Summer, although pretty much over, has been a great opportunity for me to focus on staying alert. Here are three questions I have conditioned myself to ask this summer:
1. WHERE IS THE SNAKE?
There's a rat snake living in our hen house. The snake and our chicken have developed a symbiotic relationship - nodding at each other as they pass the water trough. The snake eats the mice thus balancing the mice population and keeping the hen scratch in check. The snake also eats a few of the chicken eggs a week, a small pay-off for keeping the mice out of the garden and everywhere else.
All this is well and good. What gets me is how I usually walk in to check the water, hay, and feed. It's usually done without even thinking about it. Usually, my mind is elsewhere - focusing on the future - what do I need to do later? where I need to go? have I done everything I'm supposed to do? etc...
Since the snake moved in, I catch myself as I open the door and do a quick check-in - where am I? Where is the snake? If I don't see the snake before I go in, I am extra careful. I can feel my breath move through my body thus sensing any subtle movements more clearly that occur within the hen house.
Where is the snake? It is a common question that has often been referred to when considering people who are less than honest or loyal (e.g., "He's such a snake!) and looking out for those types of people and being wary of them. This time the question refers to not what is "out there." Instead, it's within me. Going into the hen house now I am aware of a shift in my consciousness not only focusing my mind on being aware but also feeling my whole body being alert.
In yoga there is a reference to what you learn "on the mat" and how to bring your experience "on the mat" to other areas of your life. For me the hen house is the same as the mat. When I'm in the hen house I remember how alert I can be when I want to be. I see my work as strengthening that alertness to occur in all facets and all moments of my life.
HOW HOT IS THE WATER?
The same idea can apply to this scenario. The river is a wonderful place to be this time of year until about noon. Then it can be warm, very warm, even uncomfortably warm. Dare I say -- hot tub warm -- which isn't a bad thing, unless it's 109 degrees and you're looking for relief. It's also the time of year and the right temperature for all the snakes that love the water. Thus in this scenario I also refer to question #1. (That's really not a problem. Dogs are very good at chasing snakes away.)
IS THERE ENOUGH ICE?
With 25 days in a row of well over 100 degree temperatures, ice has become the great equalizer. Ice brings everything back into balance on super-hot days. It makes me feel supported, even loved. Ice. Nourishing and nutritious, it shifts the physical body into neutral when the skin is pink, the hair is wet, and the breath is short - especially when I'm running from the snake!