We were in San Diego over spring break. The avowed purpose of our trip was to visit renowned psychopharmacologist Dr Stephen Stahl, but was also took in a couple of shows and the San Diego Zoo. This was in the early stages of Eli's transition, so every time a server in a restaurant called us "Gentlemen" we got to exchange a secret high-five.
Anyhow, in the hotel room one morning we were doing some stretches and exercises together, and Eli demonstrated the tree pose to me. I told him I had tried it before, but that I fall over every time.
"The problem is where you focus your attention", Eli told me. "It's natural to focus the attention on your left foot" (that being the one I was unsuccessfully attempting to balance on). "Instead, focus on your right foot and the way you are pushing it into your left thigh."
It seems counterintuitive advice - take your energy and focus off the critical point, the point of balance, and focus on somewhere else instead. But I tried it and, rather to my surprise, it worked. Almost instantly, I could maintain the tree pose! (Well, not very elegantly. But at least I did not fall over.)
I think of Eli every time this pose comes up as part of my own exercise routine. And I remember the key idea of mindfully focusing one's attention. This is, as I understand, a component of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) practice, and I believe that it is a skill that made it possible for Eli to be present with love and compassion for others, even in the midst of his own pain and distress which clamored for attention. I hope that I am able to follow that path.
Tree pose image by Flickr user Jenni Froedrick, reproduced under Creative Commons license.