3 January 2011

Practice, grief and love

I wake naturally at 6.15am today. This is my last day of holidays, back to work tomorrow.

I roll over, enjoying the freedom of staying in bed with the morning sun shining through the window. From tomorrow I'll rise early.
Mark woke naturally before 5am, sometimes as early as 4am, and he'd be up and straight into the day then. By rising early from tomorrow I'll honour this lovely memory of him, and keep it alive in my body clock. I'll listen out for the first bird heralding the new day and accompany the waking birds in their early morning chatter; I'll call the sun to rise out from the dark, I'll breathe in tune with the earth's rhythms. As the day dawns, so I am reborn, and I will bless whatever each new day brings.

Today I lay in bed and wonder how I'll cope with the harshness of the workplace tomorrow. What shall I say when colleagues blandly ask me "Did you have a nice Christmas and New Year?"
Do I lie and politely say "It was OK, and you?", diverting attention back to them, or do I say "The greatest love of my life died one week before Christmas, so it wasn't a nice Christmas or New Year, but thank you for asking."

How will I explain away my noticeable weight loss (43kg now), the inability to converse on any level or cope with minor stress and deadlines, the unexpected tears, the quick escape to the bathrooms, the red swollen eyes and burning gaze...
Mark's death is still a very raw tragedy in my human life, but I recognise it also as a deeply sacred gift for my spiritual life; I do not want to share this with my work colleagues.

Eight hour days at work will mostly divert me away from my feelings.
When I'm preoccupied, or with company, the grief pretends to be invisible, but its just waiting silently for the next opportunity to rise up like a tidal wave and crash over me.

I've been grateful for this block of time off work. It's allowed me to thoroughly explore and feel the grief and sadness around Mark's death, and to ponder deeply over how and why we came together, the enormous power of our love and why it had to end. It's allowed me the time to feel, reflect, cry and write, all essential balm for the deep wound in my heart, the kind of balm that burns when you put it on, but you know it's doing you good.

I finally get out of bed at 6.45am, make coffee and drink it watching the video of Mark shaving... "we think of yesterdays like they were holidays, bathed in the warmth of the sun..." I rub the the words into my wound every morning, more stinging balm.

I walk the dog, it's cooler this morning but still a clear, sunny day.

I start a yoga practice at 9.30am after ruthlessly cleaning out my clothes cupboard and bagging up for charity anything that hasn't been worn in the past year.

What kind of practice shall I do?
Nothing comes to mind, so I start with Sun Salutes feeling my way into what becomes a one and three quarter hour quiet, morning practice, following my intuition for what body and soul need.
I'm quite happy to follow my nose into a practice now...I have the courage to challenge my physical, mental and spiritual limitations but also the compassion to nurture my self when necessary. The need to follow a traditional sequence or a teacher's directions has been replaced with my own intelligent and sensitive response to the changing phenomenon of my body, mind and spirit.

Today's sequence:
5 Surya Namaskar A
1 Surya Namasakar B
and Padahastasana
Parivritta Trikonasana
, taking careful inventory of my hip alignment and readjusting them up, down, back and sideways
Urdhva Prasaritta Ekapadasana
Simple lunge to stretch front thighs
Virabhadrasana B, 4 minutes on each side to challenge and develop my staying power
Prasaritta Padottanasana
- I noticed my twisted pelvis in this pose for the first time, so I consciously shift my sitting bones an inch to the right to correct the misalignment of my spine, hips and pelvis.
Supta Virasana and Paryankasana
- after I come down I realise my mind was light years away during the entire stay in the pose. Bad girl. I do it again to redeem myself, mind fully directed to all the changing sensations and now responding authentically to the demands arising in the pose
Setu Bandha
(Bridge) I hold my ankles firmly before pressing up, then pull on them to initiate action in the upper spine. I'm rewarded with little tingles through the upper thoracic vertebrae, energy flooding into this often inaccessible area.
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana, walking my feet in for the second one
Alternate knees to chest while laying on the back gently releases my lumbar spine out of the backbends then instead of folding forward into Paschimottanasana, I stand up to do Uttanasana with feet slightly apart. These two are almost identical forward bending poses, and either can be used to counter the backbends. Today I need the weight of gravity to flow down my spine in Uttanasana; less muscle power is required in this than in Paschimottanasana to open and release the lumbar joints.
A momentary pause...I need to twist...running through the repertoire of standing and seated twists in my knowledge bank, there's no immediate match for what I need. I step out to Prasaritta Padottanasana, reach for one ankle and find a lovely twisted forward bend, gravity assisting me. That was it. Just follow your nose....
After a twist, the body's energy should be equalised before moving into the inversions.
Paschimottanasana is perfect.
Shoulderstand - I challenge myself to stay for 100 breaths, and I meet the mental and physical challenge - today 100 breaths = 10 minutes.
Karna Pindasana, lifting my feet off the floor so the full weight of my curved body will stretch and open my degenerating lumbar and facet joints.

I sit for a minute in Padmasana with hands cupped in my lap to prepare my hips before laying back for Matsyasana.
Suddenly I remember sitting down for meditation late last night, folding my legs into half Padmasana, gently placing one cupped hand over the other, and crying, grief and sadness engulfing me again.
Tears flowed, falling into my cupped hand, one after the other, and I watched them fall as I cried, it was a long way down.

I lay back and do Matsyasana on both sides today.
Dog Pose
Baddha Konasana
for 5 minutes with Ujiyya Pranayama and all three bandhas active, this wasn't intentional, it just came naturally. I bend forward feeling the bone on bone restriction that prevents me going further than half way in this pose. It no longer bothers me.

Headstand...shall I try for 100 breaths? After 40 breaths I ask myself if it's the body or the mind that is tiring.
It's not my body - I sense a little boredom, my mind is uneasy, I want to come down - I, I, I, - I is getting in the way. The mysterious power of the will steps in and overrides my 'I', it directs my attention back into the present moment to observe all the sensations of the Headstand - I engage mula bandha and reconnect with the mystical energetic qualities of this pose. This happens again at 50 breaths, and again at 60 breaths.
I come down after 70 breaths - a 10 minute Headstand, the same length as Shoulderstand but the breathing is slower.
Dog Pose
with mula bandha and a deep, spiralling twist to each side, squeezing my knees inward to excite the root energy upwards. I repeat it all on the second side.

Then I sit quietly in Padmasana, finely observing the physical and energetic sensations and the tiny trembles stirred up by this practice.

Relaxing into Savasana I hear Glenn Ceresoli's directive "Let your bones return to the earth" and I think immediately of Mark, his bones returning to the earth, his cremation, his freed spirit.
My mind floats away to revisit memories, and the tragic series of events during the retreat. What was Mark feeling at the moment of his death and in the minutes and hours afterwards? The death of my beloved will always haunt me.
A few minutes go by before I realise I've strayed away from Savasana and therefore from the present, but I don't want to let go of my thoughts of Mark. I am clinging, clinging to lost love.
Instead of pulling my mind back to the present and bathing in the bliss of Savasana, I get up off the mat to avoid the present, sit at my new laptop and start writing up my practice notes.

Late afternoon, I drive up to the hills and walk through the bush. I stop halfway up the fire track overlooking the city and feel for Mark's presence. My body fills up with soft sparkling love, as if he's inside of me, loving me, caressing me, enveloping me in arms of love. I shimmer. Is this Mark? Is his disembodied free spirit here with me, making his presence known? Or is this love washing through me the universal Love that is God that I myself am generating?
Does it matter?
I know the love Mark inspired in me has not been extinguished by his death. As I think of him, it flows through me and lingers on after.
I hold on to it.
It is a light shining through me now.

My dear children of love, tread the path of love. This is your highest duty.
You have taken this body to achieve love, which alone is the goal of life.
Live in love, breathe in love, meditate in love, move in love, sing in love, pray in love - die in love.
Purify your thoughts, speech and actions in the fire of love.
Gather and plunge in the sacred ocean of love.

-Swami Sivananda

1 comment:

Sarah said...

wonderful practice - intuiting where you are to enable being where you are as who you are.

you have been flooded with love -- perhaps even swept away by the flood -- but now you can call upon the cells themselves to wash you -- the air itself to roll gently in waves upon you.

eternal -- memory is just a shadow of what is.

know that you have company -- in all you do -- from across the seas.