Effort and the Art of Legacy

Yoga today was all about alignment and fascial stretching. Stretching is better than a massage. I’m all blissed out.

Today I read lots of interesting things but I forgot most of them. I’m reminded of Ani Difranco when she says:

They say goldfish have no memory

I guess their lives are just like mine

And the little plastic castle

is a surprise every time.

Getting older, the volume of inputs becomes more difficult to cut through. It’s a conscious choice what to think about, what to ponder over. Not everything can matter. Even for the most intellectually curious person, time and mental energy our finite.

So today I ponder over a family story: one of my great grandfathers. He was a chemist in Toronto who opened a pharmacy and then developed a lotion that he later sold to a major brand name for a small fortune.

I don’t know much else about him, except his name was Ernest and he went by Ernie. And I think he was a chipper chap, up for a party. He had three daughters and a son and ten grandchildren. I’m not sure when or how he died, or what his wife was like, or what his political stripes were, though I’d imagine conservative. His children were born in the 1920s, and he was born before the 20th century started. When the Toronto streets were muddy and the streetcars new and the ladies, well, probably encouraged to be quiet.

I was thinking about alignment and balance at yoga. About going to a place in the pose where muscles can settle in, rather than strain. Where there is no resistance. There is a place for this kind of thinking in yoga. Just last week, I heard a teacher say this:

Every pose should feel like savasana or tadasana. In other words, every pose should feel like lying down like a corpse or standing up like a mountain, arms at your sides. This is a great way to approach yoga some days.

Other days, it’s time to push. It’s time to gather up all the energy of the day and harness it and clench and squeeze and sweat and struggle. With yoga you can go all the way to the edge without ever leaving the mat. It’s about the effort you’re putting in.

When I think about my great grandfather – how every day he lived his life, ate and drank, passed through all the emotional states of being, all the physical states of aging – I think about how little we are, how short life is. And I think of this:

Do what you want to do.

Today is a day to clench and squeeze and sweat and struggle. And give your descendants in three generations something to write about.

Then again, I wouldn’t have arrived at this place of clenching without the deep fascial stretch in yoga class today. So there you have it, the push and release of this thing called balance, at work.

Namaste.

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