Today I decided: I will do an entire practice with my eyes closed.
I toppled over a lot. And even when I held the posture, even when I was physically still, in my head I was as disoriented as if I were tumbling and rolling upside down under the sea. Finally I just stood in Mountain Pose, listening to the sound of thunder outside my window.
This practice of yoga is something I took on more seriously several years ago, as the rest of my life as I knew it was crumbling. Rolf Gates writes “Something beautiful happens on the mat for the student who stays with yoga practice even for a short time…. A powerful understanding begins to take shape. Our attention shifts from what we can get to who we can be. Without anyone needing to tell us – but simply by spending time on the mat with ourselves – we arrive at the conclusion that we are the ones we have been waiting for.” (Meditations from the Mat)
Nearly everything but yoga was eliminated from my life. I practiced, I taught; I learned to sit still as fear, anger, sadness washed over me, and passed on. Until at last I found that person, that me I had been waiting for.
And now I don’t want to lose her. As life blossoms again, how do I stay grounded, how do I maintain the self-acceptance, and the peace, that came at such a steep price? New, exciting work projects are challenging me and filling my days with busy-ness; a man I love has come into my life. As I move back into the world, I feel my old strength and sassiness coming back, but with it the familiar edginess, uncertainty, and a quickness to anger or to defend my position.
I don’t know the answer. I want to be in the world again, to live as fully as I am able. When I decided to close my eyes to practice, I had to force myself to keep them shut, force myself not to look at something outside of myself to stabilize me. Inside everything was moving and rolling and out of balance.
I did OK, at the end, in Mountain Pose. Just standing tall, eyes closed, listening to thunder booming outside. Coming back into stillness, to the me I had been waiting for. And hearing, in that space, the sound of my own voice when I teach: “Lift and spread your toes, then press your feet into the mat, feeling the stability of the floor, of the earth, supporting you. Reach up through the crown of the head, lifting up towards the sky. Feel yourself lengthening, expanding. As if you, yourself, are the connection between heaven and earth.”