The forest is sacred to me. Something almost magical happens as I make my way down a trail. I notice the texture of the moss on the trunks of trees, the movement of the leaves in the breeze, and the sounds of creatures scurrying to escape my unwanted presence. And the forest pulls me in.
The lush expanse of vegetation and richness of color remind me of abundance, and I feel blessed. The bramble of blackberry vines and untamed undergrowth remind me of the wild implulse of life insisting on expression. Decaying stumps and animal scat speak of a necessary release and return to elemental oneness.
My breath deepens; my existence expands beyond the boundary of my skin. I feel connected to all life in the forest, and she calls to my soul. I become aware that my arms and open hands are lifted tree-ward, skyward.
Abrupt contraction. Oh no, did anyone see? Is there anyone else on the trail? I snap back into my physical form. What just happened? Was this a form of Samadhi, deep meditation? And if so, hey, does that mean that I am an advanced yogini now? That would be cool. My analytical mind, manas, and sense of separateness, ahamkara, are hard at work trying to label, plan, and explain.
The trail goes deeper into old growth. Trees who have lived ages whisper of a common origin, them and me. Again my awareness expands. Again my arms are uplifted. And this time I do not care if anyone else is watching. The pulsation of life reverberates in my body. Just as water exposed to heat is helpless to become steam, I am helpless but to dance. If you are there, watch my ecstatic yoga. Join me.
This time contraction returns with sweetness. My feet plant solidly on the trail. I am grateful to the confine of physical form which allows me to function in this world as mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, lover, teacher, and all the multiple forms I take. And I remember.
Spanda is the Sanskrit term for the pulsating nature of the universe. It is derived from the root spadi meaning to move a little. It is “the subtle creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form.” (Spanda foundation,spanda.org) As we practice yoga, we become more and more aware of the cycle of expansion and contraction. The contrast between the two can be quite unnerving, but need not be. Yoga also teaches us to ride these currents gracefully. My abrupt contraction was due to self-consciousness, fear of judgment, pride, and shame. Yet even still, I can learn to use such occurrences as fodder for self-study. No need to worry; it is yet another opportunity for practice. My second wave of contraction was more yogic, more balanced, more integrated. Yeah, and no cause for pride. Cycles repeat, hence the name cycle.
Yoga, as it has come to me, never promises reduced occurrence of pain, death, confusion, grief, contraction. It does teach, however, a reduction in suffering as we learn to dance with the rhythm, the spanda, of life.