space: a meditation

I have long had an obsession with place. Most of my graduate studies centered on the idea of place, and our human relationship with it. I've used my infatuation to explain my wanderlust; why I keep leaving and then returning to this gutted Midwestern landscape I call home. There is nothing keeping me here, rooted to the earth, I say. Nothing pure. Nothing of its natural form. So I leave, but yet, given that it's all I know, I come back. Never fully rooted to this place, but never sure where else to go. 

I live in the most altered landscape in the entire United States. What once was rolling prairie, wild fires, wind throwing seeds and majestic trees are now tilled dirt, corn, soybeans, oversized farm machinery and more tilled black dirt.  

In these endless grey, depressing winter months, when the wind howls, skies are endlessly grey, temperatures dip to the point of freezing your snot and snow flies, driving down the interstate or country roads become a stark reminder of what once was but no longer is: snow filled ditches painted with soot black dirt. I remember my Grandpa telling me as a kid: that's precious black life to anyone who knows anything about farming. And here it is, making its way slowly, dreadfully down the Mississippi in a God awful descent of erosion and ultimately fish slaughtering we will surely regret.

Our landscape, altered, and then altering another.

Today, I find respite from the wind, the winter, the unrest, through my yoga practice.

My practice always seems to take on an added importance this time of year; whether it's revving up my endorphins, breathing life into my tired, cold fascia, preparing me for Spring and the greens of the life cycle, or pedaling my bike and running around the lake. This place is a different one from the place I describe above, and yet one nonetheless, that I have spent much time analyzing.

It can, altogether at times be nearly suffocating, trapped in a tiny room with 28 strangers/friends/acquaintances on any given day, trying to inhale oxygen into your cells at 105 degrees and subsequently blow out all that is bad, or needs left behind. It can also be the most invigorating, happy, and contemplative place imaginable. I've had moments akin to sitting toes dipped in the ocean, or high atop a mountain in this little space. I've also had moments I questioned it all. And yet I don't recall ever showing up to the studio, and leaving with regret.

So I continue the practice. Because there are no mountains here. There are no oceans. Nary any prairies left. And because I know I am better for the practice.

As a yoga instructor, I use the gift of my student's practices to inform my own. Of late, I am fascinated by their attachment to space. Whether it is placing their mat in the same corner, class after class (guilty!), or having an aversion to someone ELSE placing THEIR matt too close to theirs, being asked to move to a different space in the room to accommodate another student, or the aversion to trying an old posture a new way, a sequence different, things come up.

Angry, anxious things. Fidgeting. Hair fixing. Water gulping. Child's pose taking. Loud audible sighing.


But why, really? It's no more my space than it is that of my neighbor's, and it's a ridiculous notion to think that someone is more deserving of that space than another, we all can surely rationalize this. But there it is, that orb of energy, floating there for a second or two, palatable and thick as August Iowa humidity. To be fair, in other rarer cases, it creates a revolution of sorts, an opening of a practice not yet seen, a new friendship, a beginning. Bliss.

Experience tells me that the students who put themselves in a corner, tend to do so because they are also stuck in a corner somewhere in their lives. The same can be said for the aversion to moving, changing mat locations. It's literal.

To that same end, we as an instructor team talk about getting off our mats and in to our classes as instructors. It's impossible to teach others if you are informing your teaching from your own body exclusively.

Following this logic, where else do I allow the mirror of my inner struggle, triumphs come through in space...and more importantly, how can I mix things up, continue to grow.

It's quite possibly one perfect incarnation of wanderlust, in localized form.