There’s a feeling that I have, and this particular feeling is one that I really like. I’m going to call it “big.” It’s a very simplistic way of describing myself when I feel generous and patient and I have the sense that life is full of possibilities beyond my imagination. When I’m feeling big, my body seems to feel big (pranayama really helps with this), like when I come into a room, I’m a real presence. I feel like I have time to hang out and time to listen to people and sounds and to my own experience. I don’t feel a need to rush around when I’m coming from this place. I look at things and I notice more… like how big the world is and how one fleeting moment can lead to infinite possibilities.
In contrast, of course, there is also “small.” Small is when I do rush around. I’m impatient and I have the feeling that there isn’t enough time, energy, space or other things…like dishsoap or toilet paper. My body feels small and constricted. I get stingy with my stuff as if there were a scarcity of grocery stores or crappy pens. A pen scarcity actually happened this week. The girls have a way of squirreling away the good pens at the house. They seem to know exactly which pens are my favorites and they take all of those so I’m left with a cup of crappy old ball point pens. Those, they leave at the desk. I freaked out over pens this week yelling and waving my arms over the horrible pen-thievery and Hazel, who is sassy in such funny ways these days, mimicked me under her breath as she went to retrieve at least 20 pens from her little pouch.
I like big a lot better than small.
Yoga talks about big and small in terms of shifting identity. Where are we coming from when things feel big? How do we conceive of ourselves in the world that makes this big feeling possible? And what are we identifying with when we feel small? The big is unchanging and permanent. Patañjali calls this place puruśa. It’s who we really are. Everything else is changing. It’s something other than us. It’s prakriti. The best way we have to stay with the big is to stay with puruśa.
The big feeling, to me, feels connected. I feel plugged into something bigger than myself. Because of this connection, I have resources available to me that aren’t generated by my life and my actions and my efforts…it’s like something can move through me and this river of energy, if you will, stretches way beyond the small swath of riverbed where my body stands and the very little that I can see from that spot. This energy, this love, this power comes from something far enough away that I can’t see the source, but I can see what it provides.
I had this big feeling when Hazel was born. She was a tiny baby and I watched her all of the time, obsessively staring at her little body. In my life, this was certainly the first time I had been mother to a little tiny person, but I could feel, in such a profound way, that this very precious experience, this relationship was much older and bigger than my personal experience. My mother had birthed and loved me and tried her very best, and hers did the same for her and it goes on and on like that for sooooo long. So big. So much. It turns out that my most attune baby-parenting happened when I put all the books away, I turned down the anxiety about doing something that would scar her horribly and I listened—to myself and to the sweet little baby and acted from that place.
It isn’t always possible for me to stay big and spacious and open, yet. But I’m coming to see it as a real and important point of this practice of yoga. The small stuff slowly falls away. There are less barriers to the inner connection to big, and eventually, over time, we can settle in and stay there.