by Blakeney Schick
My mother recently gave me a kind of hourglass thing that she found in a museum gift shop. It has 2 different chambers and the idea is that you watch these very tiny beads float up or down from one end to the other, each side going in a different direction. When she gave it to me, she said that she hoped it would help me relax.
So I brought it with me to work — a place where I would often like to relax a little more. But it turns out that when it was made, my particular hourglass got a little extra air in it on one side. So on one side, everything goes just as it should. And on the other, there’s this bubble of air that often bottlenecks all of the tiny beads, trapping them so they can’t fall or rise. And it drives me nuts.
Some days the bubble situation is worse than others. I try to make the air move — I tap the plastic; I turn the whole thing half-way so that the bubble can move out of the way, allowing the beads to move more freely — and then I check on its progress every 15 seconds. And I know that there’s no way to truly “fix” it without destroying it. So this thing that was supposed to get me to relax a little has become something that I feel I have to monitor and take care of.
This is what my practice can feel like. Some days, when I get on the mat, it feels like I need to watch and fix all of it — the hip that hikes, the knee that locks, the back arm that sort of drifts in space every darn time I do Warrior II. It all needs to be looked at, monitored, taken care of. And while I do my best to encourage all of these body parts to move differently, I also know that the way my body is structured means that I won’t ever be able to “fix” every single thing I obsess over. Some of it is just the way I was made and it’s what I practice with on the mat, today and every day. How I approach that is up to me.
But here’s the thing — every once in a while, when my attention is pulled to something else at work and I forget all about the hourglass for a while, I’ll look over to find that the air bubble has moved on its own and the tiny beads are already floating around on their own. And that’s true of me when I’m on the mat. If I can pay attention to something else — the instruction I’m getting or my breath — I’ll check back in with the hip, the arm or the knee and discover that they’ve found their own way.
Meanwhile, it turns out that my mother was right — watching those beads float around in the hourglass is relaxing. In fact, they’re mesmerizing. And yes, sometimes they need a little help to be able to do what they’re supposed to, but sometimes they figure it out when no one’s looking – just like the rest of us.
Blakeney Schick is a public radio producer who follows events and elections. She started going to yoga 8 years ago in the hopes that it would help her stand up straighter. It has. But she’s stayed on the mat because yoga’s also made her stronger in every possible way. Blakeney found her way to Mala in late 2007, and finished Mala’s 200-hour teacher training in 2012. She is also a regular contributor to the Mala Yoga blog.