I live on an edge. Where the land meets the sea. If I look straight out from where I stand — there is no other land until the Philippines and China. Knowing that — as I look out I feel hope and awe.
Awe at the immensity of where I stand. As my eyes go from the watery horizon to my feet I feel hopeful, happy, safe and at home. I know this place in my bones because I grew up on an edge. Not as vast and expansive but nonetheless an edge.
I learned to walk where the waters of a clear Minnesota lake meet the land. My family still lives there. I’m currently visiting and walking that familiar edge. From here my journey to live in Hawaii all makes sense to me.
I love edges and in particular, I love the place where the water meets the land. The lessons I learn from living on the edge are vast and immense.
I love, love to walk. It’s what I do right after my daily movement practice. Being in Minnesota and walking my childhood edge has me thinking of the edge I walk every day in Hawaii. What does that far off edge teach me?
In Hawaii, I start my beach edge walk on rocks and coral. This uneven walk has taught me that I need to focus on my life. If I don’t watch my steps over the strewn rocks and coral I will fall and hurt myself. Which teaches me that if I don’t focus on me, my life’s path, watch for the obstacles thrown up and in my way — I’ll falter, stumble, and eventually fall.
The rocks and coral take me to a jagged lava patch. As I navigate over the sharp points I can feel all my leg muscles having to work to stay upright. I clearly remember when I first moved to Hawaii I felt the weakness in my legs from walking only on smooth surfaces.
That weakness in my legs caused me to trip many times. As I persisted on walking on sharp edges I grew strong. This has taught me to stay my course especially when life gets challenging and sharp lessons come my way. The results — I grow stronger and stronger.
Take a pause
A reward awaits at the end of the lava challenge. A spit of white sand beach stretches for about twenty feet. Every time I step on to this beach I always pause. Take in my pointed accomplishment. Feel the pride of persisting over the hard terrain.
Celebration wells up in me and I chant I love you. I say I love you to myself, the beach, the ocean, and the sky. The little patch of white sand teaches me the importance of pausing.
Taking time out to celebrate where I’ve walked and what I’ve overcome. The pause is as important as the movement. I’ve heard that so often in my yoga studies and I understand it.
Looking ahead I see the beauty of a huge downed, dead, grey-weathered, twisted tree turned into a driftwood obstacle course. This is a place to observe. I notice the tide. Where is the water? Is the smooth surface of driftwood wet or dry? Are there people in the tree maze or about to enter the entanglement?
Only after observing do I begin to climb over and under the dead driftwood tree. The tree has taught me to observe — the hard way. If its surface is wet, I slip and fall. If the tide is high I must be prepared to get wet and my wet body makes the surface of the tree slippery and again I’ve fallen because of that. When someone is approaching I must be careful not to get trapped by them or to trap them in the maze of sleek twists of trunk and branch. Backing up is hard in the driftwood maze.
This tree has taught me to prepare for what lies ahead. To try new ways to twist and turn with the flow of life, water, people, and nature.
From here — I jump off the tree into a half-mile-long stretch of white sand beach. I run, jump, leap, and take long steps. This is my smooth patch. I don’t have to focus, persist, pause or observe. It’s my break to feel the length of my stride, the swing of my arms, and the depth of my breath. I’ve learned from this long, wide beach to honor the easy times, they do come and that’s my time to move with joy.
The sand gradually gives way to a rocky beach. I love, love this part of my walk because this is where I find treasures. Shell hunting soothes my deep inner need for beauty. I love the colors, shapes, and smoothness of shells. On this rocky beach, I put my head down and go on the hunt. When I find a treasure I let out a happy whoop and plunk my treasure in my shell bag.
This part of my walk on the edge has taught me to look for treasures in the rocky places in my life. That’s where they are — not in the smooth and easy places.
When I encounter a large, live tree that forces me to turn around or do a bit of a swim — I most often turn around and head back the way I came. As I go back I notice I have a smile on my face and my body feels comfy and cozy.
I’ve found balance
As I go over terrain I’ve already crossed I realize that my journey on the edge is about finding balance. To find the balance in the rocky beach that shows me to look for treasures in turbulent times which flows into the white sand beach that reminds me to come out of turbulence and into a smooth and easy ride.
The driftwood tree causes me to balance on, under, and over branches. All to get me to be more observant of my life. The spit of beach causes me to pause to honor my life.
The jagged lava helps me stay persistence and grow strongly balanced. And the rocky, coral area teaches me to focus to find my footing.
I know I moved to this immense, far out edge to learn to find balance. To help you stay in balance as you encounter your life’s edges do this week’s Ageless Movement Practice on balance.
In the meantime, here’s a balancing pose to prepare you for your next jagged edge.
Down dog in balance
Stand with your feet inner hip-width apart. Press into the outer edges of your heels and look to see that you have arches. Lift and spread your toes. Bring your arms to the floor or a chair seat as you exhale. Hang here for a moment looking at your feet. Keep your arches and allow your toes to set on the floor without gripping the earth. Walk your hands as far forward as you can keeping your heels on the ground. Again use a chair if you can’t walk your hands forward from the ground.
When you’ve walked your hands forward on the floor or seat of the chair. Take your right foot off the ground. Now look at your left standing foot and make sure it isn’t collapsing in the arch or you’re not gripping your toes into the earth. Bring your right leg straight back toward the wall behind you. Keep focusing on your standing foot. Keep the arch and the toes from gripping and turn your right hip up toward the sky. Extend through your right heel. Hold and breathe.
When ready lower your right leg down, pause and lift your left foot off the floor. Look at your right standing foot and make sure it isn’t collapsing in the arch or you’re not gripping your toes into the earth. Bring your left leg straight back toward the wall behind you. Keep focusing on your standing foot. Keep the arch and the toes from gripping and turn your left hip up toward the sky. Extend through your left heel. Hold and breathe.
When ready lower your left leg down, pause, breathe and hold. Walk your hands back to your feet. Look at them and press the outer edges of your heels into the earth. Lift your toes. Pause here and hang until you are ready to come up one vertebra at a time.
As you come up bring your tail down. Your ribs in and down. Roll your inner arms out squeezing your scapula together! Stand flowing with your breath and feeling your balance.
Overall, if I remember the different aspects of the beach I will stay in balance in my life. Because I know that the jagged edges of life bring me a pause. The twist and turns dump me into an easy flow. And the treasures are found in the tough times.
I’d love to know how balanced you feel in these edgy times. Let me know in the comments below.