The season is changing. Autumn is at the pretty stage: golden leaves that crunch pleasingly underfoot and there are still blue skies to enjoy and days warm enough to encourage me to walk more slowly, to saunter and enjoy the sunshine. The horse chestnuts are looking a little bit drab because they drop early, but the many plane trees and ash trees around my home are holding their leaves; each tree species following its own timetable. Autumn is a very visible reminder of change; that all things have their season.
Even I (the born-atheist) am reminded of the beautiful lines in Ecclesiastes:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”
And so to yoga class this morning, walking through the crispness of this particular autumn morning. Different neighbours alongside my mat today, another change. The guy on one side had a wonderful practice. To my eyes it spoke of maturity, years of patient work, many seasons of practice. He was physically adept beyond my wildest dreams, but he worked with a steady patience and quiet focus that was more impressive to me than the depth of any particular pose. There was no straining, no panting, none of the stop-start that I often sense from my neighbours. His sustained focus through two hours transmitted something to me and held me in my place too, anchoring me steadily enough to ride the waves of my own practice.
I felt him more than saw him. Until we reached our deepest backbends. I was moving through Bridge into Urdhva Danurāsana, feeling into my shoulder blades, which is my interest at the moment, and as usual I was trying not to get euphoric by even the modest ability to rise up into this pose! And him? He stood up from his mat and dropped back into UD from standing. And then lifted back to standing. I couldn’t help opening an eye to watch this, even though the teacher was supporting him and usually I’d avoid being an audience to such moments of interaction; it feels almost intrusive to watch… But I was captivated by this moment of masculine grace, one man carefully supporting another, their united trust and focus. Wow!
I would have thanked my neighbour after class for what he unknowingly offered me in my practice. It left me filled with some small faith in the possibilities, in my own seasonal changes, in my own pathway towards some greater maturity. But I had no words for this.
So I walked home, in the sunshine, singing.