I have been watching sunrises this week.

I start my daily yoga practice as the night sky is just beginning to lighten. After building up the fire in the wood stove, I roll out my mat and begin. This moment, before the sun has risen and before the day has built its own momentum, is quiet, solitary and full of potential.  But this potential is not a beckoning toward the future, it is a fullness of the present.

I take a few deep breaths and feel my feet settle on the earth.  I am grateful to be awake, in my body and fully receptive to this nascent moment.  As I move through the sequence of sun salutations that begins the ashtanga practice, the sky lightens further. 

By the time I am halfway through the standing sequence, strokes of color begin to travel across the sky.  Oranges, pinks and reds dance across the clouds and sky in a constantly changing splash of color.  I pause for a deep breath and a longer look.

With a grateful sigh, a smile and a light heart, I always return to the yoga practice after a minute or two.  After all, I am supposed to be exercising.

As I move through the poses, I feel my physical and mental energy growing stronger and more flexible.  The growth builds throughout the practice each day, and each day’s effort rests upon the work of the days, weeks and months that came before. Yet each day’s practice is also solely its own, complete with its own particular distractions, surprises and sunrises.

Eventually, a rogue thought breaks my concentration and my gaze moves to the window again.  Inevitably, a pang of surprise and disappointment sweeps through my body. The sun has risen above the horizon and the brilliant display that had filled the sky just moments before is gone.

But of course it’s gone. Nothing lasts forever. Change is our constant companion, usually accompanied by awareness, appreciation and apprehension. This truth takes me by surprise each and every time it presents itself.

The display of beauty cast by the interactions between sun, clouds and earth was not only vibrant and awesome, but also fragile and fleeting.  This time, as I turn back to the mat, I sigh a little deeper.  Of course the sunrise was temporary, but each time I witness this passing moment, I feel surprised by a feeling of loss. The peak color display of the sunrise actually lasts for 10-15 minutes.  That’s long enough to watch subtle changes and variations over time.  That’s long enough to feel connected to and protected by the largess of the universe. After the sun has risen, it is just me and my yoga mat again. For a moment, I regret that the sunrise is no longer with me. Its departure is a not so subtle reminder of the other losses and blessings that have graced my life.

But that moment passes too. A new moment has arrived and it requires my attention. By this time, I am nearing the end of the sequence.  In the final poses, I sink in with deep intention. Body, mind and heart come together with strength, clarity and integrity. As I move, I hold lightly to the beauty and the loss of the sunrise and countless other tender moments from past and future. Each pose holds only my body, my breath and the universe’s infinite possibility.

When I reach the end of the sequence, that feeling of loss arises again. My hour for yoga, my quiet sunrise time, has passed. For a brief moment, I notice the sadness of letting it go before smiling to greet the new moment that is arising. The sleeping house is beginning to stir and there are more tender surprises ahead in each moment of this new day.  But first, it’s time to brew the coffee.