Friday, January 29, 2010

108 SUNS

Although I wrote this piece just a day or so after the event and Christmas has come and gone, the effects of this winter solstice celebration still live on for me.

(A little illustration is to come. It's too late now to use the scanner as other beings are tucked safely into their beds: Rod's snores drift down from the bedroom above, Flippy has been happily ensconced in the freshly done laundry all night and Maya, after an enthusiastic bout of leaprosy, has flaked out on my bed - a tiny little black speck nestled in a billowy nest she's created in my soft, blue, flannel covered duvet.)

*SO IT IS NOW A FEW DAYS LATER (it's Feb 1st as I write this colourful commentary) AND, AS YOU CAN SEE, I HAVE ADDED THE PICTURE. Rod, my own personal little Holmes on Homes, is working his butt off creating a calming, oasis retreat out of what was once only a bathroom (note: not our bathroom, sigh). Flip, my Big Beautiful Girl, is now sleeping, Princess and the Pea-like, on a pillow in the bedroom. And Maya has finally given up begging me for more food, attention, play, pats...and has made a tactical move by laying on the carpet right in front of the doorway. I'll have to walk over her to get outta here. And so, she has cleverly assured herself of my undivided attention. Love Sponge that she is; I will be unable to ignore her.
Now I know that you all waited with baited breath for this image to appear (probably checked and rechecked this site a few times a day even) so perhaps you're a little disappointed, expecting more from me - artist/animator that I've been - but, I find stick figures perfect for yoga diagrams. They have a life all their own and I like how their little butts appear and disappear in certain poses. Kind of symbolic - you work your butt off doing these things but in the end it's still there.
Remember this site is for my own amusement; kind of like being the Queen of a very small, really really small, tiny, rarely visited country. So, as befits all rulers, I can do what I want.

One thing that occurs during the Christmas season is the winter solstice and with it the yogic tradition of doing 108 Sun Salutations aka the practice of Yoga Mala. One sun salutation (surya namaskara) consists of 12 yoga asanas (postures) linked together in a rhythmic flow co-coordinated with the breath. Each surya namaskara represents one bead on a mala (a string of beads) and the breath is like the string that links them all together.

This is my yearly ritual. For me the festive season doesn’t officially begin until 108 suns have been completed, preferably in the company of others who observe this tradition. It is my Christmas prayer. Love, gratitude, hope, joy and more are all expressed in a celebration of the gift of this physical life through the inspiration filled movements of each salutation.

I have done many Yoga Malas in my life and no two have been the same. It is as varied as the person leading the flow. However, some things stay the same:
- Celebrants come together in the spirit of satsang (sat = true, sanga = company) or of like mind.
- Each individual reflects on the year that has passed and their intention for the year to come.
- Respecting one’s own needs, adaptations are made and one rests when necessary.
- The process begins and ends with a unifying chant (OM being the most common).
- A lengthy savasana (relaxation) is enjoyed at the conclusion of the rounds at which time one spontaneously descends into effortless, quiet, stillness

On Dec 20th as I write my intentions I’m reflecting on my visit with my *Mom. As I witness her fall into the decline of dementia I feel I’m drifting away with her; she seems such a familiar part of me. And after spending time with her, anxiety about what awaits me as I age escalates. So I must detach, let her go and make a conscious effort to re-attach myself to, and become immersed in, the demands of daily waking reality when I leave. Some days this isn’t so easy and this is one of them.

At De La Sol yoga studio where this yoga mala is taking place, Katie has decided that each of us will participate by announcing at intervals of 5’s how many salutations have been completed as we move through all 108. So, for example, when we finish the 5th sun the first person to her right will announce, “That’s 5”. When we reach 10 the person to that person’s right will declare “that’s 10” and so on around the circle. Thus I am the holder of numbers 20 and 95.

We begin to move to the beat of a drum on CD.

Now, the amazing thing is that it was more difficult for me to keep track of #20 than #95. Most often yoga mala is done to a rhythmic beat of drums or music; sometimes we move in silence to the sound of our own unified breaths but never before have I been asked to keep track of the repetitions.

I’m not sure I like this.

My mind, so used to drifting into the flow, is rebelling against this newfound mindful aspect. As we get closer to #20 I become more anxious. Will I be embarrassed, by a slip in awareness due to a wandering mind, just like my mother’s? Just the fear of this sets my mind and emotions into a spin increasing the likelihood that the dreaded outcome will come to pass. And, for the fraction of an instant the numbers fade away. When I return I realize I’m either one number behind, right on or one ahead of the count.

Self-doubt magnifies compounding the problem. I know Katie said that we are to announce the count after the number is completed but in my own practice my habit is to count in advance of the salutation to come.

The room feels restless. Is it just me or are the other participants feeling this too?
When the time comes tenuously I announce, “I think this is 20 or maybe 21?”

“20”, confirms another yogi.

With the heavy responsibility lifted off my shoulders from then on my mind sharpens with each salutation. Somewhere around 80 the music stops; we flow as one on the rhythm of our breaths. When it is my time I announce “that’s 95” seamlessly and glide through on target as the last #108 is declared.

A good thing about getting older - stamina increases - it’s true. I feel strong. Unlike many of the younger ones, my breaths are even and I’ve barely broken a sweat.

And as I drive the home on the 403 it seems that never has my vision been crisper, the night sky shone more brightly, my spirit been so light. Not since my lomi training have I felt as united with others in the flow of traffic – like a tiny blood cell propelled within the circulatory system of some great, infinite being.

Never has my mind been so sharp and clear; my emotions so peaceful, filled with hope and gratitude, nor have I felt more present than at this moment … the most precious gift this Christmas could present to me to grace the year to come.

Click here on *Mom - for a sample visit.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm Ba-a-a-a-a-c-k!

It really boils down to this:
that all life is interrelated.
We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied into a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.
(Martin Luther King, Jr. (A Christmas Sermon for Peace, Dec. 24, 1967)
(I got this quote from Yoga+ Joyful Living magazine Winter 2009/10)

I have had writer’s block.

It began after a sorrow filled few months. Since last October, 2 members of the council lost their mothers. Another’s beloved father-in-law also passed away this fall; her mother had died in the spring. I have followed the journeys of these people that I love from the announcement by physicians that the death of their mothers was imminent, to the final outcome. And, I have witnessed their deepest sorrow.

One of the mothers was my good friend Pat. After her passing on Wed Oct 7th I found myself unable to write or post anything. It was not that I was bereft of ideas to write about, it was just that my heart was stuck.

During a long walk on the sunny afternoon after her funeral, when I just needed space and time for reflection, I realized that in order to get my pen flowing again I needed to write about this. I wrote other stuff but, aside from my last entry, nothing felt right. The guardian of the realm of blog posting was saying, “nope, not this one not now. Give me what you really need to write about, what is in your heart. Until you do that you’ve got nothing to say.”

It is only now that I can do so.

My experience of the workings of the world is that when someone dies a void is left. And as the universe re-organizes itself to fill the vacuum that is left behind, everything you once knew as solid is tossed into chaos: relationships, perspectives, priorities, values, sense of purpose; everything! Life can seem pointless (after all we’re all going to die) and precious all at the same time cus after all life is short …AND we are all going to die.

I write this blog for me. This is a space where I pour out my heart and thoughts. Here I can express the best that I can be, own up to the worst; turn my negativities into fodder for insight and create something positive in the process; have fun with humour; be creative; find inspiration; write of hopes, fears dreams, dreaming and intuition. It centres my mind in the power of positive thinking and the healing realms of creativity and imagination.

Friends read it on occasion. My sister-in-law and fellow council member called over a week ago now, wondering what was up - “I checked your blog and you haven’t entered anything for over month!”

“A month; has it really been more than a month?”

Actually, just checking now, it’s been over 2 months!

I tried to explain what was going on within me but found the spoken word inadequate. I couldn’t talk and organize my thoughts at the same time in a succinct, intelligible way. It’s only through reflection, writing, writing and more writing; letting the thoughts tumble onto the page that the truth, as I’ve experienced it, unfolds.

Where has the time gone? It seems like I stepped into a black hole (not a metaphor for depression, maybe a worm hole is a more appropriate term) and got spit out the other side. My own life has been busy in the process of its own re-organization – learning and offering new modalities for my clients and re-envisioning what I want to do with the new work space created as a result of ongoing renovations.

With the passing of the preceding generation I and my generation are becoming the elders of our clans and this reality changes my perception of my own future. Retirement, somewhere down the road, no longer is a theoretical slippery slope towards decline but is becoming a real possibility full of new opportunities to be explored.

What would I do if I wasn’t a wholistic health worker? Hmmm, the question brings back a conversation I had with my Dad when I was in my 20’s. He was disappointed that I hadn’t done anything with my “God-given talent” for art.

“What do I have to say? I haven’t really lived; haven’t seen anything of the world. I can draw but so can all the others in my university art classes – what made me special in high school is run of the mill here. So, maybe who knows, maybe I’ll get back into it when I’m older. Ha, when I’m retired.” I said with a laugh.

“Yah, maybe then I’ll have something to offer.”

Who knows? Maybe.

And death of course is inevitable…but until that time there is life to be lived. And on the eve of Pam and Glyn’s departure for the pura vida of Costa Rica to make happy memories with fellow council member Flo I wish them all buen viajie on this next stage of their lives.