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How to Live a Long Life

Dewdrops on a blade of grass,

Having so little time

Before the sun rises;

Let not the autumn wind

Blow so quickly on the field.

Dogen

 

 Back and Forth

I finally understood what it would be like to live the life of a ping pong ball. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Sometimes I feel like being a full time yoga instructor is not much different. Driving from studio to studio often can make me feel a bit crazy. I frequently find myself in those moments of continuous traverse asking the universe for just a few more hours. But even if my calls were answered, would that be enough? Would 48 hours make the world of difference? I sense that it wouldn’t. I sense that this concept of time that we have grown to trust is not what we think it is.

I don’t want to go as so far as to deny its existence but I will say that I have frequently experienced glimpses of it vanishing — when deep in meditation, passionately in love, heated in anger, eclipsed in beauty, lost in nature, etc. At moments such as these, I have felt time completely dissolve.

 

At my Grandmother’s funeral a few months ago, the Rabbi leading the funeral procession spoke of a Hebrew word for ‘long life.’ He said that it had two meanings. The first meaning was that the deceased lived for many years. In my grandmothers case, 94. That may constitute a long life in quantity but has very little weight in quality. The other way in which the Hebrew word could be translated, is that each day had been drawn out to its fullest. A long life can only occur if one had actually learned to live, not as a summation of years, but by being with each and every day completely. Those timeless moments when we are able feel deeply are the same moments that make us alive.

 

As I confronted this notion further, I saw clearly how yoga and meditation are in fact the practice of learning to live. To live means to touch the present moment. To experience each and every breath. To feel. To be. To exist. We are constantly battling with the flicker of hope that happiness and peace exists in the next moment. “The next moment must be better than this one,” — especially when life feels like it is falling apart. But there is no next moment. There is only this one and if we can get there than we will live a long life.

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