The season is quickening. The lengthening days and sun breaking through makes us all stand up and pay attention. Plants, animals, and people have been stretching into the light of spring with increased vigor this week. Creation is at hand.
In the garden, on the farm, there’s nothing quite like it. We wake with a to do list longer than any day could hold. The children flutter like butterflies and hop like frogs, and never stop until they just can’t go on. Staying indoors is torture, for any and all of us. The warm wind dries the puddles and lifts the water out of the soil. The greenhouse is full, the brassicas and onions are ready to go out, and there’s more to be potted on and hardened off. Soon there will be chicks hatching and all manner of new life to tend to. There’s just so much to do.
As we begin the labors of the season in earnest, I feel my body waking up to the hard work. I am poorly conditioned after the slower winter months. Now that the rain has come and I’m sitting down again, I am sore for my efforts. Feeling all that, I hear my own voice bouncing back from yoga class.
“Find your threshold, and respect it.”
When we talk about threshold in yoga it often refers to the greatest duration of the breath cycle in pranayama (breathing exercises). When practicing, our breath should not become ragged, or tense, or feel as though we need to gasp for the next inhale. Interesting enough, a deeper, longer breath cannot be safely achieved by pressure or force. Only by deeper allowance and continuing practice. Threshold also pertains to movement. I often use it in reference to balance. It’s not good to try to balance all the way up on your toes if you’re not stable there. Find the place where you can be stable and work with that. The threshold will soon change. But first we have to enjoy it where it is.
Thinking back over seasons past, I can see many times when we’ve crossed over our own threshold here on the land. We tried to do too much in a day (or many days), and suffered for it in what always seemed an exponential manner. Stitches. Sore backs, necks, shoulders. Sunburns. All high prices for this creative life we’ve chosen.
Would I trade it in for a large screen color TV and regular paycheck? Nope. Only for more wisdom.
With wise management and awareness, we can properly respect our various thresholds and make stress work for us. The kind of stress we encounter on the farm demands a level of heightened awareness, necessary to keep from being run over by any number of large farm implements or animals, gashing ourselves, and losing digits to the many sharp edges we frequently handle. It’s when we ride that stress across the threshold, into exhaustion, that danger is close at hand.
It’s not difficult, in this fast paced world, to forget what relaxation feels like altogether. It’s not uncommon, I hear, to move from a stressed out worried mind into a deep exhausted sleep, only to re-awaken in tension again. To work at it from a yogic perspective, consider, when there is a necessary tension – a task that simply must be performed in a limited time – can we find somewhere inside it a place to relax? Even in that difficult position – the task at hand – we have to breathe. We do this in each yoga class, moving into challenging postures, then out of them, again and again.
We do this at home too, when we stop for a meal in the midst of a busy day and really savor with gratitude that goodness and abundance of the food coming from the land. When we share a laugh with the kids, a smile with each other at the end of a row.
Here at the threshold of a new growing season, we’re gathering and testing our strength, our will, and laying out our intentions toward the living world. Here there is tension, relaxation. Stress, peace, and growth. We are called to concentrate, keep our eyes open, breathe and walk forward into a world as wonderful as we can make it from within our personal threshold. It’s a joyful effort.