Monday, November 19, 2012

Breaking the Surface

I was having a conversation with a friend last week, and we were talking about how so many people just live life up on the surface, just going with the flow, dabbling in a little of this, a little of that, tasting from the flavors of life's smorgasbord.  It reminded me of a recent visit I made to a tapas restaurant- we got tiny little plates of food, just a sampling really, a bunch of tasty appetizers. And the thing about appetizers (even apparent in the name, really,) is that they are meant to be tantalizing, to stimulate your digestion, to prepare you for the meal to come.  So, after sitting at the table at the tapas restaurant, even after eating plate after tiny plate, we didn't feel satisfied, it felt like the meal never quite arrived.

Similarly, when we live a life of dabbling, of trying a little bit of this, exploring that, it's like we never get that feeling of satiation- the meal hasn't arrived.  We haven't gone below the surface to experience the wonders of the depths, whether that's the depth of learning about a subject extensively, the depth of emotion, or the depth of a relationship.  And why not?  What's so scary about going deep, that we are happier to stay up on the surface, just treading water, just marking time?

As a little girl, I remember learning to swim underwater.  It was scary to learn to hold my breath and submerge my head in the pool at the apartment complex where we lived.  But learning to swim below the surface opened up a whole world of fun for me, including "underwater tea parties" and breath-holding dare contests with my friends.  By learning to go deep, I learned a lot about myself, that I was capable of more than I thought, able to adapt and expand and grow.

In yoga, we sometimes talk about "going with the flow," or being in the "flow of life."  I picture myself floating above water, on my back, with the warm sunlight shining on my face, seeing the clear blue sky above, and not much else.  But, to roll onto my belly, and dive under the surface of the water, I can then swim in any direction, not just be carried by the current, and explore the underwater world.  There may be a myriad of plants, rocks, fish, and other unknown treasures to see and explore.  I can feel the water swishing through my hair, and see the bubbles of my escaping breath rising up toward the surface, even as I swim deeper to investigate.

I think that in order to live a "yogic" life, we have to be able to do both.  To sometimes surrender our will to the current of the Universe, and allow it to carry us along, but also to sometimes exert our free will to go deep- to direct our attention to the details, to question what and why and how, and to go as deep as we need to until our appetite is satiated.  We can choose what it is that we care to "yoke" or bind ourselves to, and then fully commit to this one thing, for a time, not to flit along from flower to flower like a bumblebee, but to make a deep commitment, and stick with it, no matter how scary or challenging it seems.  This is where I think real growth can occur, in the dark, scary places that we stay in through the discomfort, through the challenge, and then we emerge with a new understanding, a new skill, victorious and changed, becoming more of who we really, truly are.

So, come on in, the water's fine.  Let's have an underwater tea party, and learn about ourselves and each other.  I dare you!      


  1. I'll meet you in the Octopuses garden. ;o) Love it.

    1. Thanks so much, Amanda, from the depths of my heart!

  2. This is my first time visiting your website, but I found a lot of interesting information. From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! Keep the good work up.
    Hatha Yoga