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Yin & Yang, a flowing dance of balance

Developing the Sanctuary Within

One of my cherished eccentricities is my tactile relationship with bees. The unlikely intimacy began my very first day of Catholic school. Sister Angela patiently explained that there was a nest of bees living beyond the gates of the grotto. The grotto, of course, was centered in the recess yard. She promised that bees were merely concerned with finding pollen for honey making. Being chased by a bee would mean the bee confused a child with a beautiful flower. ďHelp the bee to learn by letting it find no pollen. It will fly away after it learns you arenít a flower.Ē

Although most kids went into frenzied animations swatting, fleeing and tormenting the bees, I believed just about everything Sister Angela said. That day I allowed a big yellow bumble bee to crawl across my uniformed chest and investigate my embroidered school insignia. Sister was right. The bee learned and flew away.

There was an incredible simplicity that enabled my trust to parallel fear that day. I was just as leery of stinging insects as the rest of the class, but I was also afraid of deviating from directions. From day one there was a Ďpins and needlesí quality inherent to the practice of being a good Christian soldier. If Jesus could hang on a cross, I could risk being stung in an act of faith.

What is it that opens a door to sanctuary? In the middle ages a fugitive could avoid capture by seeking the shelter of a church. Our quest for inner stillness is very much the same. Eluding the encroaching attack of external stressors, requires the perception of sanctuary. In other words, how does one find a place where the echoes of obligation, judgments and insecurities fall silent?

Making balance between the dense and subtle bodies seems to be imperative. Yin and yang lifestyles have differing demands for effective means of practice. If, for example, I use ambient music as background while working as a massage therapist, chances are slim that those same CDís are going to enhance my own relaxation. If Iím sitting at a desk for seven hours a day in a glass cube, itís unlikely that Iíll find reward in a sitting meditation.

The formula for equanimity requires a counterpose to mundane commitments. One personís 5K run may be anotherís yin yoga class. If Iím required to edit technical periodicals, I may find healing respite by sweating out the mental details in a hot yoga class. On the other hand, if Iím creatively structuring preschoolers Monday through Friday, sitting on my meditation cushion may recreate a longed for state of calm.

Each of us can access a unique haven from abrasive experience. Finding the key to that threshold is equally unique. Determining the type of activity, the amount of physical rest or expenditure and the psychological intensity that neutralizes our angst comes first. Integrating regular participation of that practice follows. The more thoroughly integrated our participation, the more naturally effective our response to stress.

We donít need a crisis to evaluate our foundation of inner peace. Each day affords challenge in the form of congested traffic, checkout delays, lost keys or burnt toast. Our inner witness can note our subtle, emotional acceptance in those uphill moments. Just how well have we fashioned our sanctuary? If itís palpable during our little calamities, weíve been good psychic masons.

There have been times when friends have enjoyed watching my persistent tolerance as a bee has gently explored the entrance to an open toed shoe. Sweat often breaks between my brows, breath deepens, goose bumps rise, but I donít flinch. The fact that anyone is watching exacerbates the tension. Inevitably, a disappointed and disoriented bee emerges from the shoe...

Am I unshakable? Yeah, right! I aspire to invoke that centered tolerance when I need to interject diplomacy into an agitated argument. The space between different minds creates lots of triggers Sister Angela never happened to simplify.

Wouldnít it be great if our inner guidance affirmed societyís values? What gift would it be to want the same profession that our parents envision for us? Suppose we were intrigued by the careers that offered us material fortune? Is it possible to have a dynamic relationship with a partner who agrees with us entirely? Sure in our dreams! Better yet, in our personal sanctuaries.

Once, while I was waiting for a bus that was running late, I bee landed on my cheekbone. It began separating my lower eye lashes, one by one...

by Toni Zuper
Alternative Healing
Center City, Philadelphia

published in Yoga Living -- September 2006 issue