Where does it all lead?
What will become of us?
These were your young questions,
And young answers were revealed.
It leads to each other. We become
– PATTI SMITH –
At the end of August 2019, I gave away most of my material possessions save for a few boxes of clothes and books to move onto a 37’ sailboat moored at a marina near the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver, BC. In the past decade, I’ve moved around Vancouver eleven times, from Kitsilano to the West End, Main Street, and Commercial Drive. My strive to harmonize my external world through controlling my living situation, not to mention my work and relationships, only led to ongoing stress and chaos. The more I strove to build a world outside of myself, the more I had to work to maintain a lifestyle I wasn’t sure I wanted.
The life I’ve created for myself at the marina is a metaphor on stability: I’ve let go of all the things I thought kept me grounded and connected to what it means to be me and connected to an inner landscape where I no longer need to question myself or what it means to be stable in body and mind. In the solitude and space at sea, cocooned in the rhythm of the water and calls of nature, I’ve been able to carve out some quiet for myself. In the process of letting go, I’ve been able to grow and connect to an inner stability that was there all along, I just never knew how to find it.
In my travels around Vancouver cohabitating and adapting to varied personalities and living styles, I’ve discovered a lot about what it takes for me to feel grounded in any given situation. I’ve come to realize that my feeling of security may be influenced by external factors but ultimately comes down to my inner awareness. Stability is important in our lives for the simple fact that when we feel secure, we’re able to interact with our environment, and our communities with more integrity and love, overcoming insecurity and fear.
You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. -BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar, Father of Iyengar Yoga and author of Light on Life, discusses stability at length in terms of the yoga practice and how yoga asana may create a sense of lightness, precision, strength, awareness, balance, and overall harmony in the body and mind which ultimately translates to a higher state of consciousness and discovery of the Self. Iyengar’s approach to stability comes from an awareness of the physical self through yoga poses; to train the body and calm the mind. Ultimately creating harmony and inner stability that isn’t thrown off-course by our external surroundings.
Iyengar provides that as stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow. In exploring the yoga asana, one will discover balance in the body and stability. Balance is not possible without stability and balance assists in stabilizing the mind. In the physical practice of yoga, the more grounded you are in your lower body through the feet, legs, and pelvis, the more lightness and flexibility you’re able to explore in the upper body through the spine, arms, and head. We explore this idea in our bodies when we move: the more connected you are through your feet and legs in any physical activity, the more ease and balance you have in your body through movement.
According to Iyengar, working with the body and discovering a physical balance produces a balanced and stable mind. A stable mind is one that is focused on the present. A stable mind is one that is free of judgments and limitations. A stable mind is one that is concerned with the higher Truth of what it means to be human and alive. A stable mind knows the Self as unchangeable and yet flexible regardless of external circumstances or forces. A stable mind is one who questions and constantly evolves.
Stability is a sense of inner groundedness that doesn’t come from where you sleep or who you’re friends with, though these factors contribute to whether or not you feel stable and safe. My current sense of stability comes from a deep knowing within that no matter where I live or what the external factors are in landscape, space, neighbors, and possessions, my sense of stability comes from a well within me. I am more grounded and secure in who I am now, more so than where I was ten years ago. I feel it’s a combined factor of pursuing yoga as a means to physically, mentally, and emotionally ground myself in my body and the present moment, my ability to let go of the small stuff that doesn’t matter and really shouldn’t affect my inner being, and my decade of experience putting myself in situations where I tested my strengths and fears.
On an objective level, stability means you have access to shelter and food and water; relationships where you feel cared for and loved and accepted, and access to resources that provide measures of safety. This is why it’s so devastating that a majority of human beings around the world, including the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, are lacking in such areas and will always be struggling at a level of mere survival. It’s elitist for me to say that stability is subjective when I’ve always had access to healthcare and healthy food and a roof over my head and a loving family who I can reach out to when I’m scared or lonely or frustrated. From my vantage point, stability is subjective in that what makes me feel grounded may be vastly different from what makes someone else feel happy or safe or stable in themselves.
A Homecoming to Ourselves
Our lives are a narrative of trial and error; of beauty and terror. No one knows the answer and no one can tell you what is best for you. You have to go out and ask the questions and experience it directly for yourself. The best access point I have to get more clear and grounded is through my body. This I know to be true because I’ve directly experienced it through yoga and the words of BKS Iyengar. They ring pure and true for me through the dedication to my yoga practice. In all my years of picking stuff up and putting it down again, in diverse homes and careers and relationships, my constant has been my yoga practice, first in asana and later in breath and meditation.
So, what is stability? I would ask each of you to sit down and contemplate for yourselves what makes you feel grounded; what relationships you’ve cultivated to give you a sense of belonging; if you’ve established a lifestyle that’s balanced and gives you purpose. For me, stability is a deep sense of trust in knowing I can handle whatever may come my way.
Stability is a homecoming to myself.