The Bowl Overfloweth

Ever since my yoga teacher training I have had a daily practice on my mat. During the week, I wake up, make my herbal infusion and the move into a meditation practice followed by asana (sometimes restorative depending on the day). All before breakfast and heading off to work.

This morning I woke up before my alarm and cuddled, warm and cozy in bed. I was smiling and looking forward to my morning ritual perhaps more than usual.

I went to the bathroom and upon flushing discovered that the toilet had clogged. I (of course) flushed again just in case that might work, but alas, no. The water and its contents started to rise until the bowl overflowed out onto the floor. I got towel after towel to mop it up. With everything at least temporarily secured I stood for a while – caught between my morning practice and this unexpected event. I contemplated leaving it until later – avoid the fact that something was blocked to the point of even thinking, “perhaps it will just go away on its own” – because I still wanted to practice.

Then with a moment of clarity I decided that this needs to be dealt with now. It’s not going to change without some work and I can’t leave a clogged toilet – chances are I’ll need to use it again. I didn’t have the necessary tools to deal with this situation. So I had a shower, got dressed, stuffed my wet hair under my hat and trudged off to the hardware store to get a plunger.

On the way there I noticed my thoughts and the sensations in my body.

In the past – especially at times of working within a hyper-vigilant state of post-trauma this start to my day could have been met in a few ways. I may have panicked at the sight of the water rising – anxiety taking over – feeling like I didn’t know what to do (and I couldn’t do anything to stop this apparent disaster from happening). I would have tried to will it to be different or to stop and been upset that willpower wasn’t enough to change this reality. I could have burst into tears that something else, yet again, was going wrong. The emotions and sensations would have built to a point of overflowing – all pouring out around me. My thoughts could have dragged me deeper and deeper into the internal sludge and I certainly would have been furious that my day had to start off this way. Angry that any good feeling I’d had from the morning was now lost (never to return!) and clearly this was all done to take my practice away from me.

Instead… as I walked to the store I noticed that it was a bright winter’s day. I smiled at the cold air on my skin and at the row of what seemed like fifty pigeons sitting along a roofline. I noticed just how blue the sky looked. Not a hint of anxiety had appeared.

My thoughts appeared, saying, “I guess this is my practice today” with a smile. Perhaps I need to focus on saucha (cleanliness) as my practice today by mopping the bathroom floor. I mean, I don’t have to practice on the mat this morning – and there is a whole day ahead of me to get there. I smiled more deeply as I thought, “yoga is at least in part about flexibility – so of course having flexibility around my practice is a part of it”. It’s not about the routine. It can shift. Change. Move. It’s fluid.

It is through this practice that my responses to this situation changed. Through years of understanding different sensations in my body, breath, prana, thoughts and working with unclogging and releasing so many energetic, physical and psychological blocks. To not have to overflow around them but to remove them and allow myself to flow more freely.

And instead of bracing against the unexpectedness of my morning – instead of merely tolerating it or being angry with it (or the world or myself) or pushing through it I had the ability to move with it. To have the flexibility so that this was just another experience. And to know that I had cultivated the tools, and created the space for this practice – however it may appear.

I was able to find a plunger, return home, and the clog was removed after just one attempt. Easy. It couldn’t have done it by itself, but the water began to flow once again. The block only temporary – as they all are.

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