My mentor Seane Corn once said to me “I wish you tons of pain.” Once I got past the initial “but I thought we were friends!” moment, I realized what she meant. If we were to skate through life without a care, we would breeze past so many beautiful nuances that make us who we are. It’s the pain and struggle that give us power and stability; the strongest trees bear the deepest roots and can endure anything. – Kathryn Budig. Kathryn is probably my favorite teacher on yogaglo.com.
I’ve done 8 practices in my Salutations for Sandy Hook project, and now that the grading is pretty much entirely done, I have much more free time on my hands (well, when I’m not babysitting!). I haven’t been very sore, except for the one stupid day last week that I decided to run the hills around my parents house, and that made me sore in my quads for about four days. But I’ve managed to get it done and I’ve noticed a lot of positive changes in my overall demeanor.
Here are some things I’ve noticed so far in my practice, which I’ve dedicated to a victim every time I step onto the mat. Some of them are superficial, and some are deadly serious.
1. It suddenly becomes easier to put yourself into the hard postures of a Level 3 practice when you’ve set an intention towards someone other than yourself. The practice becomes more focused, the breathing more centered.
2. Sometimes the practice is beautiful and simple, other times you’re falling on your ass every nine seconds and spilling your water three times in a row. Sometimes your stomach is settled and sometimes you’re starving. Sometimes you feel thirsty and sometimes you have to pee the whole time. The practice changes every single time.
3. The soreness gets less and less, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you get more flexible. No matter what, I will never get into any of the big daddy backbends aside from ustrasana, and that’s fine. That’s not the point.
4. My shoulders were already pretty big, but holy crap.
5. I’ve only cried once or twice, but it’s only been a little bit each time. This surprised me. I thought I would be a total mess every time I practiced, but so far that hasn’t happened. The practice I do on the anniversary will probably be the most emotional but that’s to be expected.
6. I’m kinder, more centered, and more myself when I do yoga than any other exercise I’ve tried. It’s also the only exercise that doesn’t exacerbate my panic buttons. I’m most calm on the days that I dedicate to my practice. There have been many times in which I take a day off from yoga that I can feel a marked change in my demeanor. Which is why I’m dedicating these practices to those lives lost – I feel like I’m putting out good energy into the world, which Newtown and all those affected by gun violence could use this week.
Yesterday and today were practices that I thought would be the most difficult for me. They were the practices for the shooter and his mother. I did a half hour flow yesterday morning because that’s all I could fit in, and today I did a 90 minute Level 3 detox vinyasa class, which was focused on ‘wringing out’ and ‘opening the heart’.
I thought I would get angry, or cry, or stop practicing when those emotions would come up, but it never came. Aside from that, it was business as usual. It was actually one of the best practices I’ve had in this entire project.
I was confused about this response; why was it that I wasn’t more upset? More numb, perhaps? Why wasn’t this harder? How could I laugh, feel peace, breathe, during a practice that was for someone who abetted another person’s mental illness and supplied him with the literal ammo he needed to create such a tragedy?
It didn’t click until savasana, but as I lay there in a puddle of my own sweat, it hit me – You’re letting go.
The past year has been incredibly difficult for me, for a variety of reasons. My best friend lost her mother, I’ve dealt with some health annoyances, and just overall I’ve felt a pall of depression over my head that I can trace back to Sandy Hook. Due to the tragedy, I didn’t feel at all like celebrating Christmas last year and having bronchitis over the holidays certainly didn’t help matters. I felt like crap, mentally and physically, and that carried over to the spring semester. I just felt like everything I did wasn’t enough. It would never be enough.
Over the past couple of months I’ve recommitted myself to a devotional yoga practice, thinking it would help me get out of my head a bit. The transformation it has done to my body and mind has been unbelieveable. I’ve stopped running around, physically and mentally. I’ve been kinder. Stronger. More in touch with what I need to be happy and what I need to succeed. More grateful.
What I realized during the practice today was so simple it nearly knocked me on my ass. Love is enough.
I don’t have any more tears to give, or anger to scream, or confusion to wring my hands over. I don’t want to blame, to fight, or to get upset. It’s a waste of my energy. I have to love. Love is the answer. I am pretty well known for my relentless optimism. What happened to that person? “I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in.”
The more you keep hate in your body, and the more you judge people, the more the darkness will win in your soul.
I got up from savasana and left my mat more resolved to live in grace, love, and compassion, even in the darkest times. It’s harder to do that than hate, but it’s ultimately more rewarding. Ever since Sandy Hook happened it’s been hard for me to just accept the world as a good place, despite the fact that according to several studies this is probably the best time to be alive for anybody in the history of the planet. We’re living longer, there’s much less war, and on the whole, violence and sexism and homophobia is down to manageable levels. Well, considering that there used to be laws permitting medieval lords to take the virginities of their serf’s daughters, we’ve come a long way, baby.
But it’s very easy to look at all of that and say “STILL NOT ENOUGH, DAMMIT.” And even in the next century or so, as more people become more attuned to the relationality of the world and as more people promise to make this beautiful world we live in better, we still will probably cry “not enough.” It’s the stereotypical progressive mindset, to be dissatisfied.
Are there things about this situation, and this anniversary, that still can put me into rage fits? Of course. But getting angry doesn’t solve anything. Being judgy doesn’t solve anything. And getting into arguments doesn’t solve anything. Love solves it. Love, and a commitment to be better every day, is what’s going to spark change.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, about things much more superficial than what happened in Newtown. It’s so easy to sit in judgment of someone, to point a finger, to separate yourself from another person. It’s so paradoxically hard to look at that person in the eyes and say “I get it. I get you. I get why you’re judging me. It’s because you’re in pain. And I understand it. And I forgive you.” That, to me, isn’t being ‘holier than thou’. That’s having empathy. And I think empathy is what is going to transform the world.
This holiday season I resolve to live with gratitude, and with purpose, and with a committed heart to say ‘thank you’ every single day.
Funny, how a 90 minute meditation dedicated to the country’s second worst spree killer has caused me transcend to a state of such grace. I’m not sure how that happened. But I feel lighter.
I can only wish the people of Newtown some light and a lesser load during this difficult weekend to come. And I can only hope that the coming years will see more clarity and less pain. More strength and less weakness in our politicians. More people over politics. More love over fear.
Love solves it. And evil will not win.
PS. I won’t be blogging on the anniversary, because I want to give the people of Newtown their space as a sign of respect. But December 14th is also my mother’s birthday, and so that day will be a day of reflection and also celebration. For my mom, and for life, and the triumph of good.