I recently moved into a granny flat close to the yoga studio where I teach. Although the circumstances for my sudden move were complicated, it was the simplest house-hunting experience of my adult life. I found the ad in the morning, and walked around the sixties-built room with Brady Bunch shelves and shaggy, mustard yellow carpet in the afternoon. The elderly owner Jim, with silver hair and Viking-blue eyes, evaluated me from the porch of the main house. He told me of the roses, figs, and tomatoes in the garden, the native birds that gather in the morning, and how the squeaky Hills Hoist in the yard was to share. I sensed a soft heart, and by that evening, had a lease waiting in my inbox.
The process of minimizing everything I had amassed, and so naively dragged from house to house over the years, was almost hauntingly as simple. I let go of stately furniture, and cheaply parted with memory-soaked trinkets with the knowledge they were of value to someone new. The heavy marble chess set haggled in Kabul, the overpriced, sleek camera tripod from Seoul. Mt. Wolf’s ‘Exit’ lyrics help explain the ease of these partings:
‘He who is easy to serve, swiftly finds peace. The more complicated we make ourselves, the more complicated is our idea of ourselves. The more we perceive our needs to be, the more of a burden it will be to this planet.’
During the weeks that followed, I realized how resolutely the stars had planted me in the granny flat. Jim is eighty, and lives alone in the house he built decades ago when he oversaw a vast building empire. One day, as I left home to teach, I learned that Jim is also a yogi and life-long meditator. He has read Autobiography of a Yogi, which I am yet to close, eight times over. On his months-long winter caravan trips around Australia, he pulls over for ten minute meditation sessions, sinking so deeply into his breath that he has to pinch himself to physically awaken; tenfold recharged for the drive ahead.
No matter what time of day I see Jim, he is 100 percent focussed on a task. Polishing his car, pruning the rose bushes, sweeping the deck, shampooing rugs, re-wiring trailer brakes, clearing dead leaves from the yard. These are not dreaded chores that get in the way of grander ideas of ‘living.’ They are, in fact, the things that make up life. I ask myself, when did we start to see tasks like cooking a homemade meal in over thirty minutes as obstacles to life? Is nourishment not a primal, vital part of living?
As I move through my own practice now, these ideas have awakened on my mat. There is no perfect outcome of a pose, no resplendent shape to hurry towards. Whatever contours I form on a given day is my own perfect experience to fully own in that moment. And as I teach, I encourage the same of my students. Let yourself land simply where you are meant to be. No need to complicate the breath or the pose. There is life in the transitions.
Minimize your things, simplify your ideas of life’s moments, and humble your mind in the physical pose.
‘He who is easy to serve, swiftly finds peace, and is already close to happiness.’
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Shannon Leah, a civil servant and part-time yoga teacher at Here. Wellbeing in Canberra, Australia. Her mission is to help people de-mystify the philosophy of yoga by exploring concepts through the breath and postures. She loves exploring the world and living simply.
Photo credit: Manduka on Instagram