As I dove into my Sunday morning Kirtan yoga class at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica yesterday I found it increasingly difficult to focus. Now, this is nothing unusual. Yoga is primarily about bringing a sense of calm to the nervous system and the mind as a result of the physical poses, so, in the beginning of the practice it is common to struggle with getting still. However, normally I find I can quieten my ‘monkey mind’ pretty quickly and become fully present and focused on the moment. Not this time. It wasn’t that I was full of fear, worry or regret, or that there was a stressful situation taking up my inner space. It was a pretty little bird that had caught my attention.
From where my mat was positioned I could see out of the room to the building next door; a music school whose windows were covered in black graphics giving the glass a mirrored effect. This little bird was facing the blacked-out window and flying at it with all its might, trying to reach the false world that was mirrored in the glass. Each time it began perched on the windowsill, looking up at the glass, before launching itself and fluttering with all its wing power to try and break through the solid glass to reach the illusive world beyond. The poor little bird did this over, and over, and over again practically breaking its beak each time before returning to the same spot, a little stunned, and then trying again. I tried closing my eyes. ‘Don’t look! Focus on your practice’ I thought as Govindas lead us through the next vinyasa flow. It worked for about 2 minutes, then I had to take a peak . . . ‘Was it injured? Why didn’t it turn around and just fly out into the massive open space? Was it blind? Could I nip out of the class before it broke its beak and help it fly away?’ . . . the thoughts kept coming.
Why is it so determined to go in that one direction?’ It was unbearable. I very nearly sprinted out of the class to rescue the poor thing. But then my mind got a wondering: How many of us are like this little bird; dead set on trying to reach a place that doesn’t exist; flying head-first towards some illusive goal; so focused on going in one direction that we never look up or behind us where we will discover another, much, much easier path?
Then, of course, I wondered what message this little bird was giving me? I can indeed be obstinate, determined and get a little too attached to some ideas of how certain projects should be achieved. Maybe it’s time for me to stop breaking my beak in certain areas of my life. Maybe it’s time for you to take not of where you are breaking your beak too?
As these thoughts dissolved and I came back into the present moment, I looked out of the window again and was overjoyed to see that the bird had flown away. Finally I could immerse myself in my practice. Grateful for the insight from the little bird.