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ashes and pinecones.

April 9, 2012

Today was Easter Sunday.  In the days leading up to the holiday, we celebrated Maundy Thursday with a dinner at church and Passover Seder Dinner with family.  Then on Saturday I got to take a yoga workshop that kicked my butt.  I have been reminded lately that the challenges of my practice — the rise in body temperature, the deepening of my breath, the challenge of a difficult pose — all help me to step things up both on and off the mat.  It’s interesting how creating heat in my body and in my life helps me to withstand the heat in other areas of my life.

After a challenging practice there is usually a time of reflection – a meditation, a resting pose – in which I find a deep solace and reinforcement of my own strength.  True to form, at the end of five hours of practicing yesterday I spent the last few minutes of the workshop meditating on how grateful I am for all that I have and all that I don’t have anymore.  I felt that on Saturday afternoon and then today I got to church and cried for what I didn’t have, for loss and what is no longer here.

Resurrection Sunday is always an interesting one.  My days at Bible college made it seem like the resurrection was the pinnacle to our existence – Jesus rose from the dead!  Cue the Ha-lle-lu-jahh choir!  But, what the heck does that mean really?  And how do I, as a not so Jesus-y yogi, apply this to my life?  How does this all fit into this blog post? (stick with me)

In the past few weeks, I have been contemplating this story as interpreted from Bill Mahoney

In the beginning there is nothing, represented here by a formless ocean. All is in darkness. Yet, this ocean is the infinite reservoir of pure potential, the ultimate source of all possibilities. Lord Vishnu, the All-Pervader, dozes on the ocean’s waves. In this darkness, Vishnu opens his eyes, and as he does so, Lord Brahma, the divine Creator, emerges from Vishnu’s navel on a beautiful lotus blossom. Drawing material from the ocean of possibilities, Brahma fashions the universe, bringing it into existence like an artist creates a work of art. Once Brahma has created the world, Vishnu supports it, for …he is the divine Sustainer and the King of Dharma. When it comes time for that world to be transformed, Lord Shiva, the Benevolent One, dissolves it back into the ocean of formless potential. Vishnu again dozes on its waves. Then, he again opens his eyes, and Brahma creates a new world, renewed and enlivened again by the power of Vishnu’s support.

In a lot of ways I think these stories can relate to each other, there is this cycle that we live through in many ways — things are created constantly, they are sustained and then transformed/destroyed, later to be re-created.   The names have been changed to protect the innocent – if you can see past that, can you see the connection?  No matter what you subscribe to in the beliefs department, there is some way this story shows it face.

This morning our pastor, PK, told a story of resurrection, she read the Bible story and then spoke about suffering and getting past or through it, then she told a story about pinecones – this is why I love going to church.   The story was about the Yellowstone fires of 1988.  The fires devastated about 24% of the pine tree population and a little over a third of that park.  I did some research this evening and found that many believed that this would be this fire would leave the land scarred and barren for decades to come.  Interestingly enough there was a certain pine tree that was burned during this time called the Lodgepole pine; it produces conventional pine cones like you or I see around here but also these ‘serotinous cones’ or pine cones covered in resin.  These cones only open when exposed to ‘great heat’.

PK explained, a year after the fire, the expected barren ash filled land had saplings all around.  It was this exposure to great heat that caused the new seeds to disperse and consequently start a new cycle, a rebirth — albeit a resurrection of what was thought to be totally gone.  One article made note to say that this is intense fire and rebirth was a common occurrence, seeming strange to us because the cycle can sometimes be longer than our lifespan, but this happens – the forest flourishes and then is wiped out, only to be created again.

I love the idea of the seeds being released under extreme conditions, the mere fact that they are created in that way makes me smile.  I wondered how alike we are with those trees and cones — we grow tall and life becomes grand and eventually something knocks us on our ass.  We think, this is it – it’s never going to get better and yet life goes on.

When I thought about the heat, I remembered sweating in class, not just this weekend but many times, the thousands of kicks into a handstand, the challenge of a vashistasana, or a hanumanasana — I remembered how getting to the  crux of the challenge really made a difference, even if I didn’t get the intended pose the first few (hundred) times.  The experience was small and just on my mat, but it also played out so many times in these past few months off the mat — when life was a lot harder than a hanumanasana.

We each have these reserves stored away – to help get us through to the next level, for some that next level is a more advanced practice and for others it is just moving on after the smoke clears and letting go of what was lost to get there.  They are hidden and sealed waiting for the heat to turn up, to open us to a new experience and new growth.

Back to Bill Mahoney for the end here:

…remember the ocean of infinite possibilities. Be like Shiva in this narrative: dissolve what needs to be transformed. Be like Vishnu: keep your eyes open, align yourself with dharma and nourish all that is good. Be like Brahma: draw on that power of creativity that moves within you. It will help you as you renew the best of what has been, just as as it also supports you in fashioning a new world.

So, happy Easter.  Happy Passover.  Happy renewal of all sorts.  Remember those little seeds, bījas, that contain all the possibility for something beautiful and new.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bryna permalink
    April 10, 2012 1:52 pm

    My mom told me about those pinecones after she came back from a trip out west. I thought that was so interesting too.

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