It Doesn’t Always Smell Like Roses
This body is not flowing
With liquid energy, no,
and this mind is not awash with peace. I
fight myself in every
posture, muscles shriek,
fear freezes bone and a
sure sense of failure grows.
This too is practice,
this ground where grief
gains the upper hand,
and anger cast dark
shadows. This, the flip
side of delight is as much
the point as any pleasure –
this is breathing into life.
– Danna Faulds
I have the honor of sometimes hearing what is going on, for real, in the lives of people in my yoga classes. For one reason or another they share a glimpse with me. Mental illness. Fresh, new grief. Long, old, and tired grief. Cancer. So much freaking cancer. Aging bodies. Aging parents. Anxiety. Infertility. Pregnancy. Miscarriage. The painfully long gestation period of adoption. Divorce. Loneliness.
It amazes and humbles me to hear this, because all I can know or see is the outside of their physical body, which is the tiniest fraction of who they are. There is SO much more going on beyond the skin, hair, mouth, eyes. That seems obvious, I know, but I seriously forget it all the time.
At the beginning of every class I teach we quietly do a scan of our physical body, mental space, and our spirit; just noticing how we are actually feeling in these different dimensions of ourselves. Sometimes when I have heard a little glimpse of the struggle that someone is in, I am tempted to skip over the scans so they don’t have to face the reality of their discomfort, anxiety, or sadness. But, I don’t. I stick with it and trust they are and need to be strong enough to be with the reality of the skin they are in, and they surely don’t need me thinking I can protect them from it.
The best part of doing the scan, to me, is that we follow it with gratitude. Gratitude that despite aches, pains, and frustrations with our body we are strong and healthy enough today to show up for the practice. Gratitude for our mental health; that despite anxiety, conflict, and stress we are still able to make the decision to show up for the class and follow through on that decision. And gratitude for our spiritual health; despite and in the midst of great heartache, fear, and even depression, we have enough levity, hope, and resilience to pull ourselves off the couch and show up. And that is no small thing. That is pretty much word for word what I say every single time.
Now that I think of it, it is sort of my own prayer mantra of the “flip side of delight”, from the poem above. We can be uncomfortable, anxious, and sad — and grateful. We are capable of managing all that experience at the same time, amazing creatures that we are.
After we recognize the gratitude for our own health; physically, mentally, and spiritually, I invite everyone to “send out some hope, love, and courage to all the people and the places that are lacking in such health today. Even if you kind of feel like one of them.”. Because some days are so hard that we can’t pull ourselves off the couch. Some days our physical pain requires us to stay home and rest. And there are just times when we can’t see through the chaos enough to show up for class, no matter how much we intend to.
I can’t think of an eloquent way to end this post other than to say that I am so grateful for the practice of yoga, and most especially for all the people who share their practice with me. It is really something magical to practice together. I don’t understand how it works really. Thank God.
peace on your head & all the amazing stuff that is happening within it,