by Maxine Iharosy, Certified Yoga Teacher and Organic Farmer
Sweating in the dry wind with dirt rubbed deep into my palms, I reach another hand into the soil to make room for a tomato plant. The drawn out song of frogs bellows up from the valley below, where the swamp lays thick with mud, and heavy with damp air. Between the valley and here, on the hill, so much can change.
The other night we lost 150 plants to sudden patches of frost that settled on the hill, scattered, deadly, and unannounced. When we woke we didn’t yet realize what had happened. We went out into the field to find complete loss for all the pepper plants we started by seed, and countless tomatoes.
I spent some time in sadness and in anger, and blame freely came and went into my mind for not having known somehow that this would happen, and for not somehow being able to stop it. Hostility as an instantaneous but clouding response. Awhile after I began trying to perceive the events from a balanced place within, a place of equanimity and calm.
It happened over the course of the day. I spent some time in the woods, and some time breathing near a river, studying my inner reaction and talking things through with my partner. As I spent some time in the forest I noticed many examples of how equanimity prevails in the natural world. Equanimity is not ignoring one’s feelings and fears. Equanimity is an inner state of calm brought on by fully surrendering one’s trust to the universe. Equanimity is the mental clarity that arrives when one can stay composed and blameless, even in a stressful situation.
It was interesting for me to study my ability to accept without judgment the circumstances, because this acceptance came in waves. I have not been completely accepting of the fact that 1/5 of my plants have died, but now again I would feel that freeing inner wisdom- or Upeshka (Sanskrit Translation for Equanimity or Peace of Soul), reminding me not to take it personally, and to find solace in the greater picture of things.
It is my belief that when a dried leaf clings to the stem of a tree, and a wind rushes into break free the leaf, to fly wildly through the air, to be caught in the jagged rocks, and to be shredded by the worms, that the leaf – nor the tree – takes it personally. The tree has to let go of its leaves in peace, because their work is done, and it’s time for frost to cover the branches.
I find examples of equanimity scattered all over in the garden. Hours after an ant hill is ravaged by shovels and rakes, I will find a re-gathering nearby, of the ants returning with their eggs and their food, to start again. I see a blue jay victorious in a standoff, and I see his skull a week later on the forest floor. I see the small streams overflowing in the spring, and the same then dried beds barely nursing the roots of a mint plant in the late summer.
Spending time outdoors is a great way to recalibrate our ability to be at peace with the way things simply are. That doesn’t mean we don’t get passionate about our rights, or express our sorrows, or let out elated smiles and laughter at our good fortune. But rather, coming from a solid place within rooted in equanimity, we can have a greater sense of what it is we truly need to lead balanced, healthy, whole lives.
“Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.”
-verse 2.48 of the Bhavagad Gita
Equanimity Yoga (on the mat):
Here are some ideas to bring equanimity into your yoga practice.
-Play with challenging balance poses to study your reaction when you ‘can’t quite nail it’. Practice Dirgha Pranayama as you smile gently. Play with going into Half moon, or tree pose, using the wall or free standing in the room.
-When in Cat Cow on hands and knees see if you can let your breath lead the movement. So you begin to breathe in before the belly lowers and the heart draws forward, and you begin to exhale as the spine rounds, and you push the floor away from you.
Maxine’s Story has a happy update:
On June 8th Betty Welsh (a local yoga teacher), reached out to her friend, Pat. Pat owns Annan-Way Nursery and had attended a yoga class with Maxine a while back. Pat heard Maxine’s story and decided to help out – she donated all the peppers and tomatoes she could.