Don’t Compare

It’s hard not to notice that many in my yoga class are more limber or better balanced than I am. Some can bend at the waist and touch the floor with their palms, their knees only slightly bent. Others can stand on one leg seemingly forever. Not me.

“Don’t look around,” Mana intuitively instructs the class. “This isn’t a competition. Honor your own body and your unique abilities. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.”

Don’t compare myself to others. Easy to say, hard to do in this ego-ravaged world.  So the lesson keeps presenting itself to me. Prior to a cranial-sacral session with Mana, I tell her of a friend who is not conscientious about his health habits yet is seemingly healthier than I am. Where he definitely has the edge over me in healthful lifestyle is that he doesn’t worry. And that makes me wonder if my stress and anxiety are canceling out my good health habits.

I tell Mana that I want to be more like him, that I need to change.  She immediately responds, “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Neither is better than the other. You’re just different.”

I nod, not fully embracing the again-repeated lesson. My blood pressure is high; his isn’t.

She continues, “Self-compassion is important. Otherwise, you can end up feeling guilty for who you are.”

Feeling guilty for who I am. When seen in that light, what a shame, and how debilitating, to carry such guilt around. Of course I could do better. But I don’t need to be like anyone else.

Later that night, I have an unexpected good cry. And then fall into a wonderful night’s sleep. Thanks to the wisdom of my 82 year old yogi.

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Would You Really Have Helped Me?

Leaving my yoga class in the dark last winter, I was hesitant to proceed through the walkway to the parking lot with what looked like a homeless man walking his bicycle in 20 degree weather. I was relieved when a young woman fell in step behind me.

We were headed toward two sets of stairs, and the man continued to walk his bike toward them.  When we reached the bottom of the first set, he hesitated.

“Do you want me to help you carry your bike up the stairs?” I asked.

He ignored me while easily picking up his bike and ascending the stairs. I felt embarrassed, mostly because the young woman was witness to my naïve offer that he blew off.

We climbed the stairs in silence, side by side. “That’s a lot of stairs,” I mumbled audibly to myself, primarily for self-redemption and justification.

When we reached the top of the stairs, he put his bike down and turned toward me. “Would you really have helped me?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. “I just got out of yoga class, and I’m feeling nice.”

What a stupid answer – no wonder he ignored that too! Feeling “nice?” Does that equate with taking pity? Does it suggest I’m not typically “nice?” Does it accentuate my bourgeois life style (attending yoga) versus his poverty (riding a bike over ice-lined streets)?

I headed toward my car; he just seemed to vanish. But he lingers in my consciousness as a lesson yet to be examined.

******

The following week, I read this story to my yoga class. Mana followed up with a phone call to say that the word for how I felt after yoga wasn’t “nice;” it was “spacious.” She told me I was feeling larger than myself after yoga, willing and able to give to another. I felt open, and that felt “nice.” She pointed out that my self-recrimination was undeserved; rather than focusing on my generous offer, I had criticized myself for the words I chose.

“You set something in motion,” she said. “That bicyclist had to process that someone offered to help him. And that someone was you! Feel good about that!”

Now that Mana is gone, I will have to listen harder for that voice of loving kindness. But I’ll still hear it.

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Why Wouldn’t We Expect?

Why wouldn’t we expect

Thunder and lightening

When someone like this

Has been taken from us?

 

Why wouldn’t we expect

A downpour of rain

As the heavens give credibility

To our own tears?

 

Why wouldn’t we expect

That the universal energy

Has been forever shifted

By the vacuum that has been created?

 

And why wouldn’t we expect

The blue sky and sun to return

When a smile has been lifted up

To now shine down on the whole world?

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Precious Moments

“Precious moments. Wonderful moments,” she sings out to us in a sweet, clear voice as we lie on our mats during cool down.

I’ve always thought of it as a generic construct, encouraging her yoga students to stay present as she quietly walks around covering us with blankets. But tonight, it feels different. Tonight it signifies for me, and I sense for others as well, how precious time is with this 81-year-old yogi. Due to her ethereal nature, I’ve never sensed her mortality before: There will always be Mana, just like there has always been Mana.

Although it’s true that Mana will always be in my soul because she’s taught me so much, I still have much more to learn from this wise woman. Moments with her do indeed feel precious now.

I’ve been paying class-by-class, never sure if I can make it from one week to the next. Tonight I pay for eight classes, both to signify my commitment to the practice and as a way to obligate Mana to stay on this plane for me, as crazy as that may seem.

I will not take for granted precious moments spent with this precious woman.

- Journal entry, March 2013

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A Terrible Mistake

The recent loss of a dear friend – an elderly woman who I believed immortal – brings back the same feeling I had when my mother died…that it’s all a terrible mistake. I keep waiting for a call or a text from my friend…even though the memorial is this weekend.

Denial is the first stage of loss.  It works for awhile…

********

She can’t be dead. It’s not possible. I keep expecting her to show up, to put an end to all this nonsense about her being dead.

I keep thinking we’ll have another chance, that it’ll be like before. That I should save those clothes because she’ll need them when she returns.

It’s all just a terrible mistake. Come back, Mama. We’ll get everything all straightened out.

She can’t be dead. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad © 2010

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Cry into the Darkness

Cry into the darkness.
Feel your pain as you gaze into the night sky.
Beg the moon and the stars for mercy.
Feel small and inconsequential.
Face your dark night, recognizing that this is where you are to be right now.

Feel the full impact of hope and disappointment.
And wonder if they are mutually exclusive.
Cry, mourn.
Remember the stages of loss.
Remember the stages of life.

Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad © 2010

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Go Ahead and Cry

Many people have told me that they’re trying not to grieve the loss of our friend and yogi, but instead celebrate her life. That’s a noble and admirable goal, yet it’s also important to allow ourselves to grieve.

Our society doesn’t fully honor the death of an elderly person, labeling it as “the natural order of things.” Did you think they would last forever? is the unspoken question. In truth, we did. And that can leave us feeling disenfranchised and alone in our grief.

Unresolved residual grief must be expressed or it comes out sideways in our health, relationships, and/or work. We’re sometimes reluctant to allow ourselves a good cry because once the flood gates open, we fear we may never get them closed again. But we do, and feel so much better for it.

The therapeutic benefits of cleansing ourselves of bottled-up grief – simply by crying and talking about it – are immeasurable and essential to a healthy mind and body. Isak Dinesen wrote in Seven Gothic Tales, “The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.” Mana seemed to know that; she would tell us to “release the toxins.”

She not only honored the light in us – she honored the darkness in each of us as well, helping so many find their way through life’s challenges.

So, go ahead and cry. It’s good for all of us.

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