Grace & Awkwardness

Jul 1, 2013
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Photo by Roger McKeever Douglas Allen practicing bakasana in Smokey Mtn National Park

 In Rilke's poem, The Swan, he describes the awkward way the swan walks as "lumbering as if in ropes."  However, when the swan lowers itself down into the water, the element to which it belongs, the swan becomes "more fully grown, more like a king."    

The swan is most often used as a metaphor for grace and beauty, and yet the swan also carries with it an awkwardness.  This is a truth for all of us, as well.  When we are no longer in the element that brings us alive, that makes us whole, that inspires or sustains our spirit, there is often an awkwardness, a lumbering through life that is filled with stumbling, wrong turns, turmoil and struggle. In these moments we can recognize the awkwardness and then find the strength to bring ourselves back into the element where we feel most connected, creative and awake.

We can't always live in grace, so, we must strengthen our ability to handle the awkwardness when it comes.  That strength comes from cultivating humility and a wholehearted ability to laugh at ourselves when we find ourselves snagged in the briar patch when we thought we were in the wildflower meadow.

We can practice this in yoga especially during balancing postures.  There can sometimes be a dance of wobbliness inside of these postures, which can oftentimes lead to falling out.  There is a tendency for students to clench, feel frustrated, to internally condemn themselves with expressions like, "I suck," "I'm bad at balancing," "I hate these postures," "Why can't I do this," etc... There have been moments when students have cursed out loud.  

There is a solution.
In those moments we can choose a different reaction.  We can follow the movement of the fall and dance with it, bending the knees, doing a little "Tai Chi" move. Then we can return back to the posture and try again.  We can soften our immediate criticism, and then give ourselves permission to fall while we develop concentration, alignment and a steady gaze.  The irony is that the outcome of developing this is a greater ability to balance and experience expansive joy in our postures.  

Read more:
Swan by Mary Oliver
 The Swan by Rainer Maria Rilke