Yesterday I went and took a yoga class at BYS on the South Side, here in Pittsburgh. I parked my car a block and a half away, grabbed my mat, slung it over my shoulder and started my stroll to class.
Suddenly, something flitted across my face. I put my hand up as a reaction and the butterfly that had just brushed my cheek with it's wings landed on the back of it. I brought it up to eye level, and her delicate feet tapped around on my hand so she was facing me, her wings folded tight together.
We examined eachother. I watched her proboscis curl out and taste my skin. I observed the underside of her wings (all she would allow me to see)...soft and brown. Her graceful legs would carry the weight of her body with such strength as she explored me.
I continued my walk to class, assuming she would fly off when I began to move. I was certain the shift would startle her (as much as I truly tried to move gently) and anticipated her lift off at any moment. Yet she stayed with me. No traffic noises, shouts from my fellow pedestrians, or feathery breezes would deter her. As for my part, I tried to shield her from the warm breaths of air that brushed against us with my other hand and pulled her close to act as a buffer for her. We made it the block and a half to the door of the shala safe and sound.
Again, I waited for her to leave. Again, she chose to stay with me. Perhaps, I thought, I'm being given a lesson. So I allowed myself to pause and listen to her wisdom. I grew aware of each sensation of her tiny feet, each twitch of antenae. The longer we stayed there, I became further mindful of the sounds of the cars and trucks on bustling Carson Street... the coolness of the damp morning air... the scents of coffee wafting from windows near by. We two became absorbed in to the morning for what seemed like endless time.
Then, without warning, she opened her wings and allowed me to behold her colors. She was a beautiful Question Mark Butterfly. Her brown underside did little to prepare me for this unexpected grace. The contrasting colors popped and shimmered in the light. Her glory was soft, simple and strong at once and the top of her body was as striking and wondrous as her wings. I offered a silent thanks to her for trusting her beauty with me as she turned. Just as suddenly as she arrived, she flew away.
As I lay on my mat that morning, eyes closed and hugging my knees to my chest, I listened to the quiet chatter of my fellow yogis and yoginis as they waited for class to start. It occurred to me that our practice is much like that of my butterfly friend's lesson to me. We come to class and practice at our home for days and weeks... months and years. We shield ourselves from the outside. We wait and anticipate. We practice presence. And in those rare and precious times we wholly allow our expectations to dissolve and drink in each breath, each sensation, each glorious experience as it happens, it is only then that our inner guide can finally show us our colors.