Friday, May 27, 2005

Balance Now

This morning I laid in bed after I awoke, groggy. Thoughtlessly, I clicked the remote control and saw, blurry, Good Morning America's Robin Roberts interviewing Mother Antonia, the "Prison Angel."

Twenty-eight years ago she left her lavish life in Beverly Hills and moved into a 10'-by-10' prison cell in Tijuana. She's been there ever since, ministering to society's outcasts and, ironically, their guards, in one of the most horrific prisons imagineable.

She got my attention. I put on my glasses. She asked me and everyone else to do something, and do it today. Don't wait. Help someone, today. She said,
"Yesterday's bread is too hard to eat.
Tomorrow's hasn't been baked."

I've never heard that before.

Patanjali, in Book II, Sutra 16, says, "The suffering which is to come, can and should be avoided."

So we're not confused on the issue, Patanjali tells us we all suffer because we mistake the transient for that which is eternal and the impure for the pure. We mistakenly believe that we are something other than who we really are. This lack of knowledge, avidya or ignorance, is the cause of all suffering.

We're in a prison of our own making. Bo Lozoff says it in the title of his book about taking yoga and compassion to the incarcerated, "We're all doing time."

behind bars Posted by Hello

Mother Antonia's sutra is so simple, so direct. It's about being present right now. When you regret the past or anticipate the future, you spoil the now.

At the beginning of my yoga classes I often invite students to make a transition from being a doer to being an observer. Lying still, you can start to watch and experience what's happening right now. When you are present for the now, stress and anxiety dissolve away.

That transition is often difficult to make. I think this is easier: Pick your foot up off the floor and balance in tree pose (vrksasana). Place your foot along the inside of your knee or upper thigh, toes pointing down. Balance for the time it takes for you to take a few breaths. Then come out of the pose with control and repeat on the other side.

Balancing gets your attention and brings you into the present moment. It's difficult to be occupied by the past or worry about the future when you're balancing. Negativity fades away.

A student of mine from many years ago told me she took this advice on her wedding day. No one else knew it, but while standing on the beach saying her vows, underneath her gown she had picked her foot up and was standing in tree pose. It calmed her nerves. She was able to be present at her own marriage ceremony.

The pain and anxiety of today can and should be avoided. Follow the Prison Angel. Do something good right now.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., You can find out more about Bo and Sita Lozoff's Prison-Ashram Project at

p.p.s., If you'd like to help Mother Antonia reach the incarcerated, their families and guards in Tijuana, you can call her at the Servants of the Eleventh Hour of San Juan Eudes (Eudistas) in Tijuana, (664) 645 1941.

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


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