I’m still learning the spiritual lessons of humility the hard way. Honestly, everyday seems to reinforce the teaching. Last week was no exception.
I went to a morning yoga class at “my studio,” Vision Yoga and Wellness, where I am twice the age of my teacher and most of my classmates. I’m not nearly as limber, flexible, balanced or strong as they are, but for the past two years, I’ve been giving it my best effort. Yesterday’s class was particularly challenging because it required lots of deep knee bends and one-leg stands, neither of which I do very well any more. I spent much of the hour modifying poses while feeling frustrated and humiliated, especially when I found myself facing the opposite direction from the rest of the class. I know that each of us has our own practice, and everyone is called to pay attention to one’s own mat. But really…
At one point, as everybody else was working on some complex posture, I finally gave into my body’s limitations and rested in child’s pose – knees bent, forehead to the ground, and arms stretched out in front. Listening to my breath, I was reminded of the beggars in Paris who assume this same posture in front of the expensive stores on the Champs-Élysées.
Then, I began to think about the act of prostration, an ancient prayer position. You can witness this pose in cathedrals, churches, monasteries and convents, especially at an ordination to the priesthood or the taking of final monastic vows. You see it in West Africa when someone visits the shrine of a deity. You see it in a mosque with men and women at prayer. In yoga, child’s pose is considered an “active” resting posture. For me, it’s often a moment of prayer, a time of re-centering and reminding myself that the universe is a big place, and I’m one small participant in its grand story. Any way you look at it, getting down on your knees or flat on your stomach, placing your hands in front of your body on the ground, and lowering your head until your forehead touches the ground is a humbling action.
In my child’s pose, as I prayed for acceptance, grace, and the ability to get back up, I was reminded of just how hard it is for me to be humble, and how humbling it is to have early stage dementia. Isn’t there an easier way to learn the lessons of life?