I am completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training this weekend. I remain humbled and excited to see where this dharma might lead me. The changes have been subtle and meaningful. I am amazed that my capacity to grow and evolve remains in place, though sometimes I feel stuck, stuck, stuck in the attachments, cravings, and aversions of this material world. Yes it is normal but i see it more clearly every day, feel it more dearly, this need to let it go and let it go and let it go.
The major change from undertaking this journey that I feel confident in mentioning is that my “anger” seems to have dampened. I still suffer from anxiety, but I am better able to observe and let go, strive for peace regardless of the situation. Let go, let go, let go, let go. I do not have to do it all, I do not have to be responsible for failure, I can learn and move and grow. I also see yoga more clearly each day as the path to a peaceful death, as well as a way to meet the stress of life, by taking the philosophy from the mat and applying it off the mat. Like it or not, death looms large before all of us, and I recall the hours I have spent as a hospice nurse, sitting at the bedside, holding a hand, watching the breath of others on their slow or fast movement toward death. And we all march on, every breath closer to the end, every breath an opportunity for growth, every breath a chance to be here now before the inevitable arrives.
The other day I was laying on the mat in my favorite little yoga studio. I lay staring up at the plain white ceiling and the long bright mid-day light came streaming through the windows. I had a flash of laying in bed, waiting to die, recalling the San Francisco Hospital, with its “Nightingale floors”, where I used to take nursing students for their first clinical experience. Some of the wards housed 20-30 patients, beds lined up on either side of the open room, with only a thin curtain to provide a chance at privacy. This was a city funded hospital, where many truly indigent patients would come to live and die, and the style of care often seemed as ancient as the 100 year old buildings.
But laying on the mat, I thought of the tall ceilings of this hospital, of the people who resided there, living and dying, and how if I had my yoga practice, or even the capacity to simply focus on my breath for some time, I could do this death thing, or anything, peacefully. I could breathe, and breathe, and breathe my way out of this suffering world when my time was right.
From the Mat
I look up and stare into the white light, the warmth, the all and nothing blending together
And I breathe
I notice the knots on the white washed wood. I realize how old this building is
Brick and mortar and wood and wires that will surely someday collapse in and down and around, back toward the earth
I wonder if anybody died in this place where I am now, feeling certain they have
And I breathe
The warm sun light streams into the room, basking me, floating me on its rays
And for just this moment I find it, that spaciousness, that opening to life
The peace, the letting go, the thing I have been craving
And I breathe
It floats away as new thoughts enter. I continue rearranging my thoughts
Thoughts flowing through predictably, continually, like the stars marching across the night sky
Which is okay for now, because I can at some point remember
To let go, let go, let go and watch the thoughts march by
Because I breathe.
Here on the mat.
With the white washed walls, the sun shining through, and my heart opening to peace, to the all and nothing.
And then we sit together. We chant aum and we say namaste to one another in a meaningful way.
I can feel that connection before it dissolves; yes I do see the light and beauty in you and me, in this room, with the light streaming in through the tall windows and reflecting of the white walls.
Because I breathe, and breathe, and breathe….