I practice yoga at a beautiful place, it is a non-profit studio in Seattle thoroughly committed to making yoga accessible for everyone. They do amazing work bringing yoga to persons dying of AIDS, to veterans and refugees, to persons with disabilities. They also are wonderful at integrating yoga philosophy into their regular classes. Each month has a specific theme and instructors talk a bit about it at the start of class and then weave it throughout our practice together. I find that the principles of yoga consistently deepen my practice of Christian contemplative and monastic spirituality, opening new doors for me into the landscape of the inner life, revealing new language for what seems so familiar. But that is perhaps the subject for a whole other post.
The theme this month is tapas which means heat, but refers to the perseverance and patience we need to bring to spiritual practice. We commit to showing up to the yoga mat, the meditation cushion, the prayer corner, and in our commitment to keep coming back through all of life’s struggles and anxieties, we are slowly transformed. I know this has been true for me. The director of the center sent out her monthly email newsletter yesterday and reflected on how we also bring this perseverance to the slow work of healing. Being fully human and showing up for life means being present to the pain as well as the joy. Instead of thinking we should be “over it” we are called to honor the incremental work of growth.
I needed to hear her words yesterday. Today is the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death and the last few days I have felt the slow descent of grief. I find myself wanting to run from it, being so familiar with its heavy contours. But the call is to stay here as much as possible, to keep breathing, to keep returning to my body and witnessing the waves of emotion moving through me with great gentleness and compassion. Last night I said to my husband, “it’s been seven years, you’d think it wouldn’t affect me so much still.” To which he thoughtfully replied, “but your mother was an amazing woman.” I laughed in the midst of my tears. Yes, of course, I still grieve growing older without her wise presence in my life. I grieve being without a mother.
Over the last several years I have had powerful experiences on this day. I have encountered coyotes in cemeteries, rainbows, and last year I was on pilgrimage in Ireland and felt her present in a great gathering of crows in the trees around me and the embrace of the wide, green landscape. Between autumn’s spectacle and the approaching days honoring the dead in November, I find my heart broken open each time to pierce thresholds between worlds. And yet I am called to move into the day without expectation of what it holds, simply with the desire to honor her memory and the ways we loved one another.
Today, I walk gently. I show up for my yoga practice. I will share lunch with a dear friend and dinner with my beloved. I will savor time in stillness. I remember and in re-membering I catch glimpses of the wholeness I already carry within me. A wholeness which shimmers on the ocean of tears I have shed.
(Photo above from October 19, 2006 while on retreat at the Columbia River Gorge)