Friday, April 18, 2008

Yoga Bear

In keeping with my transformation to Joy, I returned to my yoga practice yesterday. And as I sit here with my soreness, I am infused with a delicious sense of calm. This is my drug better than all the drugs. Except maybe demerol, which is my absolute favorite. But otherwise, if I could put yoga on a little spoon, put a lighter underneath it, melt it into a liquid, put it in a syringe and inject it directly into my veins, I totally would. But yoga isn't that easy. You have to do this work, this great but challenging work.

People scoff about yoga. People say it isn't really exercise, that you don't burn a lot of calories doing it. And while that may be true, that's not really the point. For all my fellow yogis and yoginis out there, I know I'm preaching to the chanters. But to the scoffers, I have to say, the only time I ever felt that yoga was easy was when I wasn't doing it correctly. The first time I took a class with a hands-on, real yoga teacher it was a disheartening experience. Prior to that I thought I was something of a goddess; I must be a goddess to take to this practice so easily, I said to myself. Na-uh.

This teacher kept coming back to me, readjusting, pushing, pulling, making me feel like the most idiotic idiot that ever idioted. And once she put me in a pose correctly, well let's just say, it was fucking difficult to hold it. And I realized then why it had been so easy. Everything I thought was right, was wrong.

I hate the word "pose". It sort of has a lot of bad connotations, what with models and people trying to be what they are not. So maybe it is fitting here, because me thinking I was a goddess of some sort made me a total poser. I prefer the word "asana", which is the sanskrit word roughly translated to "pose". It has a beautiful sound, don't you think? So all of the "poses" in yoga end with that word "asana". Uttanasana, Savasana, Balasana, Virabhadrasana, and the list goes on. The words are like honey dripping off a spoon. Here is my favorite: Ardha Matsyendrasana. It means Half Lord of the Fishes pose. I've never done that asana. But I'm totally psyched about it. I want to feel like a lord of the fishes. Because each and every time I am in an "asana" one of my goals is to embody the essence of the pose. Like when I'm in Bhujangasana (cobra pose), I try to feel sinister and when I am in Kapotasana (pigeon pose) I try to feel like I'm bugging people at the beach. The asana I am best at is Merudandasana (balancing bear).

When I am in this pose I feel as if I am open to all possibility or maybe just waiting around for a piece of fruit to fall off of a tree or for a lord of the fishes to get cocky and crawl out of the sea so I could have an easy breakfast. I really don't know that much about bears.

It was hard going back after four months of inactivity. It felt like starting over - but that it how I am feeling with everything these days. I have to embrace the beginning of a Gwen without grief. Last night, with each asana I felt a growing hatred for myself, a disgust at my lack of grace, my inability to "perform" the way I used to. Annemieke, the beautiful Swedish woman who was teaching the class, sensed my frustration. I was in the middle of locust pose and about to assume bow pose, which, for me, is very challenging. She came over and said to me in a whisper, "You have nothing to prove in this room. You do a beautiful practice. Just let yourself be and do not worry. Breathe." And there it was. Just breathe. I opened myself up to strength, I opened myself to bow pose. And even though I only held the pose a few seconds, it was a victory. I know that next time it will get easier. And the next and the next...

I know this is a metaphor for life. And that it why yoga is so good for me. I have to tell myself everyday, "You have nothing to prove. You do a beautiful practice. Just be and don't worry. Breathe". I have born so much tragedy...What is yet to come I can bear, with grace and strength.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Wings

There is something about spring that makes me feel like a child. Not like the skipping, carefree version who wants nothing more than a lollipop and a turn on the swing. I'm talking about the essence of childhood, the bated breath of possibility, the evolution into something bigger and greater than you were before. There is a part of me that dreaded this season. It is, afterall, a first spring without Amy. The first blossoming of flowers, the first cool morning that gives birth to a warm day, the first throwing off of the sweater underneath a hot sun...the first taste of this immaculate freshness that incites so much compulsive cleaning and organizing. All of this without Amy. But I feel a kinship with the budding trees and flowers. Something is alive in me, something is being born, and I feel a weak, but palpable joy that has been absent for so long. Or maybe it was just buried beneath so much grief.

Is this a betrayal to feel happy? Probably. I am just so exhausted from the sadness. I honestly can't walk among the other humans with that burden anymore. I have to say "I'm sorry Amy. I'm sorry to be having this gift of Spring, to be loving warm winds on my face, to be intoxicated with the yellows of daffodils and forsythias, to be...alive when you are not." And then I have to walk away from that sorrow. Because there is nothing left for me in that place that held me so tight I couldn't even breathe.

I haven't been writing. There are many reasons for that. But mostly I felt stale. I felt unworthy to be putting words to paper and everything I wrote felt ugly and wrong. And then Monday, Ashley sent me an article written by Elizabeth Gilbert that really got in my heart and uprooted those weeds that stopped me from pursuing this creative expression.

"I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling...I made a vow to writing, very young...One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: "That's actually not my problem." The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows." - Elizabeth Gilbert "Thoughts on Writing"

So that's it. I always felt like writing, for me, was a holy calling as she describes. And that calling haunts me, it nags me like a bitchy wife, it wakes me up in the middle of the night with words, phrases, sentences, dripping from my dreams like blood from an open cut. And like her, I can't make any promises about the quality of what is put to paper. I only can honor that calling, that screaming write. To write like the words have the keys to the answers to everything I ever wanted to know.

So I will enjoy this spring and I will write and I will make the choice to be happy. Because at the very least I have to try, I have to believe that there is something in me that is valuable, that matters. And maybe you think thats silly or melodramatic or whatever. I don't care. I'm so tired of hating myself...of grieving, of pinching an inch, of wallowing in mires of muddy self-pity, of crying terrible tears at sunsets Amy will never see, of crawling out of bed in the morning with dread at the thought of a new day. Its not fair to ask a person to live this way. Not even the likes of me.

So I'm going to take flight on my spring wings, like a butterfly out of my chrysalis. No grief to bear. Us butterflies, we travel light.