Following Crane: The Gift of Stillness in My Day

A few years ago I was given a beautiful Japanese tapestry with white cranes flowing throughout it, their wings spread wide. For me these cranes have come to symbolize messengers who fly between the worlds—the world of dreams and the world of everyday life.

In that transition time of waking up with a dream, or a fragment of a dream, my mind needs to remain quiet and still—like the crane—to catch a dream and its messages. If my thoughts begin to turn to what is happening in my daily life, the dream begins to slip away, back into the world from which it came.

An experience I had when I lived in Vancouver often comes to mind when I reflect about cranes. One day, as I walked in Stanley Park, I rounded a corner on the path and saw a crane standing perfectly still in a small pond, close to the shore.

I watched this crane for a long time as it patiently waited to catch its meal. I noticed how this graceful and elegant bird could hold a position of stillness, completely focused on catching any movement beneath the surface of the water.

As I reflected about the crane’s capacity for stillness and the kind of patience needed to hold its position, I wondered how this might connect to my own life. How do I remain still when I am with someone or in a situation and I begin to feel impatient? What is it that distracts me and keeps me from being focused as I move through my day?

The physical yoga poses help me learn how to embody qualities that I want to bring into my life—concentration, patience, compassion and the ability to still the thought waves of my mind.

Bakasana—the crane posture—requires trust. It’s a leap of faith which says “I have the strength to support myself” as I lift into the pose. It wants all of my focus and a willingness to explore what the crane has to teach me.

“The crane’s single-pointed concentration and its ability to wait patiently are perhaps the very qualities that create a long, full life. These contemplative attributes aren’t much valued in our fast-paced culture, where being successful means getting ahead through ever increasing speed. We have not been taught to slow down and wait until the time is right.”
Swami Lalitananda, Inner Life of Asanas

Developing the focus and strength to be with Bakasana I see a new strength emerging in my day-to-day life— a growing capacity to slow down, and be more relaxed, focused and calm in situations where I would have been tense, distracted or impatient. Being still, I catch the movement of my heart as it opens in compassion for myself and for others.

The messages of the crane follow me into my practice of Karma Yoga. Like the water the crane stands in, there is something being reflected back through the experiences of my daily life.

“What is the water you are standing in—the imagination? the emotions? the unconscious? All the water birds seem to be an expression of the unconscious aspects of one’s self, the parts to which the conscious mind has little access.”
Swami Sivananda Radha,
Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language

As I reflect about the experiences of my day symbolically, I begin to open to the messages coming from my unconscious, seeing beneath the surface of what’s happening. When I am able to stay with the process of opening up the symbols, I get insight into myself and my life in a way that nourishes my whole being.

Catching and following the symbolic messages that come, it is as though I am lifted up on the wings of the crane traveling between the world of dreams and the reality of my day-to-day life. It brings a new perspective and feeling of awe and wonder for the infinite source of wisdom, available for me to open to at any moment.

Here are some reflections from Swami Radha’s Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language which have helped me go deeper with my practice:

Practising Bakasana

Focus on one of the following questions while in the Crane. Move in and out of the pose, letting thoughts, body awareness and insights arise. Write about your experience.

  • Do I have enough strength to reach the point of balance and vigilance? Can I find that point in life?
  • The crane looks into the water for movement and signs of what’s happening below the surface. Can you see the signs of what is going on below the surface of your mind? Can you take quick action to catch any thoughts you do not want? Can you catch inspirational feelings before they dart beyond your reach?

Birds as symbolic messengers are an integral part of the Yoga tradition. This poem of Swami Radha’s from when you first called me radha often comes to mind when I am sitting quietly and looking at the white birds on the Japanese tapestry I was given.


Is darkness eternal space and time?
How will I know my place
in the universe?
I don’t know who I am
beyond this fragile body.

My mind is like that blackness
where nothing seems to happen.
Dark waters forming a lake,
no moon reflects its silvery light.
This must be the end.
Maybe it is the stillness
before the storm of new creation.
Like the faint glimmer
of a distant star
a thought arises in my mind.
Desire awakens strong and powerful
to create in my mind
a white bird
who will traverse
the space from me to Her.

Beautiful bird, where did you come from?
Where is your home?
Be my divine messenger.
On the wings of the white bird
my spirit soars.

Little bird, perch on Her shoulder,
be near Her heart,
be my receptacle for Her advice and guidance.
Listen, strenuously if necessary.
Don’t miss the smallest detail.
Her message means life or death.

My mind has run its gamut
bringing only darkness.

The Mother of this universe will
send some ray of light, whisper
words of comfort and hope.
The mind had its share of power
to no avail
leading me in the dark
valley of sorrow.
Her light will open the door
of my heart.
Is my name not Radha, Cosmic Love?
Am I not Her very own?

Swami Satyananda

Swami Satyananda first met Swami Radha in 1983, and was so inspired that the practice of yoga became a life purpose and passion. Before moving to the Ashram in 1991, Swami Satyananda worked as a mentor teacher and curriculum designer in the field of education. Her love of learning continues to grow and deepen through the practice of yoga. Swami Satyananda has lived and taught classes at Yasodhara Yoga Centres in Canada and the US and has written articles for a variety of publications about the Ashram, Swami Radha and the Teachings.


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