The Meditation Mantra of the Month is a concept that I can’t quite put into a single “yoga” word, despite searching through books & my own retreat bulletins. The people in my classes know what I’m talking about because they know the sensation in their bodies. They have felt it. It’s the effect of sitting on a block or bolster, supporting you to sit up tall with ease. It’s the magical sensation of having a visual boundary in front of you, that redirects your attention straight into your own center of gravity, making it significantly easier and more natural when balancing on one leg. I describe it as “bringing the horizon closer”. Look at this picture here –> We are standing on one leg, with the other leg crossed over on the thigh. It is a hard balancing pose. When we do it in the middle of the room on our mats there is LOTS of wobbling. People struggle to get into the pose at all. Then we stand just a bit more than an arm’s reach away from the wall. This is the bringing the horizon line in. We are always able to do this with significantly more ease and can hold it calmly for a long time. Somehow the wall – not too close & not too far away – gives us greater access to our center of gravity.
This is a picture of my daughters sitting back to back, doing the same concept. Each one can sit up nice & tall, with ease, because the other is sitting up nice & tall. They are bolstering each other. If one would stop trying and slouch, the other would feel the difference and the weight of holding themselves up entirely. Or if one is trying too hard and thinking they need to hold the other person up, it actually forces the other to slouch or lean forward. The magic of this is that it is easier for both, when each sits up tall. The presence of the other, back to back, helps each find their center with ease.
I heard on a podcast last week that this concept in carpentry is actually called “sistering”. When a board has become vulnerable & unstable for the load it is holding, you put a board on either side of it to make it stronger & more stable. This practice is honest to goodness called “sistering”. Isn’t that kind of amazing? What carpenter named this?
Here’s another picture that shows bolstering or sistering or bringing (not the horizon line) the ground closer. This is one of my favorite pictures. There are small blocks under her feet while she is sitting in a chair. Although her feet can touch the floor, she cant push off the floor. The floor is just far enough away that she has to reach for it, which makes her unstable and not grounded. Putting the blocks under her brings the floor up and her own center of gravity closer, so she is able to sit up taller with ease.
These physical tricks or adjustments are so subtle that people often don’t understand what they are supposed to feel when we first do it. That is until they take it away. THEN they notice the difference. You don’t think sitting back to back with someone is helping you sit up until you scoot an inch away from each other and feel like you gained 10 pounds in your back. Balancing in the middle of a room can be such a struggle for people that they often feel the difference immediately of bringing the wall closer, without touching it! This is absolutely sistering the pose, actually. You are bringing the wall close enough so that you yourself can stand up taller, find your center, and feel more stable – but the wall is not holding you up – YOU are.
I am marinating on this idea of sistering this month. I know the physical sensation, but how does it show up in my mental & spiritual health? Again, I think I recognize it more in the absence of what was sistering me, which I was mostly unaware of at the time. Taking my dog outside for a walk every day. Being an intern and having to report & reflect weekly on my experience of learning; my insecurities, discovering strengths, asking questions, and following my interests. My yoga teacher training was every Tuesday, 5-9 p.m. in Indianapolis, for about 6 or 7 months. I did this training in the midst of working far too many hours as a pastor. This lifestyle of overwork and thinking that I was the one responsible for saving the (almost literally) sinking ship was self-sabotage. What saved me from sinking was having to drive 2 hours both ways every Tuesday night. I would listen to Lyle Lovett, Marvin Gaye, or Dolly Parton and drive away from the shit-show I was stirring up every day at work. Then I sat on the hard floor for 4 hours unable to write sermons or rant and rave about how no one was helping me, and pay attention at the same time. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
Those are just a few ways that I know I have been sistered. (writing this blog & naming the Meditation Mantra of the Month sisters me!) Maybe we can pay attention in a new way this month and consider what are the ways we are sistered physically, mentally, spiritually, without having to pull them away. In recognizing what was sistering me in the past I can see more clearly where and why I feel unstable and vulnerable in some areas.
Peace on your head you. Like maybe the peace is sistering your noggin like a warm, cozy stocking cap, eh?