My eyelids are the first things that my brain acknowledges as I wake up.
The first movement that I’m aware of, that’s conscious, is the feeling of my eyes moving against my eyelids. The first thing I see is a warm sunlight filtered through closed eyes. A warm, burnt brown-black. And, somehow as if yoga were something that has been trained into my consciousness since before I was born, I inhale as my eyes open.
I think we often forget to realize what an incredible thing it is to be awake. To live in a world where there is such a thing as waking up, because what I witness in that moment is an expansion in my body and mind. Keeping with my practice of mindfulness, this is the first thing that I am grateful for in the morning: waking.
Not just the concept of somehow emerging from a place of cool darkness into warmth and awareness, but the physical sensations of waking up, as well: the body becoming warm. The body, itself. Because the second thing I become aware of is my form. My form and its outline, suddenly being able to feel my skin as it hugs into my muscles and my muscles as they hug into the bone.
How incredible it is that my body is built for breathing.
That I can feel myself breathing, the way I have trained myself, as a musician, to do. My belly expanding and stretching my diaphragm down, reaching to the earth. Pulling my lungs with it, allowing air to escape into my body. The way I can feel my ribs move to accommodate the new space I have created – how grateful I am that my body moves in this way, that it makes space, that it carries my oxygen for me, feeding my cells with molecules of things I can’t even see.
My breath, the third thing that greets me in the morning.
Then, suddenly, out of all this gentle and expansive stillness, my body lights up into movement. My mind wakes up at the same time as my body begins to move, like I am an engine in need of cranking, the mind feeding the body and the body energizing the mind. My fingers curl and straighten. My feet point and flex. Then my knees coming into my chest, my arms wrapping around my legs – the first hug of the day, the most important hug of the day, reminding me of the love I have for myself and how grateful I am to have a body in which to move through the world, one that allows me to shake hands and hike trails and laugh: it is easy to say, I am built for laughing.
Because when I laugh my whole body smiles. I become closer to myself, both physically and emotionally. I am in love with my laughing self, and so is my body, which hugs me closer, cradling me in muscles that are learning how to be stronger. My laughing self knows exactly how to let go of that which does not serve me. It’s easy, like gravity. What makes me laugh, stays. What makes me stronger, stays. Everything else is let go.
And here is the most important lesson my body has taught me: letting go.
In the morning, I let go of the stillness of sleep to emerge into a world that is constantly moving. I move from one action to another seamlessly, and my body keeps up, letting go of what drags me into hushed inactivity, letting go of the gravity that pulls at me.
In the evening, I slowly wind back to the ground. Just as stillness is addictive, so is activity. Movement develops into inertia and it can be difficult to let go. But every evening, when I fall asleep, I do. Sometimes it takes what feels like hours and other times, mere seconds. And that’s just it: letting go is different day to day, situation to situation. Easy one day, difficult the next. But it’s possible. Sometimes all it takes is time, and that’s what I’ve learned from my body. Waking and falling asleep doesn’t always happen with ease. Nothing does. And I’ve been working on letting go of my resistance to that idea of finding lessons in every action that requires struggle.
Luckily, my body is built for letting go.
Lessons my body has taught me: