The tenth yoga

When you get over the outrage, the disappointment, there is this … relief.

This week, I returned to yoga. In a classroom.

The teacher is new to me but in yoga years, she is ancient. 78. A month out of knee surgery.

She shouts at her students. "Lengthen that spine! What are you doing? Lift that heel off the floor."

I love her.

She believes in my body. She has not given up on me.

Each night, I dream of mysteries.
College campuses.
New shoes.
I dream of campfires crackling and young women walking toward me out of the dark.

Last week, I dreamed there were two of me.
One was scolding.
The other was defending.
In the dream, I was a third me, watching them.

I wake up.
I make tea.
I come to this window and look out at the farm.

This is the first yoga, the discipline (Tapah, in Sanskrit) of not reaching for my cell phone.

If I reach for my cell phone, I’ll lose an hour in the river of mind-stuff. When I blink back to the room, I’ll feel drugged and have to practice the second yoga, self-forgiveness, when I set down the phone.

Then, I walk.
Or I write.
This decision is the third yoga.
Sometimes, it requires a second cup of tea.

Next year, I'll be 65.
This is what happens.
The gift of age: the fourth yoga,
navigating the wilderness with no map.
The usual mile markers - corporate ladder, parenting, losing those stubborn pounds - dissolve.

The small inheritance, I spent that.
The huge inheritance, I carry that inside.

Where am I?
The fifth yoga is orienteering.
No compass. No deadlines.

Nothing to help me figure out why I am halfway up this mountain, or where I thought I was going. Or what I should do next.

Oh, sure I could plant a garden,
knit a sweater,
take up Mah Jong.

We had a book club for a while. Five of us who’d met in the yoga teacher training. We'd gather - mostly in Madalasa's living room for cookies and tea and a brief discussion of some book and then, things would get real. The career we thought we'd have but never did, the men we’d loved, the pain of never having children, of having children and letting them go.

Book Club ended,
for one reason or another.

Then Covid hit
- along with quarantine, during which I moved books from one shelf to another.
That was the sixth yoga.

The letting go
of book clubs,
of feeling safe,
of holding my children
and that dream I had of flying back to France.

Zoom helped
and also, made things harder,
giving the illusion of contact without, you know, contact.

The seventh yoga is this:
What to do with all this love that keeps trying to make contact.

All of this life,
unrelentingly green
that just keeps growing.

This moss beneath my feet,
this vine that spirals upward, endlessly reaching.
And what do I do with this palm full of seeds?

I still feel so young, so eager,
I am still planning empires,
called by God in the morning,
but afternoons...
those are harder now.

After I had Covid, the ring finger on my right hand began to ache. On the phone from San Francisco, my son, a physical therapist, assured me, "It isn't arthritis. Just move it," he said. "Don't let the pain stop you from moving."

One year ago this week, he got married - and we got Jordan, a quiet, miracle gift. She danced on a chair and made a wedding happen in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. She loves our son the way he was made to be loved - full out, playfully, eagerly. They travel together. They climb mountains. They have a dog.

Keep moving.
That's the eighth yoga,
keep moving as life keeps life-ing you along.

So, deep breath:
Can we talk about these books that I've half written?
Is it okay if I just set them down over here by the window?
Okay if I straighten my spine,
and extend my legs,
along this white cotton cushion which, now that I look at it, is going to need to be run through the laundry soon?

What if I don't wash it today?
What if I don't finish this book?

And what if I don't complete my education?
I mean, ever.
No masters. No phD.

This is the ninth yoga.
Bewilderment - as you realize
that the other half of the mountain was never meant to be climbed.
That it (really) was all about the journey.
That there is no mountain, and never was.

When you get over the outrage, the disappointment, there is this … relief.
Remember that song:
Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing.

The ninth yoga is the space between the disappointment and the dancing. It's a chasm, surrounded by cliffs, overlooking despair. (Dukhamôha in Sanskrit, perplexity from pain or sorrow.)

And then, there's this opening. Your shoulders drop away from your ears. Your whole body relaxes. Quiet inside,

you sit beside a window, watching the breath flow in and out.

This is the tenth yoga. Contentment.

The sound of a leaf blower moving debris from one lawn to another. these fingers on this keyboard, moving through the ache, flexing and bending - alive.