Tag Archives: illness

Ready to Learn

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I subbed out my morning class
I subbed out my evening class
I subbed out tomorrow morning’s class too.
The yoga teacher needs to stay home
and remember she is still a student.
Somehow my yoga is simply being with my body
in this state of illness, exhaustion.
I need to really feel and notice what has happened.
The worry and the stress wore away at me
and here I am.
If I won’t learn the lesson this time,
it will just keep repeating itself until I do.
I want to learn.
I am ready to learn.

When Will I Feel Whole?

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And so the dark night passed,
and I awoke with new hope…
and then this morning at breakfast
my daughter was unkind.
Eight years old and
knows exactly what to say
to poke at the most tender spot.
I’m glad you’re not coming
with us to Utah.
I was devastated,
hurt and angry…
Tired, undernourished,
and without the resources
to be skillful.
I asked if she wanted the other woman
to be her mother.
A most definitive NO was her answer.
It seems the joke is on me.
As much as I try
even a child can break me.
It’s easy to do when my life was shattered
in so many pieces
and my tears are the only glue I have
to hold them together.
I wonder if I’ll ever again
be put back together in one piece.
I wonder…
When will I feel whole again?

Healing Work

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When I tell myself the story
that my nose shouldn’t be running,
my throat shouldn’t be hurting,
my body shouldn’t be draggy and heavy,
I shouldn’t be sneezing…
and then my nose runs,
my throat hurts,
my body is draggy and heavy,
and I sneeze–
then I am miserable.
Inwardly I wail about my fate,
being caught in illness,
made to slow down,
missing out on doing the work I love.
But
Without the thought
that I shouldn’t be feeling this way,
I would be me, sitting in bed,
fingers tapping letters
on a keyboard,
almost ready for bed,
feeling grateful for my warm home,
my children sleeping safe and sound,
my husband watching TV,
just me here,
counting my blessings.
Feeling this way
and trying to stay awake
through the process of healing
sure is a lot of work!

Diving Deeper

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The deeper I go into my study of yoga, the more life provides opportunities for me to walk my walk and talk to my talk.  Take this illness, for example.  In the midst of an asana class, and especially during challenging asanas, I invite my students to look for their neutral and spacious mind, the one that transcends labels like pleasure and paingood and bad, strong and weak, like and dislike, flexible and inflexible, success and failureright and wrong.

I encourage my students to experience being, and to reach for the space beyond all of the stories of the mind.  “Imagine the space that would be left behind,” I tell them, “if you could drop the stories, even if just for a moment.  What would life be like, if instead of labeling your experiences, you could just allow yourself to have them?”

And it all seems grand as I watch my students breathe and reach for their courage and their will, as I watch them reach for their own being.  And during savasana, there is this peace that pervades the room, when they allow their bodies to be still, when they allow themselves the experience of being in this moment, abiding in the self beyond the body and the mind, the infinite awareness that transcends space and time and physical phenomena.  I love to see their open, calm faces after relaxation, and I’m not going to lie, when they take a moment after class to express their appreciation for my teachings, it feels really really good.

But now here I am, feeling weak, and sick, and tired, and nausea is certainly an unpleasant sensation in my mind; it’s hard for me to see it any other way.  And I’m wondering how can I reconcile my own grand teachings–that which I ask my students to do–with the reality that I’m human, and I’m hurting, and a neutral and spacious mind seems a million miles away?

Just trying to make it through the day feeling like hell seems like a monumental task.  Layer on the guilt for not being an energetic caregiver to my two kids, guilt for needing my husband to take on extra responsibilities when he himself is trying to get well from a respiratory illness, guilt for subbing out two of my classes thereby decreasing our monthly income, guilt for letting my life get so out of balance that my body would need to get sick to make me slow down, and now not only do I feel like hell–I’m in hell, the hell of my own mind.

As I was preparing myself to go upstairs for my evening routine of posting to my blog and meditating, I suddenly remembered a beautifully touching French movie, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon; based on the true story of the editor of French Elle who suffered a massive stroke leaving his body paralyzed, but his mental faculties remained completely intact. In English the movie is entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  I don’t know why I remembered the movie right then, but something triggered visions, scenes from the movie.  It must’ve been my feeling sorry for myself for being in my current state of illness. Something in me was saying, “It could be worse…”  That same something in me probably also said, “…so stop complaining already, you’re being a wimp!” But by that time I was so involved in remembering the movie that I wasn’t listening to the inner meanie.  I was remembering this man, Jean-Dominique Bauby, whose only means of communication following his stroke was blinking his left eye, and how he and the woman who painstakingly took dictation–one blink, one letter at a time–had the perseverance to write an entire book which sold 150,000 copies the first week of publication.  He described how he felt like he was one of those old time deep sea divers that wore the heavy brass helmet over their suits, hence the title of his memoir.

All at once I was touched and I felt very emotionally alive, pondering the courage it must’ve taken him to stay lucid inside a body that could no longer move or speak.  His mission became sharing his story, telling the world what it was like to be him.  It took around 200,000 blinks to write the book; approximately two minutes were spent spelling out each word.  Can you imagine?  He had the stroke December 8, 1995, was in a coma for 20 days, who knows how long it took to develop his means of communication–which means that he began writing his book some time in early 1996.  His book was published a year and some months later on March 7, 1997, and he lived for two days longer, long enough to see the book receive critical acclaim.  Mission accomplished.

As I climbed the stairs noticing the weakness in my body and the emotionally drained state of my mind, the phrase, “Dive deeper” appeared in my awareness…and I thought, “Of course. Yes.  If my body is suffering, then I must dive deeper and find the joy within. The joy beyond the body, the mind, beyond time and space and physical phenomena.  Yes.”

So now, it’s time to dive deeper.  Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain my seat in meditation for long enough to feel the stillness and the space.  The ailing body can be a great distraction, a great hindrance to attaining meditative states, but I guess this is an opportunity to practice what I preach, to develop greater concentration, to exist beyond the labels from the world of duality.  Wish me luck.

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On the surface of water,
out in the middle of the vast ocean
there is a small ship
and a raging storm.
Streaks of lightening
tear into the black of night
then the thunder clatters
and the wind howls
and the ship is tossed about
on mountainous waves
as if it were made of cardboard and twigs.

This is all very frightening.  Terrifying.
How will the passengers survive the storm?

Dive deeper.

Dive beneath the surface of the water.
The deeper you go,
the more still, the more quiet it will become.
The deeper you go,
the more you will remember the truth of who you are.

Leave behind the impressive storms of thought and emotion,
abandon the frail vessel of the physical body,
and dive down into the vast ocean of consciousness.
It will hold you in its depths,
you will be cradled lovingly in its infinite embrace,
and you will know the true meaning of peace.

 

Make the Shadow Dance

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I’m feeling crummy, so I’m going to attempt keep this brief, although brevity isn’t one of my strong points, especially when I feel a need to vent.  This has been a long day full of obstacles, and now I am exhausted.   Of course what I call obstacles, others may call opportunities, but because of the way I feel, they certainly seemed like obstacles to me.  It’s funny, predictable really, how physical illness makes every challenge seem heavy, insurmountable.

My husband has had a nagging cough for nearly two weeks now, and he kept me up with it for multiple nights in a row.  In the middle of the night last night, I ended up dragging myself upstairs to the guest room hoping for some sleep, but you know how it is when you wake up enough to change your locale in the middle of the night, now your whole system has been aroused, and it fights going back to sleep.  Needless to say, I was doubtful when I woke up this morning that I would feel together enough to teach a stellar yoga class.  Because of my lack of energy, I decided it would be wise to teach a gentler, slower-paced class, a more restorative type class, instead of a crack the whip and show no mercy vinyasa class.  I felt pretty good planning to teach a more mellow sequence, and was optimistic when I left the house in spite of the lack of sleep and feeling nauseous.

But then I arrived at the studio and there was no receptionist to check students in.  And I had a bunch of new students arrive, which meant that I needed to get them registered, and I needed to take people’s payment, and I needed to reconcile the number of students in the room with the number of names signed in–when usually during this time I’m in the room meeting and greeting students, making sure everyone has their props, making sure the room is comfortable, getting mentally ready to lead everyone through some (hopefully) transformative asana and breath work.  Having to fulfill both the roles of receptionist and teacher  all at once left me feeling a bit flustered–and as luck would have it–on this particular day, there were more students than I had had in several weeks, which meant that by the time I had everyone checked in, it was three minutes past the time class was supposed to start, and now I had to rush around helping the new students get their props.   Whew.

I apologized for beginning late, asked if we could go five minutes over, and thanked everyone for bearing with me.  The class actually went quite smoothly; there were a few bumps here and there, but what else could I really expect? At one point I actually joked about how I was sleep deprived because my husband had kept me up with his coughing–and I again thanked the students for bearing with me.  Letting them know that I was having a human moment helped me to feel more connected with my students, and more accepting of the inevitable rough spots in my dialogue.  I really do think I did pretty well considering.  After class multiple students–even the new ones–came up and thanked me and reassured me that it was a great class.  I’m so grateful for their kindness and understanding and for their appreciation.  It somehow made it all okay.

But then, there were multiple delays as I tried to get back home to my kids, more frustration thrown into the mix. The kids were being watched by one of my long time students who showed great mercy last week and answered my cry for help, agreed to come watch the kids when no one else was available.  Whew, she’s a life saver.  One of her daughters was in town, and I didn’t want to keep her from their visit, but of course one delay after another cropped up on my journey home, and I ended up feeling guilty for eating into their time.

And then, feeling sick, I plopped myself and the kids in front of the TV after lunch, because I just didn’t have the energy to take them out on this amazingly beautiful May day. More guilt. The kids should be outside playing.  You should gather up your energy and take them outside and let them breathe some fresh air. Yep, guilt.

I’m feeling more ill with each passing minute; I’m not sure if I have a stomach bug or not, but I just want to lie down and I still want to meditate at least for a few minutes before I turn in.  So I’ll wrap this post up with the recognition that I have a long way to go before I can bask in some genuine self-acceptance.  The undercurrent of this whole day is one of not being good enough, and guilt for that.  It seems healing is called for on multiple levels, some much deeper than this physical body that isn’t feeling so great at present.

And so, for my poem of the day, something about guilt, something about healing.

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We cannot escape our shadow,
so why not make it dance?

If we see the shadow,
it only means we’re standing close to the light.

If we turn to face the light,
and set down all of the perceived burdens–
guilt, fear, shame, blame, anger, dissatisfaction–

What would emerge in the space left behind?

If I dropped the story,
“I am not good enough”
Who then would I be?

Have I identified with this story for so long
that I am afraid to see who I am without it?

Let me drop the story along with the burdens
and wave my arms and laugh at the sky
and let my tears fall
and for one moment of freedom,
realize, it’s all okay.