When Things go Quiet
Following an amazing week at the In Sabina Retreat Center with Sarah Bond this past October, I journeyed on my own, four hours northwest, to Firenze. When traveling alone, things go quiet.
Amid the busy streets of Florence and the crowded coffee shops, in which there are no to-go cups, I am truly in my own company. Particularly in a place that harbors a foreign language, the experience of being “solo” (ironically, the same in both English and in Italian), is magnified. Although we often yearn for quiet and time for reflection, the opportunity can be uncomfortable as the question, “Who am I?”, arises from the silence.
I am accustomed to seeing this on the mat in yoga class where it is often difficult for people to be still for meditation, or even in Savasana - myself included. So often we fall back on labels and titles - which can be functional in society and can contribute to us moving forward - though, we know those “answers” to that question are incomplete. When we touch self-reflection on the mat; when I touch it walking the alleyways of central Italy, a deeper response calls.
To tap into who we truly are, we need to free ourselves from the maya, or illusion, on this plane, that binds us, and fools us into wrapping ourselves up in scenarios over we have no control.
When I visited the Academia to see Michelangelo’s David, I was incredibly moved by the hall that holds the artist’s Prisoners or Slaves, as they are such a masterful expressions of freeing the self from the mind and tapping into the Divine that lies within us. These figures are “non-finito”- incomplete - a sculpting practice habitual in Michelangelo’s work; the artist struggling to free the spirit of the art pieces from their blocks of marble. These figures emerge from the stone, revealing, and moving through, their own personal karma. It is often interpreted that they represent the desire to escape the material world in which we live.
In Tantra we see the body as a vehicle for spirit. When we can free the physical body, by working with it, to connect ourselves to the subtle body, we can tap into spirit. We can travel through our karma more gracefully.
In sculpting the artist uses a chisel to chip away the first big pieces but needs to refine his tools when moving into the finer, more subtle details, and finally choosing a utensil even more delicate to smooth everything out, so the work can truly shine. Asana serves as our chisel, chipping away tightness and tension, so the body can find a release. Pranayama is our primary refining tool, connecting us to the more subtle energy of ourselves. Meditation is our fine instrument, moving us toward consciousness by quieting the chatter of the mind and finally to spirit: who we really are, revealing what truly exists in us.
As the holiday season approaches, we enjoy family, friends and time off. It is also easy to get caught up with the business surrounding it - family roles, plans and material gifts. As I reflect back on my time in Florence and on Michelangelo’s work, I am reminded that nothing outside of us can answer the question of what really lies within us. Through the yoga practice, we have the tools to connect to this and rest in our own divine nature.
Incredible Resources for Planning your Time in Italy