The Buddhamama Blog
Finding Calm within the Chaos
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‘The month of May in England , so long awaited, is the flower studded crown of spring, the final rising of the curtain on all we’d been promised, the shimmering threshold to the mansions of summer’
This weekend sees the 1st May, which marks the midway point between the spring and summer solstice. It is, in essence, the very height of spring; the culmination of weeks of blousy and heady growth in the natural world; of flirtatious blossom and the unfurling of leaf.
We have this year, been blessed with an immense amount of blue skied backdrop to all of this celebration. The light of the mornings have been a particular joy, dancing as they do on the floorboards by my bed, but the glory of spring is that even on the duller days, when the clouds offer up a more sombre pallete, there is always something heart lifting that draws the eye; stray bluebells in the hedgerows, clumps of cowslips, that electric green of new leaf.
But much as I love the flowers- and who doesn’t- my favourite thing about this time of year are the trees. Most have begun to leaf, some more fully than others- but almost all are in this liminal place, where there is enough leaf for colour, but not so much that the structure of the tree has been rendered invisible. The thoughtful mother of a friend pointed out this particular window to me, when I was eighteen and - I thought- unconcerned by such things, but I have never forgotten it. Nor failed to notice that for a very short time it makes every tree look like a painting.
For the spiritual rather than the religious, and those still wedded to the cycles of the land, May 1st is a big celebration. Across the world traditions abound and have always done; ritual fire lighting and even leaping, the making and offering of flower garlands, parades and dancing abound. It is in many places, a day of merriment and off work.
Many of our own rituals have been lost to the passage of time and our disconnect from anything that doesn’t offer up a consumer opportunity. But in rural England of old, it was always the norm to go May walking, to crown a May King and Queen, to dance around maypoles ( a tradition happily resurrected briefly by my children’s little village school for several years and which was pure delight) and to feast and frolic, ritually and with abandonment.
Spring itself was being celebrated, but also all the things we associate with it; abundance, beauty, fertility and creativity- an acknowledgement that life, at this very point is at its zenith but also a marker of all that is still to come. Because as beautiful as the start of May is, it is also the window on the rest of the light part of the year and is celebrated as such. In a sense it is not just the leaves are unfurling but our capacity for hope too.
Much is said without being spoken. Conversations and words are only a part of a much wider vocabulary of the body. Without even realising it, we communicate with one another as much with hand gesture, body language and posture as we do with speaking. It is entirely possible to read the mood or the feelings of person by watching how they move and we are often swayed by the atmosphere in a room even when we are not privy to what is being said. I read recently that of all the cultures, it is the Italians who speak the most with their hands. What probably began as a means to overcome differences in regional dialect, gesticulation has become an entirely normal and expected means to communicate. But even those of us with hands that speak less, rely more than we think on movement to support what we say.
Our body also speaks to us. Sometimes its in a whisper - small inklings, intuitions, cravings and sensations are all part of the language of the body. Others times, and often when the whispers have been unheard, the body might begin to shout. Injury, chronic illness, extreme pain or the experience of heartache are all wholly visceral and harder to ignore.
The problem is, we often live entirely disconnected from our bodies, and without the quiet or the space to listen in. So signs that something needs tending can often go unseen or unheard for longer than is good for us.
Our mats are the perfect place to restore the balance. Yoga is, in essence, a conversation. We live in a state of constant call and response; between body and mind, heart and head. And our practice can provide the perfect opportunity to listen in. From the moment we come to the mat, our attention is guided inwards. We are encouraged to explore the landscape of the body, inner and outer, and listen to its very particular language. The correlations between tensions and space, feelings that we often find nestled in muscles and organs, intuitions that lie within our bellies and heart spaces are all powerful ways to establish what it is we need, and how we might taylor our practice and our lives to accommodate what our bodies are telling us that they need.
My last four weeks have been a whirlwind. I have been heavily involved in a community project to bring a group of nine Ukrainians to the UK and it has consumed my every waking moment, and oftentimes keeping me awake. Coupled with travel and children on holiday and Easter celebrations and significant birthdays, I have been in near constant motion. I thrive on motion, and its has all been entirely fruitful, but it is also- I know- unsustainable. I took to my mat yesterday- just briefly and for the first time in longer than I might have liked- and the conversation was clear. A scattered mind and tensions in all the obvious places made a meal of my own practice. But it was as fruitful as any more peaceful version. Because it suggested, or maybe even shouted, that what I need is - just for a time- is to recoil and to rest. Like a kite that has been let out a little too far, and threatens to get entangled somewhere out of reach, I need to use this week to gently reel back in.
So the practice this week is a selfish one, because I am offering you what I most need; a grounding and steady practice, slow moving and thoughtful, and crucially a chance to listen in.