Saturday, March 12, 2016

A lifelong quest for stillness

by Kay Alton, Cambodia 300 hour yoga teacher training scholarship winner



When I was about ten years old, I would walk by myself to the Catholic church in my neighborhood and sit in the pews in silence. I would usually light a small candle and sit with my palms together at my chest, as I had seen others around me doing. I would take some time to look around at the colorful windows and grave paintings of saints before closing my eyes and settling my forehead to my hands. My sister recently confessed that my family used to worry I would become a religious fanatic.

I used to think back to those young years and guess that I was in search of a quiet respite from the noise and drama of my daily life. My parents were about to separate, I lived with more than a hundred people in a large communal house, and I just wanted an hour or so of quiet - a simple solution to a complex reality. I now believe that I had an intuition that I needed time and place to listen to the quiet murmurs within. And I happened to find that quiet in the high ceilings and hard wooden benches of a church. I was intuitively meditating. It was not a technique that I needed to learn or be taught, but was instinctual to my human experience. As I grew older, I stopped going to my quiet place at the church. I started moving faster, spending more time in the company of others, and began to forget the important wisdom of self inquiry that used to come so easily.

Through yoga, I have slowly been remembering. My journey was streamlined by the completion of my 300 hour yoga teacher training with Zuna Yoga. At our closing circle on the last day, I cried like a baby. I cried harder than I’ve cried in a very long time. I had no choice; the tears came despite my deeply rooted aversion to them. They flowed so freely I had to slap the hard ground beneath me and laugh. In that moment I had a newfound connection to myself and to all beings and it felt so good. In the safety of a consistent community of practice, I was able to reach a more sensitive, often closed off part of myself. I felt connected to an endless stream of energy in my body that pulsed with life and comforting strength. I know that this energy lies within all beings and with that knowledge comes a sense of connection to all things. That is incredibly powerful. So powerful and uniquely complex that I could barely get the words out during our final circle. 

I came away from my training in the jungle of Cambodia with a renewed commitment to find the quiet places where I can listen. It is the most important thing. It is my northern star. It is the only way to know if I have strayed from my purpose in this world. I return to the question: Do I still feel connected to myself and to others?  I am finally continuing a process I started when I was a little girl and had forgotten all about. So far I have found this in meditation, in the seemingly everlasting ring of my singing bowl, in the humble bow of my head to my hands where I am nothing and everything at the same time and in the wisdom of my fearlessly flowing tears.

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