I haven’t been on a yoga mat in over 108 days.
The last time I practiced asana, I was on a retreat with my teacher Desiree and my body
did every pose on offer except for king pigeon and kapotasana (steel plate and all) and a few others which just aren’t on the menu for me.
On the day Desiree spoke about Laghima, Sanskrit for “lightness” or one of my favorite words (favorite because I love to embody the word) “buoyant,” I saw a woman playing with a pose in front of me and it reminded me of something a masterful yogin had asked if I (or any woman) could do about six months prior. I had tried the sequence the master yogin had asked me about a few times and could only get about half way there before my body would simply run out of steam.
After watching the woman in front of me “play,” I placed my hands on my mat and gave it a try.
I was the full personification of LAGHIMA and step by step, with pure ease, and no effort at all, I floated through the sequence.
Sirsasana Two. Kukkutasana, and then press up to handstand in Padmasana. While in Padmasana in Adho Mukha Vrksasana, I hung out there for a while and just laughed and giggled until I decided to come down. I laughed so loud (if you don’t know me, you don’t know how big, buoyant and full of life my laugh is, it is an exuberance which has literally sent many running in the opposite direction- and you know who you are! And I honor and “get” this as well.), Des AND Andrew came running over to see what had happened and I explained. I gave Des a huge hug. And then I immediately said, “now I can put that away for another lifetime.”
I said that because just a few days later, parts of my hip would be broken open and I would not be permitted to bend my leg towards anything remotely resembling padmasana for at least three to four months, not even slightly.
When I emailed my master yogin “partner in crime” to tell him that I accomplished the sequence, his response to me was “Great! Now you can do it all of the time.” My response to his encouragement, was “Now I can put it away.”
I share all of this not to share pride but to share something else.
In that moment I learned that there is great value in feeling a life that has been lived in all of its fullness. My laughter was full because there was no effort and my body had an opportunity to experience the full and complete expression it desired. My body felt happy. That’s why I could put it away.
In my first posting, I described the exquisite demo which I watched and the grief that it stirred in me. The demo stirred the same grief I felt on this retreat with Desiree, the grief of letting go of my body. Letting go of MY ATTACHMENT TO MY BODY which for a brief moment in time on this earth, was a strong and powerful instrument and vehicle.
On one of the first days of the retreat, Desiree mentioned that I was going to be having my second major hip surgery the following week and that being there was hard for me. She posed the question to the 70 or so yogins, “What do you do when the only identity you know suddenly has to change?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, a woman in the group shouted out, “Well, you JUST practice one of the OTHER limbs of yoga!”
Ironically, the woman who shouted this out was perhaps the person least likely to be able to practice such a thing because from what she said, she practiced asana about 4 hours daily.
I remember feeling resentful hearing the comment, even hearing myself shouting inside, “Yeah, why don’t you try it and see how easy it is!” But just as quickly as I heard this voice burgeoning inside of me, I instinctively knew what was happening was that it was very plausible that my fellow yogin could not allow the question to settle. And I will go even further and suggest that perhaps she was simply afraid to sit in the truth of the question. A question which for me was TRULY painful. A question which I needed to feel ALL OF THE WAY THROUGH. A question which caused me to run out into the woods and CRY OUT TO God in order to prepare myself fully for the breadth and scope of the surgery which was to follow.
Life changes in an instant.
I don’t wish hardship on anyone.
I don’t wish irrevocable change on anyone.
Yet, there are moments in time where it is essential to sit in the pauses and just be there(don’t you think?) without trying to make it better for the person you don’t know or for the person you love perhaps even more than life itself (dramatic, I know, but intentionally so).
Life changes in an instant.
Are you able to sit in the presence of another person’s grief or pain or confusion or anger or despair, terminal illness, disability or dysfunction without turning away? Without getting triggered? Or as Matthew Sanford asks, “without [wanting to or] attempting to “fix” it?”
These are the questions which interest me. Because I have spent more than 108 days sitting in a very long pause. And my job is to just sit here. Just sit here.
Just sit here.
Nothing else to do but sit here.
Twenty years ago, while I was in graduate school, I had a professor say something which altered my point of view significantly. She said, “no one’s pain is any less important than another’s.”
As a young person who had endured many forms of abuse, I remember feeling indignant but I simultaneously felt it was my moral imperative to “try on” this idea.
Well, I didn’t just try it on. I chewed on it. I ate it. And I had repeated indigestion. But I kept taking it in because my instinct was as much as I knew I had endured a “*&^%$#$%^&*”load of crap, I also knew she was RIGHT. The only place I struggled deeply with her statement and kept struggling within myself with it, was when it came to HITLER. With a grandfather having been sent to Dachau and a father who barely escaped Germany with his life, and far too many stories to name along these lines, I still hadn’t forgiven HITLER and couldn’t and wouldn’t put him in with the rest of us because I still couldn’t find his humanity. Okay... enough about that because I could go on about this subject for days.
The reason I bring this up is that many people seem to find it important to tell me that they haven’t practiced asana “in a while” and that they are very upset about it. I hear a deeper voice inside wishing to say, “well, you have a lot to learn” and “the poses will always be there” and many other responses which are more on the order of asking them to “have patience.” But what I am noticing is my own ability to hold that this is legitimately a place of “pain” for many folks.
I get it. I do. If anyone gets it, don’t you think I get it?
But what I wish to say is this: if you feel pain about something you are not doing, and you have the ability to actually do it, why aren’t you doing it? Do you know what lies beneath? Because as far as I’m concerned, true yogins look deeper. If the deeper issue is that grief is in the way, and you are wanting your practice to be something that it just isn’t or cannot be right now, then isn’t your job to sit in the fire for as long as the fire has to burn? And if the fire has been burning for a while, can you be with the fire without judging its lifespan?
Because as I have said before, and I stand firmly in this conviction from my own experience: there really is no short cut to the finish line.
I haven’t been on a yoga mat in over 108 days. And with just 10 days since my last surgery, I don’t know when I will get to the mat again. It could be a while.
But I know one thing for sure: There’s plenty to do off the mat.
Don’t you think?
How about we all get to it?