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Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Arriving in the Present Moment

September 9, 2011

Note: We are thrilled to announce that Rabbi Chava Bahle, a yogi, Jewish inspirational preacher, and storyteller, will be a regular contributor here on Yen Yoga’s blog. We find her writing and perspective so incredibly inspiring, and we know you will, too.

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

An elderly Jewish lady goes to her travel agent to arrange passage to India, where she wishes to visit with a very high guru. The arrangements are made, and she arrives in India and eventually at the ashram. There she climbs an enormous mountain and joins a long line of people waiting for an audience with the guru. An aide tells her that it will take at least three days of walking up the mountain to see the guru.

“Okay,” she says.

Eventually she reaches the summit and the guru’s cave.  She is told that she can only say three words.

“Fine,” she says.

She is ushered in and once again reminded: “Remember, just three words.”

She stands directly in front of him, crosses her arms over her chest, fixes her gaze on his, and says: “Sheldon, come home.”

Buddhism teaches that the present moment contains the seeds of all things, including liberation from samsara (the world of suffering), and yet we spend most of our lives anywhere but here—anywhere but the present moment.

Once we have entered the yoga room, found our place and begun to create some quiet, there is a moment before practice begins when we stand on our mats, feet planted, arms by our sides, breathing—fully present to the moment before we embark.  In some classes we begin in shivasana—corpse pose—a posture of surrender and readiness; often, at some point, we come to tadasana—standing mountain pose.

In Jewish yoga, where often postures are sometimes associated with Hebrew letters, this standing mountain pose— tadasana—is paired with the letter yod—a tiny letter that represents the seed of all potential. Rabbi David Cooper, one of the great living teachers of Jewish meditation and mysticism, uses this affirmation for standing in tadasana:

You are the infinite, without time and space.  You are that which is hidden … You are all that can be, representing the unending flow from the Bestower, the source of all creation …

This simple posture—a gesture of openness and readiness, a willingness to face what is ahead—can help us bring a deeper awareness to our practice and help us come to the present moment.

In learning meditation I have always preferred eyes-closed approaches; there is something about shutting out visual stimuli that helps me center.  Recently, though, listening to the well-laid advice of teacher Pema Chodron, I have been working with eyes open. She feels this is an important gesture of attending fully (not zoning out) and literally facing the moment.  I feel more comfortable with eyes closed, which probably means I should be working with eyes open. Ugh.

In hot yoga classes, we are coached not to close our eyes—even during shivasana between postures—so that we can stay present to the moment, stay in the room, hold a focus. Tadasana is also such an eyes-open moment. Blogger Tiffany Jones writes:

The drishti [focus of the eyes] in Mountain Pose is a soft, gentle gaze into the horizon. Think of Clint Eastwood in a cowboy film, without the heat, the dust or the squint.

Is it possible to learn to look at our lives with a soft, gentle gaze? Can we learn to be present enough to this moment that we face future moments with greater peace, awareness and equanimity?

Tadasana, mountain pose, makes me think of a wonderful meditation from Jon Kabat-Zin’s wonderful book Wherever You Go, There You Are :

Mountains are held sacred, embodying dread and harmony, harshness and majesty. Rising above all else on our planet, they beckon and overwhelm with their sheer presence. Their nature is elemental, rock. Rock-hard. Rock-solid.  Mountains are the place of visions, where one can touch the panoramic scale of the natural world and its intersection with life’s fragile but tenacious rootings. Mountains have played key roles in our history and prehistory. To traditional peoples, mountains were and still are mother, father, guardian, protector, ally.

In meditation practice, it can be helpful sometimes to “borrow” these wonderful archetypal qualities of mountains and use them to bolster our intentionality and resolve to hold the moment with an elemental purity and simplicity. The mountain image held in the mind’s eye and in the body can freshen our memory of why we are sitting in the first place, and of what it truly means, each time we come, to dwell in the realm of non-doing. Mountains are quintessentially emblematic of abiding presence and stillness.

In the words of Psalm 24:

 Who shall ascend your mountain? Who shall stand in the place where you stand?

The one with open hands

The one with a quiet heart

The one whose soul is not lifted up with lies

Nor deceit, seduction nor heedlessness.

The birds have vanished into the sky,

and now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,

until only the mountain remains.

Li Po

Rabbi Chava Bahle lives in rural northwest Michigan, near Traverse City, and travels the country to inspire people of all faiths. She is an ordained rabbi in Jewish Renewal, and an ordained Maggid, a Jewish inspirational preacher and story teller.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joy Cmiel permalink
    September 12, 2011 3:55 pm

    RIght On Chava!



    Joy 🙂

  2. September 16, 2013 12:06 pm

    Excellent, what a weblog it is! This website gives helpful information to
    us, keep it up.

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