Pre-practice Practice

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For a week, my friend and I walked from our bungalows in Haad Yuan overlooking the Andaman sea, onto the beach, where we would take off our flip flops and press the morning sand still heavy from the previous evening’s wetting with the pads of our feet. We’d hoist ourselves onto the rocks and the wooden walkway that creaked with weight and wound around the large rocks that lined the corner of the beach. We would then go up the dirt path, up the small hill, then down the small hill, to the next cove where we would stop, take coffee and water at the Sanctuary, before taking the dirt trail that went up another small hill, which would open up to Why Lan beach–sublime and pristine–and the platform that overlooked the shifting waves of blue, where we would finally practice.

A striking change from the first three months of the year, where going to the shala in Mysore, India entailed, hopping on a scooter and taking a 2 minute drive so dark and so early in the morning that most people would consider the hour nighttime. These mornings in Ko Pangyan, that hour of travel between my doorstep to my practice mat, reminded me of how precious it was to go to practice. And how going to practice is one of my favorite times of the day: usually in the morning, when the hour between night and day is shifting, when it’s quiet, not much of the day has yet happened, and everything feels ripe with possibility.

When you practice at home, this transition is so very subtle. Even in India, it happened so fast, there was barely time to note it. In Thailand, however, this process for me was lengthened–not to mention given color and freshness by the natural environs. Something shifts in this time when we go from our day to day (largely automatic) living to doing things concertedly.

By the last couple of days, I was savoring that walk through the elements. Undeniably, it was a beautiful path and I was absorbing the sights of the morning, the sunshine, the beach, the trees and island brush. But I also came to appreciate it as a preparation for practice, where I was moving from the ordinary, everyday world to one that is quite exquisite and extraordinary, where the breath extends time and softens the body, the world quiets, not to mention the mind, and calm presides, reminding me that the getting on the mat itself holds its own journey and process. How when we observe this time before practice, how sacred it is, we start to invite the essence of practice, of mindful loving attention, outside the parameters of our rubber mats. How in this spirit, we feel the sanctity of post practice, of waking up in the morning, of going to bed at night, and an infinite number of other poignant moments…

PHOTO: Wooden walkway, Haad Yuan. Actually nearing sunset rather than morning. So grateful for my dear friend Clara who brought me to magical bay in Ko Pangyan, also to the lovely teachers Kerstin Berg and Mitchell Gold who support the practice so beautifully during the season there. The week on the island was a great reminder of how much beauty there is in the world. There is so much to take in, to love, to appreciate.

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