Be Like Pooh

At the start of every new year, I always have a goal to be more spiritual. More introspective. More Zen.  I vow to do more yoga, more meditation than the previous year. The yoga is easy, but the sitting still in one place is hard. I do it, but at times it can be a struggle, and it really shouldn’t be. You are literally just sitting. But you are sitting without thoughts. Without the day’s frustrations or what didn’t get checked off the to-do list weighing on your mind.

You just be. You sit with a clear head. Maybe there’s a chant you say to yourself that helps to calm you and find your center. If I’m having a hard time settling into my meditation and letting go of invasive thoughts, I have a go-to chant that helps to reel in my wandering mind. I say with a steady inner voice, “At this moment all is well.” I repeat the mantra as many times as I need to bring me back to the present moment, where my mind is calm enough to just be. 

I always start the year with a book about spirituality. This year that book is the same book I started last year off. It was worth a second read.  The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. (Tao pronounced DAO) I bought the book at an estate sale. The title grabbed my attention because though I’ve read many books about Buddhism, I was only faintly familiar with Taosim. And also, I was a big fan of Pooh as a little girl. Who wasn’t? He was such a cute and cuddly little bear, and apparently, he knew the secret to staying “happy and calm under all circumstances.”

In this book, the author explains “the principles of Taoism through Winnie-the-Pooh…” He concentrates on the basic sentiment of Taosim that centers around “a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life.” With a simple-mind and not over-analyzing every aspect of his every day, Pooh has no expectations. He simply lives, without interference or fight, but rather by “working in harmony with life’s circumstances…”

Pooh lived by what is known as “the most characteristic element of Taoism-in-action”– Wu Wei.  Wu Wei means “without doing, causing, or making.” Living life without interfering, or being contentious, or arrogant. It means “no going against the nature of things…”  Like water flowing over rocks. The water just goes where the path takes it. There is no “mechanical, straight-line approach…” 

We only begin to reach the state of Wu Wei “when we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us…” The person who thinks too much is bound to interfere with the natural laws by trying too hard. Wu Wei is effortless. “No stress, no struggle.” The round peg goes in the round hole and the square peg goes in the square hole. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be.  Sometimes highly educated minds try to find ways to force the pegs in holes they don’t belong because they want to seem cleverer than the average mind. This is not Wu Wei.

 While the brainiacs spend their days struggling, while trying to be smarter than everyone else, and their frustration growing, Pooh, having simply put the round peg in the round hole, sits under the shade of a tree and happily eats a bowl of honey. 

Pooh knows Wu Wei.

“Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.”

Be like Pooh. 

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Just Try

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for two years and each pose gets a little easier after months of repetition. Standing forward-bends used to strain my back, and even with my knees bent, my fingertips barely brushed the ground.

But after years of practice, standing forward-bends are one my favorite asanas. I can lay the palms of my hands flat against the floor, with straight legs, and the sensation that runs through my body is no longer straining, but rather soothing and relaxing.

It took time to get here, and even after two years of practice, six to seven days a week, I still have to do the modified version of many of the poses. I’m not yet strong enough to carry the weight of my entire body on my hands — but I will be — with more practice.

Aside from practicing yoga daily, I also meditate, and study and learn from books how I can deepen the spiritual impact yoga has had on my body and mind. I have altered my eating habits to fit a more compassionate diet because plant-based foods complement yoga better than any other diet.

Yoga has become such an integral part of my life, I was not surprised when I woke up this morning having dreamed of doing yoga.

In my dream, I was sitting on the floor with my legs spread apart. A man, who I assume was my teacher, sat across from me.

“Fold your body over your leg,” he said.

I lowered my body over my leg until my forehead rested effortlessly against my thigh, and my arms stretched forward and my hands bound evenly around my foot.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” I said to my teacher.

“That’s because you never tried.”

I opened my eyes this morning to the most powerful dream I have ever dreamed.

Just Try.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net