“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only dance…” T.S. Eliot
After I was recently confronted with some unexpected and drastic life changes, I decided to take a yoga class (courtesy of myyogaonline.com – listed in my links) focused on reducing anxiety. Not only have I been feeling anxious since my February move to Argentina, where I started afresh with a new job, apartment, and friends, but my sense of unrest was heightened even more so during the last week since this latest curve-ball practically knocked me over.
The yoga teacher instructed the students (me) to do an exercise called the 4×4 breath, which consists of inhaling four counts, waiting fours counts, exhaling for four counts, then waiting another four counts before starting all over. The teacher focused very particularly on the two pauses between the exhale and the inhale – known as Kumbaca. She called on her students to acknowledge this pause as uncomfortable, yet with practice and patience to try to relax into that space in between, which of course got me thinking…
Kumbaca is a metaphor for many situations in life. If you are like me – type A, perfectionist, always in motion, continuously looking for the next step – then you understand just how hard it is to embrace what feels like non-productive time. But what I realized is just how much I am missing by trying to accelerate that “in-between space.” It is actually a natural and even a critical step in making forward progress. Looking at the process from a completely literal and scientific perspective, the chemical reaction that occurs between an inhale and an exhale is both complex and necessary for sustaining life. I suppose that if it makes sense from a biological viewpoint, it stands to reason that it also applies in the physical and metaphysical realm as well.
I know I am not alone in continuously focusing on a destination. I don’t even have a concrete, well-defined destination in mind, but anywhere that measures up to society’s definition of success. If I am not moving forward, then I feel like I will never arrive. We are supposed to appreciate the journey, but what if the journey is actually taking place in that down time that on its surface feels like doing nothing? What if the real magic of life happens in that space in between?
Continuing to look to nature as the example, it is really those periods of transition that give life to the next big “thing.” Without the pause between the inhale and exhale, our bodies would not convert oxygen to hydrogen and quite frankly we would not even exist. I am starting to appreciate life’s pauses as a sign that universe has something else on the horizon – another main event. If I can trust in the universe, I know that these moments of stillness are all part of the master plan and divine design for my life.
If we can all just slow down and observe those few, beautiful pauses in the midst of our accelerated lives – letting the oxygen feed our bodies and souls – we might just catch a glimpse of a beautiful future coming our way. And even if we can’t see a clear picture of the future, we can rest easy knowing that there’s always another breath followed by another pause to reflect and prepare for whatever new opportunities life throws our way.