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As stories go, Alice in Wonderland has many twists. A disappearing cat, a fish-footman and croquet with flamingos. I have always been fascinated with Alice and the oddities of her adventures. The White Rabbit is the first character that we meet in the story as Alice sits with her sister. She notes her boredom, and how the hot days make her “sleepy and stupid.” She is contemplating if the effort to make a daisy chain would be worth it. Suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes runs by, takes a watch out of his waistcoat-pocket and says “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I shall be too late.”
This is a continuous theme of the White Rabbit, looking at his watch and running late. At one point he declares, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” I know that feeling. The rush of time. This sense of dread of never getting “it all” done.
We have all had those days, or months, or years, where that was the feeling every waking moment. I remember when we had our design firm, and our children were young, I told a friend that I had this sense of a snowball at my heels on the verge of crushing me.
Time. What is this ephemeral thing we call time?
With that snowball behind me, I had a twisted perspective on time. Somehow I thought I would catch up if I sat at my computer long enough, stayed up late enough, or hired another person to help me, at work or home. If only I could do all of that and wasn’t a modern, smart, super mom like me supposed to be able to do that?
If I was good enough, I could bend time like the clock in the Salvadore Dali painting, and I would be able to lie somewhere on a stream bank and be bored enough to contemplate making daisy chains like Alice. Even as I had that fantasy of doing enough, I did not believe it was true. The ticking of life’s clock, the inescapable need to scramble was big, much bigger, than I.
I remember feeling defeated and exhausted. For years.
It is hard to change the way you think about something when you are in that place. The body is exhausted, the mind stuck in a loop. I am late, behind, not getting it all done…I am exhausted…darn it I am late again, and behind and not getting it done…I’m exhausted. On and on and on the cycle goes. It is a place of a twisted perspective that keeps getting more tangled with each loop.
After a certain point, you have no energy left. That is the good news. No energy, no loop. This is the magical moment; you are holding the tiny key, standing at what might be a doorway to a new possibility. As Alice does so many times in her adventures in Wonderland she puzzles. She stays curious and open to what might be ahead. She looks for clues as to what might happen next.
In twisted chair pose, like in Wonderland, some things seem familiar but are not quite what they seem. When the hurrying stops, and you get yourself arranged in this odd position of body parts, time slows down. What if you entered this pose with Alice’s curiosity, and a deep breath?
There are two details that typically get glossed over in a rush to hook elbow over the knee in twisted chair pose. The first is where to hold your gaze. The second is the alignment of your knees.
There are three places your gaze can rest in this pose as an opportunity to gain a new perspective on time. For a twist to the right, you’ll first find chair pose with palms together at heart center. Twist the torso to the right and hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. The first place for your gaze is straight down to your big toes. Here take a look at your knees. The left knee often presses forward here. Pull up and back on your left hip to get that knee to line up with the right one. Take three deep breaths.
Then turn your head to the right and look straight out to the right side, head aligned with the spine. Take three deep breaths here. The third eye gaze position is to look up past your right, lifted elbow to the sky. Find the sweetest deep breaths here. From here work your way back. Three breaths to the side and then with your gaze at your toes, noticing if you were able to keep the knees aligned. Unhook the elbow and come back to chair pose, straighten the legs and let the arms release and shake for a few breaths. Then come back to chair pose and begin the same sequence again.
The twisted chair is a big wringing out of the body; the twist hugs the organs to help flush them out. You can’t rush through this pose; it takes focus, awareness and a smooth breath. When you are here breathing and finding each gaze, it feels like forever. This is the art of time slowing down.
With focused attention grounded in my body, this pose unlocks my twisted idea of time and turns it inside out. Time slows to the rhythm of my breath and my heart. It is a cadence that feels comforting and safe. Time is my own perception; I can choose where to attach my rhythm, to the outside rushing world, or tethered within.
This week, check in and see if your thinking about time is twisted? Go on an adventure and explore twisted chair pose. Sit in it and choose which rhythm you want to tether time. Stay awake and watching. You never know what you might see running by.