from the Enhancing Your Yoga Practice series by Suzanne Manafort- Yoga Practice in Life When we begin a yoga practice, our focus is on learning the asana. As our practice begins to mature, we learn that the yoga practice makes it way into our whole life. The practices teach us to stay present and to grow into a whole, healthy, and sensitive person.
One of my teachers, Beryl Bender Birch, taught me that there are no mistakes. All things happen for a reason. We should stay present and connect to the lessons in all of our life experiences. As Beryl always says, “Pay attention."
I live on a lake, and every year the geese come home to the lake in the spring and mate. We have a bunch of new babies each year. I feed our geese and have created a relationship with them, even though most people feel that they are a nuisance. This year the babies hatched on Mothers Day. The parent geese brought them over to dock on Mothers Day to meet us. It was such a great Mothers Day gift.
The day that they are all hatched their parents get them in the water. My husband tells me that they are safer in the water than on land, and I am quite sure he is right.
This year began with 11 babies. Now there are 8. Other animals that live around the lake are their predators. It is so difficult to see them show up in the morning missing family members.
It is particularly beautiful to me to watch them grow from what looks like yellow rubber ducks to geese. They start with fuzzy yellow feathers, they grow tails, then wings and finally their neck and head turn black as their body color also changes.
At the beginning of June one day, as I was enjoying their company out by dock, one of the babies came dragging over to me making a sound I had never heard a goose make before. He got rather close to me and I was horrified to see that he had a huge hole in his neck and another in his chest. The bones in his chest looked as if they were showing and his neck was wide open. I sat with him for a long time and talked to him. I kept telling him he was going to be okay. He listened to me closely. I tried to remember carefully that he is a wild animal and that he is food for coyotes, but I saw him as a living suffering being that has consciousness the same as I do.
He came daily to see me. He would walk over to me and sit with me. I fed him cracked corn to help him build strength to get well. He is now the biggest of the babies in his flock, because of all of the cracked corn that I fed him.
In the beginning it was very hard for him to swim. I asked my friend Beverly, who is a farmer and has domestic geese, to come and take a look at him as he was healing. She thought because his neck was so injured, and because they use their necks to swim and to fly, that he might not fly.
This is how he looks today with healed wounds, but still disfigured:
As the baby geese begin to mature, their wings grow and get strong and they learn to fly. It is so comical to watch them learn. They flap and flap and flap, get a little air and come crashing into the water. They look like drunken geese, ha-ha!
I imagined that my friend, the injured goose, would eventually be left behind and I was prepared to feed him some cracked corn all winter. After about a month of loving care, I was incredibly surprised as I watched my goose friend flap his wings and jump off a dock and get a little air.
He has grown from one of those little babies next to the dock to this magnificent animal despite his injuries. What an incredibly resilient being! Today he is flying with his flock! They are still building strength and only flying across the lake, but he flies and has stayed with his flock. I am now quite sure that he will fly south this fall.
What have I learned?
Learning to pay attention in every moment is the ultimate yoga practice, whether showering, building a back deck, paying bills or watching geese. This effort to be present allows us to see the great miracles in every moment of this beautiful life we are living, and this leads to a happy, healthy, full life
In the clinical word this has been labeled as Mindfulness--paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, without judgment--but as yogis, we have always known this as part of our practice.
All living creatures have consciousness, and it is possible to coexist and to create a peaceful relationship with any living creature. How do we teach peace and tolerance to others? By leading by example and showing others what is conceivable.