I need a buffer for this moment. Something to read, something to watch, something to hear. Now is too uneventful, too empty. I need something to make this moment pass.
I want to freeze this moment for all time. I never want it to end. I want to remember it forever, so I take out my camera and "capture" it. The photo will most likely languish in the cloud, but in the moment, taking it feels just right. I need something to make this moment last.
They seem like opposites, but these are two sides of the same coin: We can't seem to let the present moment BE. We're bored just sitting in the airport, or wherever, so we choose to pump the moment full of stimuli such as words, images and music. And when we're overjoyed in the moment, we never want to let it go.
"Time is the movement of moments," writes B.K.S. Iyengar. "A yogi realizes that a moment in time is timeless. A moment is singularity alone." If you are perfectly still in any moment, what do you have? Timelessness. The sense of time's passage falls away as you inhabit the eternal present. A lover's kiss, an exhilarating headstand, some personal zenith ... we've all felt this sense of perfect, potent eternality. But the paradox is that the movement of moments continues no matter how timeless the moment feels. We fall out of perfection. We come back to a different moment than the one we departed on. And life moves on.
Geeta Iyengar made a surprising connection in her opening speech at the Yoganusasanam intensive in December. She asserted that our desire to "capture" a message in the moment – in that case, by taking notes – is a form of steya or stealing. We want to steal the knowledge of the moment and make it ours. She advised us to instead practice asteya (non-stealing), one of the yamas or universal ethical codes within the eight limbs of yoga. In other words, let the moment be. What you absorb, you absorb. Let the moment pass, and let the next moment come.
I think the same is true for those moments we can't wait to escape from. Can we resist the urge to fill up the moment with external stimuli and distractions and just be there? More to the point, why would we want to? Ask yourself that. What is to be gained by letting all the emotions, the thoughts, the feelings, and the sheer awareness of the moment simply – if not easily – just be?
Yoga affords us a rich ground for both practices, which really are one and the same. Some poses we can't wait to get out of. As the body aches and tires, the mind becomes restless and we want to move on. Sometimes (OK, often) we do. I try to be more interested in what happens when I stay. What happens when I release the restlessness of the mind and inhabit the pose completely?
Similarly, in those rare and graceful moments when the pose feels completely right, something always changes. A twinge here, a correction there, a tension or a closing that comes somewhere...something always changes enough to make me fall. That perfection, so timeless yet so ironically time-bound, slips from my grasp. Yoga teaches us to let it happen. The more we practice, the better we get at letting it happen with ease and grace. Like inspiration, moments of grace in yoga come and go. So we surrender, over and over, to that ebb and flow.
Here's a practice for you: The next time you want to steal this moment, don't. Or the next time you want to motor yourself through it on an external ride, don't. Both urges offer an entry point for self-reflection. Take it. Then see where it takes you.