In 1989 I had a teacher, Brian O’Dea, at the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley California where I began my studies of Chinese medicine, shiatsu and their connection with yoga. I remember one autumn day was particularly crisp – even for the San Francisco Bay. Scant, translucent clouds raced through an intensely blue sky and blustery gusts demanded my attention. The whole class felt a need to participate in the weather’s call that day and Brian took us outside to do our qigong practice in the parking lot.
I remember him telling us, as we moved through our practice, to catch the chi around our bodies, let it swirl and dance with us, let it play in and around us, incorporate it, move it through our lungs and our veins. On that windy afternoon on Shattuck Avenue I discovered what it meant to move with what John Friend calls, “the Currents of Grace.” I felt my body playing with the wind rather than resisting it.
And I began the lifelong journey of discovering how prana (chi) moves through, around and within me as I move through the world. Yoga became my vehicle. I also began the lifelong journey of releasing the notion that “I” in the small ego sense of the word, control anything particularly – even my own body. And opened to the possibilities that there were much larger forces at work – forces which move through me constantly and patiently await my acknowledgment. When I do acknowledge them and merge into them, I never cease to be overcome with an inexplicably expansive, breathtaking joy.
The past few weeks in the mountains of Western North Carolina have reminded me of Brian and his playful awareness. The winds of transformation call so eloquently as the fall gathers its intensity and briskness.
My son, husband and I went to the top of Devils’ Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway last week. The leaves were just starting to change. My son ran ahead of us and found a walking stick. Turning his feet out, he placed both hands on top the stick, lowered his head, hunched his shoulders, half closed his eyes and continued walking, slowly. I asked him who he was and why he was walking so slowly. Deliberately, he raised his solemn face to me.
“I am Yoda and I am 900 years old,” he said.”I am not walking slowly for a 900 year old person.” When we got to the top of the cliff, he gleefully through his stick over the edge and with it, Yoda disappeared.
At five years old, his identity can change as easily as the wind as he experiments with different personalities and enjoys sampling the feelings those personalities create in his body. He easily internalizes the pranic call for shift. For him it is liila – divine play – and itâ€™s fun.
And what about adults? Can we respond with child-like ease to the call of the prana, the seasons and the elements to change? The plasticity with which my son’s persona can shift is acceptable for 5 year olds. What can it teach me about flexibility, the incessant fluidity of life’s journey, and responding to the call for transformation?
At this time of year, at least in the mountains of Western North Carolina, that call is unmistakable – how will I allow the prana to change me? Will I react with old patterns, or will I respond by accepting the invitation to dance with the winds of change?