Seeds of Wisdom

The seeds that I planted with my daughter this Spring have germinated and begun to grow.  We have protected them from the interest of slugs and snails and an inquisitive baby blackbird and they have mostly survived.  We had almost given up on our chilli plants (we got the seeds free from a Mexican restaurant, so things didn't seem hopeful), but even they have now begun to grow, weeks now since we pressed the seeds into the soil.  We have noticed how some of our seeds came up perky and strong quite quickly after planting, but that others have taken longer to emerge, so that we are still, more than two months later, surprised to arrive in the garden with our watering cans to find an extra sunflower, or a new swathe of lupin seedlings.

This is how my yoga practice has always been with me.  Some seeds bloom straight away: the right word from a teacher, the right book at the right time and the teaching falls straight into my life, ready to be encompassed immediately.  I well remember how a beloved teacher came over to me once while I was in a supine twist, put her hand on my low ribs and simply said, "Less pressure."  That was all, but it shot straight into the heart and soul of someone who had been so used to trying too hard that she didn't even know she was doing it.  That one small observation from a perceptive teacher deflated all that strong effort, like a small hole in a balloon, and I could feel my whole self soften and relax as I understood that it was ok, I was ok and I didn't (don't) have to try so hard.

Other seeds have taken longer to germinate, but spring up quickly when the time is right, so that I might be meditating, reading, or practising asana and am suddenly able to embrace a teaching that might have been given to me years previously.  This latter kind of growth is the type that is accompanied by a smile of recognition, "Oh, that's what he meant" and could be physical, mental or spiritual; it's a kind of rush of insight, like a blush, accompanied by a humble acknowledgement of the time it has taken me to get it and gratitude for the teacher that offered the message with the generosity of spirit which allowed me to find my own slow way to it.

Some I have deliberately resisted, throwing books that later became touchstones back on the shelf, half-read, unsure of their benefit and doubtful of their validity at the time when I first found them.  Often these teachings are the most life-changing and in retrospect it feels almost as though, when first given, they were too much too soon, that the ground needed to be worked over and over before the soil was clear enough and rich enough to enable the teachings to root and grow.

Occasionally I have known even as I was with a teacher that I did not understand everything that I was being told, but that it was important.  I sat for three days once with Mukunda Stiles as he spoke to us about yoga philosophy and therapy and I wrote down as many of his words as I could, as if they were in a foreign language, so little did I understand of them.  Sure enough when I return to that notebook from time to time, I find new gems to incorporate into my practice years after we met.

So in the course of my years of yoga practice I have been my own pest, nibbling at the tender stems of growth and understanding, setting myself back, not understanding, refusing to acknowledge and sometimes rejecting what I had been shown by those who loved me, or who had gone along the path before me and were gracious enough to pass their teachings back to me.  I have been a gardener, constantly and consciously working the soil of my soul so that the seeds of knowledge and understanding might find room to flourish. 

But after all these years of seeking and learning, I can honestly say that as in nature, so it is in yoga: things want to grow.  Like the plants that grow miraculously (optimistically) in the cracks of the pavement in the middle of the city, the seeds of the lessons given to us by our teachers will grow.  They might take years, or they might fall into our hearts just at the moment when we are ready; they might need careful and tender nurturing over years, or they might rush up in a moment of epiphany and be so obvious as to be impossible to ignore.  The thing that we have done, by turning up on our mats / studying our books / opening our hearts / listening, is to make of ourselves a rich bed in which the seeds of wisdom might germinate, grow strong roots, take hold and grow; we have consciously cleared our soul-beds of the unwanted weeds of doubt and distraction and turned our faces to the sun, so that we can grow into stronger, more radiant human beings.



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