Monday, March 8, 2010

Sap

It's sugaring season in Vermont.

I love to stand in the steam as it rises from the boiling pan, sweetness permeating every pore, and drink jar-fulls of warm sap until I am sticky and drunk and grinning with the epiphany that Spring is really coming.

The Sanskrit word for "sap" is rasa. Rasa also means "essence" or "flavor," and particularly "sweet flavor." It also can refer to a magical elixir, or even to amrita, the Divine nectar of the Goddess.

The sap is the blood, the life-force, the essence of the trees, and the maple syrup that results from the continuous boiling of the collected sap is a nourishing, mineral and nutrient-rich medicine. This syrup is a highly concentrated form of the tree's life force, and the alchemy that transforms the sap from barely sweet, clear water to thick, dark, heaven is what makes possible the transportation of the trees' gift. That is, through the boiling and evaporation, the amrita becomes something that can easily be carried around, stored, and shared with others.

And so it is with our yoga. We gather the downed wood of winter's storms: our challenges, frustration, sickness, grief, fear... We bring them into the sugar shack (yes, I mean the yoga studio!) and offer them to the fire, the tapas, of our practice. Nothing can be made to disappear, but everything transforms.

Through this voluntary boiling, fueled by that which no longer serves, we distill from the strange and wonderful and difficult and ordinary gifts of every-dayness, a sweetness, a nourishing essence, which can be shared with others. The more refined and potentized this essence becomes through the engagement of yoga, the more powerful a source of healing and joy it becomes, not just for the one who stands in the smoke and steam of the sap house, but for all who taste even one nectar drop.

Spring is coming. The rivers let go their ice and the blood begins to stir again in the bodies of hibernating creatures. Everything is flowing. What downed wood from winter's winds are you willing to offer into the fire of your practice? What sweetness is stored in the every-day experiences you gather? Bring them to the boiling pan of your mat and taste the amrita of your own delicious life! And saprema, with love, share it with all you meet.

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