Enjoying sufficiency — on and off the mat

Being away from home with limited possessions, clothing, books, company, and vocabulary even has paradoxically made it easier to focus on what I have, rather than what I don’t have. On this trip I often feel that everything is simply sufficient, all that is required. Amazing preparation and uncanny packing abilities or just my state of mind? Who can say.

Either way I’ve been trying to carry this notion of sufficiency into my physical practice recently also, reminding myself that despite my range of appropriate asanas being limited by working with an injured hamstring there’s still plenty I can do if I approach my practice thoughtfully. A restricted range of asanas is frustrating only if I let allow my desires to wander elsewhere, taking my mind to the places I can’t go. If I truly work in the present moment, then I have all I need. Simple postures still achieve the stretch and energetic sensations I want physically and provide the opportunity to focus inward that supports my meditation practice. And hooray, the hamstring is allowing me to sit for my meditation now! Something else to be grateful for!

Since I’m away from my very cerebral day job while I’m away from home and in Greece for a few weeks my life off the mat has also become more physically focussed than usual. My ‘job’ here is to support my husband in his work, helping him locate various archaeological sites. I can’t do the 4WD driving I had originally been tasked with, so he too has had to scale back his ambitions: some sites are not easily accessible but he’s too much a city boy to relish off-road driving the way I do.

The acropolis site of Zarax
The acropolis site of Zarax

I found that limiting my ambitions on site today also paradoxically made me more useful to him, rather than less useful as I feared. If I’d been fully mobile I would have rushed around crazily exploring the fragmentary acropolis sites, pushing through the overgrowth, following vertiginous goat tracks, seeking out the furthest corners, aiming for the perfect photo angle to capture the crumbling architecture and convey the ruggedness of the topography. Perhaps a sea view to go with that too!

Operation Hamstring Recovery demands a wiser approach. These sites are tricky enough under normal conditions. So I was taking it carefully, finding the path that was most available to me. And paradoxically my limitations I think served my husband better. Instead of me bounding excitedly out of sight I was better able to guide him. Again his city-boy upbringing makes him less adapted to this kind of walking, whereas my years of fieldwork in Greece have given me an eye for topography, for reading a landscape and determining the best route, and for picking out scant traces of walls from a distance. So I could set him on the right path, literally, and then just dawdle along while he disappeared ahead of me.

A nice rim sherd
A nice rim sherd

And my dawdling offered other rewards. I had fun spotting diagnostic pieces from the carpet of pottery (a diagnostic piece is something other than a plain body sherd, something with painted decoration or a rim or base — features that would allow an expert to date the pottery).

flint or obsidian?
flint or obsidian?

I even found what looked like obsidian. If so this would be an imported type of stone, prized in antiquity for the sharp blades that could be produced from it (though it could easily have been a local flinty type of stone only: I’m no lithics expert).

And my love since childhood has been insects and flowers, and there was plenty to delight me here too if I moved slowly enough to observe. I saw beetles and butterflies, spirally seedpods covered in spikes, a fragment of a sheep’s tooth, a large grasshopper, and a scarily large snake, cold enough to be slow-moving in the weak spring sunshine.

A carpet of spring flowers
A carpet of spring flowers

These small details around me, like the subtle sensations I find in my practice on the mat, are only available when I slow down and limit my scope. By keeping myself alert and open to what’s here and what’s currently possible I find that this is all I really need today.

3 thoughts on “Enjoying sufficiency — on and off the mat

Add yours

  1. This is so interesting! I felt, as I read the descriptive passages of your blog, like I “was there”, seeing with your eyes. I didn’t realize that you were in Greece to do serious archeological investigation. Wow.
    When I’ve had hamstring issues I focus on backbending. Contracting the strained muscle is helpful. Think shalabhasana (locust), dhanurasana (bow), ustrasana (camel), etc. : )


    1. Hi k8, thank you so much for this comment – you’re very kind. Actually I’m a reformed archaeologist these days, so I’m just informally advising my other half. Still fun though, and a privilege to be here. Great advice on backbends, thanks. These are exactly the sort of poses i’ve been weaving around my physio exercises lately. Somehow they just felt like what my body needed. Learning a lot from my hammy!


  2. Love your last sentence… I am grateful for my issues with the neck, that has been responsible for getting me to try to understand more about the practice. Thank you for sharing your journey.


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