into the Earth-Universe hoping, recalling from the last time I noticed its power, that this vastness from which all existence constantly springs can tend, if not resolve, my “problem” much better than can my own small, rutted mind.
Sometimes, for the big ones such as the state of the world, it takes trust that some day, with more and more people practicing in their own way, a solution will evolve. It also takes trust that shifts will eventually occur with long-term interpersonal quagmires. For me, thankfully some old relationships have finally morphed. Yet occasionally, in the case of a specific hot conflict in a relationship, the shift can feel suddenly, magically effortless at the next encounter with the individual. Practically speaking, the most immediate litmus test of this letting go occurs when I try to donkey kick into handstand. Only when I dissolve everything from my head into the Earth, for the greater good, can I stick it, if for just one joyful moment. If I have not honestly released, if my small mind is still racing, meandering, or grasping to the goal, my feet range from yoga blocks to dense bricks and they don’t fly, or they become free-wheeling projectiles.
I bring this yoga of dissolving into the Earth and Universe with me when I walk my Labyrinth among the trees, wild plants and creatures in my back yard. By the time I reach the center, after about one half hour, I have often filled with Earth-Universe energies and offered my trapped, repetitive thoughts deep into the ground beneath my feet. In the same way as on the mat, when I do this, it can be like planting seeds for later fruition. But sometimes, mysteries occur right on the spot.
Just a few days ago, as I left my hour of slow-stepped unwinding, I stopped four feet from a downy woodpecker hammering away at the seedpods of a towering mullein stalk. After fifteen minutes of persistent pecking, it paused at my eye level to gaze at me, cocking its head a bit, and clinging to the stalk with long wiry toes. A red squirrel simultaneously settled beside my cell phone on the rock wall, just behind, and looked steadily at me. All three of us remained calmly still— the two creatures gazing at me, and I gently moving my eyes between the two. I was aware of my feet aching, of my oh-so human mind wondering when I should move on, but I kept releasing thoughts into the greater Love out of which we all spring. We stayed this way for about ten minutes until, as if melting a spell, the woodpecker returned to its mullein seeds and the squirrel scuttled away down the wall.
My mind can’t know what this experience reallymeans. I can conjecture about how letting go into the infinite that permeates us all opens us to a collective sense of being. I can hope that if I keep on with this practice, I may receive more decipherable directives as to how to be a more aligned and powerful participant in, and for, our world. I doknow that our world often places the emphasis on addressing and solving a problem in real time. This is very important too, and I have to admit, I am still a novice at this practical kind of “taking my yoga off my mat.” It is hard to stay consciously rooted during conflict. For me, my proverbial mat is the mystical roll-out rubber carpet, or the looping labyrinthine path, that leads into deep connection with the Universe. The Universe responds, but according to its own wisdom and timing.
In a world of internal and external division, and nature under critical threat, the more we can let go to connect, the more we will be in flow with, instead of struggling against, the impulse of Earth and Universe. As with everything, it is a practice.