I will not die an unlived life…
~ Dawna Markova
Some things in life hit you right in the face. I’m living the dream, with varying degrees of attentiveness, today grateful for the sunrise so rich and colorful as it fades forward into a bright new day. I walk out into the world of busyness and breath deeply, I’m confident of my place in the world. I pray, meditating on all that is good and shying away from that which is negative. This is how I prepare myself to face the unknown life, this is how I trick myself into believing I am a spiritual being. Then it happens; the diagnosis of mortality, the glassy stare of frightened eyes, that pull me back to earth with a thud.
I had several experiences this week that shook me to the foundation. They made me question whether the practice of yoga, meditation, and prayer actually prepare me to face life’s difficulties with grace, as I’d always believed they did. My dear friend underwent a mastectomy that revealed a lifetime of uncertainty to come. Love is her middle name and she lives life as an inspiration to all who come across her path, luckily I am one of them. I breath-in her pain and breath-out my life to her in meditation, I beseech God in prayer, knowing my desire to have my own outcome mocks the prayer itself.
Later I submitted my little kitten, so innocent and precious, who trusts me completely, to a routine surgery that sparked unforeseen results. She quickly became very ill and developed pneumonia in a heartbeat. This news sent me into a surprising whirlwind of endless emotions: fear, guilt, longing, and desire to change what was before me and control the outcome. So there I sat in traffic wondering how I could be so clingy and controlling? Where was the detachment I so pridefully massaged day after day in my spiritual practice? Where was Gandhi’s courage? Where was Meister Eckhart’s wisdom of detachment that I steeped myself in while in India?
My long-awaited visit with my in-laws occurred in the midst of this storm and we shared stories. Their wisdom gained from lives well-lived combined with our shared experiences and proved to be a tonic. We laughed and created more good times and I could see my life fast forward as we went through our days together. I wonder at the resilience of modern humans to resist and adapt to the onslaught of time. How do we find the strength and courage to face loss everyday, to get up, dust ourselves off and smile at what remains?
I do what I always do and move to my mat. I begin again, not knowing where it will it end. Yogasana combines movement, breath, and stillness to bring the body into balance. It leaves the practitioner with a sense of well-being and ease that I crave right now. When I sit and concentrate on my breath, I muster all the willpower I possess to remain still and detach from my thoughts and emotions. I have enough experience to know that I benefit from the practice, but this inward journey, it requires more. It asks me to completely detach, to die as it were to all that I hold dear, the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate letting go of every shred of clinging to life, and in my heart I know I’m that I am not up to the task. I have a daily practice and sometimes I even feel a smug sense of “getting it.” Then some real-life situation readily knocks me off my feet, I lose my balance and fall into the abyss of fear only to look up and see the fragments of my frail foundation dangling over the edge. Maybe this is why we must learn to love ourselves, because this frailty is our humanity. Each life experience is the detachment I think I can make on my own. It’s essence is what I seek to understand, but it can’t be understood, or prepared for. It can only happen and I can only trust the outcome. I gather my purring kitten and stir the wholesome soup I’ve made for my friend, and I smile at the delicate balance of life.