Yoga class begins . . .
Soothing music from an Internet radio station plays in the background. Tablas and harmonium weave a soft melody, and it pours over me like waves from the nearby Pacific. It’s compelling to my ear. I try to concentrate on my pose, but I wander and follow the music.
In my mind, I leave my mat and imagine myself on the beach preparing for a free dive. Almost automatically, I’m taken to my breathing routine: a deep breath in, brief hold, and slow measured release.
I focus on every sound. I slow my heartbeat and ground my awareness. I’m still in class, but I imagine diving below and swimming deep. I listen closely and believe I hear the octopus changing colors. I open my eyes and return to the room.
In the tapas of my practice and its link to my muscle and sinew, a moment turns into a hour and my tribute to those who have gone before. An epic prayer from my ancestors is on my lips.
“Lo, there do I see my father. Lo, there do I see my mothers and my sisters and my brothers. Lo, there do I see the long line of my people . . .” I recite this prayer to its conclusion which calls me to join in a glorious vision of the afterlife at Valhalla. Traveling this line of my people, I recall a fatally ill relative and I dedicate my practice to him.
Music settles me and I stay in the room until I hear my teacher give her blessing. She is dedicated, honorable, and while it’s not the right word, I’ll say professional. Her soft voice heaps a lavish blessing upon the gathered yogis. We accept it and hold tightly to the offering she imparts: “And may your practice will bring strength to your bodies, clarity to your minds, kindness and compassion to your hearts.”
I take this blessing and know that I have been brought around and past my edges. I will go into the world with slightly less border and boundary, inhabiting wider circles with deeper draws of inclusion.
Suddenly, I realize this reshaping is what I’ve needed all my life. It’s the nexus of my identity, the ring of fire connecting my courage and passion. I have been showered in wholeness and connected by the strength, clarity, kindness, and compassion of that prayer. I take this and realize I have found my mission statement for all the rest of my days.
I let it hold me as breath holds my life underwater. And I walk away in hopes of embodying my new mission. But every now and then, I doubt; and I’m reminded to not dig up in doubt what I’ve planted in faith. The crucible I’ve voluntarily entered is too precious – and its bearing too holy – to let it fall in rust and ignorance or to handle with doubt and irreverence.
My crucible – my mission – is to fill up the periphery which has become center. It’s a maddening and illogical movement which confounds the logical. It’s the Buddhist pepper of the east to the Aristotelean salt of the west, and its integrated mix has become my blessing and my center.
The movement to periphery in every bend and reach has become the starch of my backbone, and it holds me fast when I fall to the seduction of mythologies that surround me. I’m surprised when I realize that I’m happy, truly happy, in the midst of my practice.
I dig down and reject stubborn thoughts that everyone has closer and better friends than I, everyone is happier than I, everyone has more support and love than I. That nobody is as lonely as me, nobody doubts themselves as I doubt myself, and nobody else wastes time wishing for anything other than what they have and what they are.
But I see the truth behind marketed public veneers, so I turn away and work to hone my mission, while the rounded twisting on my mat pulls by breath in and pushes it out. This rising and falling moves me by degree to completeness and shows me that my place, my contentment, is with the link that is welded into and onto me through yoga.
My new vocation is a stunning anecdote for worry. It has become my spiritual DNA. It has wound its link around my spine. It has lodged in my soul. I fasten to this deep core with breath and meditations pioneered by music. I embody my asana and rejoice in a glimpse of a periphery turned central, an identity formed of particularity and universality inhabiting a moment by single moment. I think, we are all a beautiful crush of salt and pepper.
I do asana to claim ancestry, music, diving and rising, and prayer. My yoga stretches me and joins with the line of my people back to the beginning. I marvel at all the gurus and yogis appearing before me.
I continue working my flawed yet beautiful human project, and I wonder why it took so long for me to discover this missing link, this balm of body and mind that I’ve caught from a messenger of the past.
This yoga takes me back to a delight song in my bones, a song I once knew, and a place I once knew. I see a forest turned into a container of heat and transformation. The tapas goes back a long way, a liminal place where a guru points the way and slowly my weakness is burned away. Gravity is an honest teacher and companion. Gravity . . . its my center and periphery, my salt and pepper. How about you?
I surrender to divine moments that bend me, and I open to this shaping no matter how I fail. Even when I insert my ego into the music and rough-hew gravity’s curriculum, or when my best work only dimly reflects the shining divinity that brands me now and forevermore.
Yoga class ends . . . the gravity of OM adds its penultimate closing.
I’m on my knees, linked to a great beyond. In that linking, your asana is my asana, my gold is your gold, and your song is my song.
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