The day I arrived in San Diego, after a month of traveling across the United States, I realized that my lesson to learn here on this coast is patience. This lesson will be forced upon me. The whole pace of this city is on a totally different understanding of what time is and how long things should take. Having been born and raised in New York the answer to when it should be done is "already" and no matter how quick you move it's definitely not fast enough not to annoy the people around you. A culture that has their hand on their car horn waiting for the millisecond the red light turns green. Here, in California, I am verbally reminded to "chill out" and enjoy the day. So what I have no job, no home, no car, isn't it sunny and isn't there a beach walking distance?!? Take advantage of this down time. The paranoid side of me thinks this is a slippery slope, the optimist side says there's wisdom to that ideology (within reason).
Two weeks later, I am hit in the face with a challenge that I must step up to and actively learn: boundaries. This one I'm not confronted with in the very nature of this city's attitude, this one is something more personal and internal. Something I have been struggling with since I was a child. For me it's a hard balance, I don't want to be an armored truck, impenetrable to outside experience. I like being a "yes" person to adventure, friendships, discoveries. So then I find my Piscean self watery and edge-less, flowing and drifting as others irrigate and dam. This is an obvious problem with manipulative or otherwise toxic people. A more subtle, yet equally time consuming, issue is with well-intentioned good-natured people. I'll often find myself invited here or there or having an open door policy (especially for tea and surprise over night guests) that leaves me with little to no time for my work, my dog, my husband, my Self, in lieu of giving friends and family advice, food, lodging and more than anything else attention for hours, often days and at times even weeks.
I often feel very lost as where even to begin this journey of having limits, saying "no" and preserving my time. In the mornings, after I write my gratitude journal entry, I set an intention. And that intention every day since landing in California is "right now, from nothing, I am the possibility of patience and boundaries." Today, I took a yoga class at Mosaic Yoga Studio. A modern, clean, well organized studio not 8 minutes walking from the house we're renting a room in. The yoga teacher tonight, Ryan, asks the room what they'd like to work on tonight. Answers called out from the class include: shoulder openers, IT band stretches, happy baby pose, and... boundaries. Are you kidding me? I know my eyes widened, my mouth may have even fallen agape. What are the chances? Who is this woman? Should I invite her to tea after class?!
So the instructor, seemingly effortlessly, weaves in the theme of boundaries to his shoulder opening, IT band stretching sequence. And he says something so obvious, something I know so well, that I literally smile and laugh out loud to myself in class. He says that in yoga, we build boundaries in alignment with the Yamas and Niyamas. They guide us in what to invite into our lives and what to reject.
Suddenly this overwhelming weight that I'd been carrying, about how and what to do about this was lifted. Like that moment of surrender into child's pose after a challenging sequence of Sun Salutation variations. I decided then and there: okay, this is how I will begin. I can start with this as my foundation, Patanjali's Ethics for Life, instead of starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel. I'll be kind to myself and adjust accordingly as necessary, but here, written nearly two thousand years ago is a solid foundation from which to build.
So here I start on this journey of the Yamas; to do no harm (ahimsa), to speak only truth (satya), not to steal (asteya), to manage my energy (bramacharya), to live simply and generously (aparigraha). Further supported by the Niyamas; to keep clear and pure (saucha), live contently (santosha), to have discipline (tapas), to be in the study of self (svadyaya), and to surrender to that which is larger than myself (ishvara pranidhana).
These are precepts I have been studying since middle school. I first read Patanjali's Yoga Sutras when I was thirteen. They come up time and time again as I have grown, each time in a more developed and mature manner. I'm sure this won't be the last. I think taking them on one at a time will make most sense this round, perhaps, until I feel that it has truly been integrated into my self. So here's to tomorrow, and my intention of non-harming, ahimsa.