By Jody Tull
Visiting. Sitting together for hours; not doing anything, just being. This month we made another road trip Down South, to see friends, relatives, and business partners, people we've come to love more with every visit. The furthest point of our trip was Clintwood, the seat of Clay County, VA. My grandparents made their living in Clintwood during its glory days, when coal was king. They ran the first funeral home for miles around, and they were so successful that they were able to sell up and retire in their fifties. They then proceeded to enjoy themselves thoroughly, wheeling and dealing in the colorful world of real estate and Appalachian mineral rights. As a child, I spent many summers with them, living in the log cabin they bought in North Carolina. Days would go by when nothing much happened, and then a long phone call would be made one evening, a deal would be planned, and the next day we would all get in the car and go on a long journey. We drove up to plantation-style houses, and met Southern gentlemen and gentlewomen, who were unfailingly gracious and kind. We did our deals, and we visited. Sometimes there was music to share — Grandfather loved to sing — and sometimes there were stories. Most of all, there was a value placed on being together, with no particular agenda and no reason to be someplace else. Research has proved the value of yoga, meditation, and relaxing the mind. The constant busyness of life puts the body in a continuous state of “fight or flight” — inhibiting its natural healing rhythms. The same core principle can be seen in the slow, measured lifestyle of the Old South, where hard work is punctuated by periods of rest, relaxation, and enjoyment — being together for its own sake.
My grandparents are long gone, but the memories remain. On our last trip Down South, we went to see Jean and Margie, the last of their cousins. There they were, sitting out on the veranda, a deck of cards on the table, simply visiting. Other family members dropped by, just like last time, and it felt as if we had all the time in the world. Not doing anything, just being. We found the same gracious, unhurried way of life everywhere we went on that trip, from Lexington, KY, to Black Mountain, NC, and round the remote, wooded hillsides of Clay County, where some of their properties are still to be found.
There was something here that I really liked, and I struggled to give it a name. Eventually I decided to call it “The Art of Visiting”. I also came to realize that I’d enjoyed the same feeling somewhere completely different The constant busyness of life puts the body in a continuous state of “fight or flight” — inhibiting its natural healing rhythms. in a village called Soglio, perched on the side of a mountain, deep in the Swiss Alps. For the last nine years, my husband and I have taken yoga students to this delightful, ancient village, where organic farming is a way of life, and the loudest noise is the sound of spring water flowing into stone basins at night, or the bells of the cows and goats as they walk out to the meadows every morning. Here, too, you can see the Art of Visiting. The villagers rise early, work hard, and then, as the sun goes down, “Basta!” they finish their work, and simply enjoy being together. Folks gather on stone benches and talk, or simply sit in companionable silence. I’m beginning to see why I felt so drawn to this place when I first went there – the landscape shares many features with the mountains of my childhood, and the measured pace of life resonates even more deeply.
This is the core of yoga, or at least, the “Sivananda” yoga that I have come to love. Movement alternates with stillness, sound alternates with silence, doing alternates with being, and the body and mind are brought to a peaceful, calm place where innate powers of healing and regeneration are unveiled.
These natural benefits are sabotaged, when every minute of every day is squeezed for its maximum output. To quote Robert F. Kennedy, “Our Gross National Product measures everything… except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Jody Tull received her master’s degree in education from Columbia University and lives in Ann Arbor. She is a certified therapeutic yoga instructor with 18 years of teaching experience. Her work combines classical full spectrum yoga, the philosophy of yoga, meditative hatha yoga, and the yoga of sound, called “Finding Your Voice.” Weekly yoga classes and relaxation treatments are held at the Be In Awe Yoga Studio in Ann Arbor. Visit www.beinaweyoga.com or contact Jody at firstname.lastname@example.org.