It's such a delight to be writing to you from an adorable coffeeshop in Park City, Utah, where the we are visiting family for a few weeks. Though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, this mountain town feels more like a hometown for me. More than the fact that my parents live here, and despite the fact that my best high school friends left long ago, it's the landscape, spacious and slow, and the sky, bright and big, that every time, reminds me of my roots.
And yet, since arriving, and if I'm honest for much of the summer, a restlessness has ruled my heart. Without the predictable patterns of my "regular" routine to shape each day, my morning practice has been an anchor and an entryway to center. For more than a few years, I've been cultivating this discipline. Though each day is a little bit different, this routine of rising with the sun to sit, breathe, and move restores my body's natural energy, refreshes my over-active mind, and roots me into the core of my life.
All of us have habits that keep us healthy (and others that don’t) and routines that maintain a sense of order and give structure to our days and our lives. However, the role of ritual in our daily lives has become relegated primarily to holidays and special ceremonies. In his book, One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life, Eddie Stern explains that the difference between habit and ritual is the awareness that we bring to our actions. Habit, he contends, is done mechanically. Ritual is done with conscious awareness. Yoga, Stern says, "is a ritual that we perform to help us remain established in awareness. The daily practice and mental approach that we take to doing it is a certain type of ritual that eventually becomes part of the rhythm of our lives."
For me, the habit of waking up early becomes ritual the moment I sit on my mat and actually tune in to breath, body, and mind. And there are some days that I never enter that state of conscious awareness and instead go through the motions, preoccupied with thought, seeking bodily sensation over sacred communion. Remember, yoga is as much a process as it is a practice. But over time, doing this "One Simple Thing," dedicating a part of my day to bringing attention to myself and the moment, means that no matter the shifting outer and inner landscapes, there is a pathway back home to myself and to a sense of connection beyond myself.
The most common definitions of yoga are "union" or "to yoke." Most of us are familiar with the concept it in terms of uniting movement with breath, awareness with action. However, if we are to extend the horizon of our perspective beyond our own navels, we must also expand our understanding of yoga to include our relationships with each other, our communities and our world.
As we prepare to enter our second year in the Mytreespace, which for many of you has become a home base, what's coming through is the call to mine the rich fields of my own practice and study to offer support and hold space for us as a community to traverse this path of unity together. Because while a personal practice is absolutely fundamental to yoga, none of us exists in isolation. We are householders, not hermits.
It has been beautiful to witness the Mytree Tribe gather and grow, to see you accept the invitation to take good care of yourselves and each other. And it is my intention that as we continue to develop our individual practices and our community offerings, we will elevate our collective commitment to practice a yoga that expands us beyond the boundaries of our own bodies and the details of our daily lives, nurturing a compassionate and engaged community.
In other words, if we are to ensure that our practice is less self-centered and more service-oriented, that it is indeed Yoga that we are doing and not just a glorified stretching routine choreographed to cool music, we need to branch out of asana and explore not only the other limbs but also the roots of Yoga as well. Luckily, the tradition provides the means and the mechanisms through practice and study.