At thirty, my changing body was both miraculous and challenging, a home for a growing fetus and a low-level source of worry about the thickness of my thighs, how my body looked in a bathing suit. A benefit of growing older is pulling back from the boundary of skin, muscle and bone, to see that we are something so much more spacious and illuminating than we thought. When we do, our yoga practice evolves to fit this reality.
“As above, so too below,” is a saying that encapsulates a major thread of Tantric philosophy. Just as the universe is always expanding into being, so too are we, giving birth to ideas — even people! — bringing consciousness into manifest, manifest into consciousness.
A few years back I evolved my teaching of asana yoga into the teaching of mindfulness through creativity to older adults in the DC Around Town program. I emphasize the same things I do in an asana class with those in my creativity classes: stay present to what you experience, and focus on the process, rather than a destination or perfection. There is joy here because you are bringing your always flowing and illuminating mind home to serve consciousness. Minutes, hours can fly by when you are nourishing the mind in this way, whether you are moving your whole body or just your paintbrush or pencil.
Our current project in the art class at St. Alban’s is painting old lunch trays with our favorite lunch foods, inspired by the work of Wayne Thiebaud. His penchant for painting the sweets of his youth, his thick application of paint like icing on a cake, are amazing ways to connect once more to the joy of creating with paint or food, the taste and smell of our favorite foods, the feeling we get when we sit down to eat with a friend. As I painted this picture of the foods and of my big belly at my baby shower 28 years ago, I stayed present to all these things and to the beauty of the color of the acrylic, the way the paint flowed on the board.
To find a path to joy, don’t be afraid to make a mark, to lay it on thick, to eat it all up.