Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Time You Need

I tend to be all or nothing. I judge. I am hard on myself. I have spent my entire life trying to find the exact RIGHT way of living and being and doing and then just ending up miserable because I fail, fall short, cease to find it. I have been hard on my parents for making the decisions they made. I have been angry at the people who were harmful to me. I have been swimming upstream, battling out life, wounded and frustrated and tired.

And then everyone around me started getting diagnosed with cancer. It started with my neighbor. And then my brother-in-law. And then a close friend. And now my nephew. And last night I learned that my friend lost her partner, the second spouse she has cared for as they died. One of my best friends was in a car accident and has been out of work since May with a traumatic brain injury. Several people close to me have lost their jobs. 

It’s not that bad things have happened to people. Life is brutal. And then we die. We know this. Yet we are shocked when it happens. I always want explanations. I want resolution. I want reason. Well, I really want rhyme. But I’m not owed a smooth ride on this blue planet. No one gets a smooth ride. 

I guess I thought that, after the years separated from my family and living with people who hurt me, that somehow, there was a pain-free life out there somewhere waiting for me. I could get it. I could work hard and make it. I could eradicate my demons. Cleanse myself of impurities. I could meditate and exercise and love my way into bliss. I knew it wasn’t coming for free, as it had been promised. I had to do it myself. The only problem was, I suck at being perfect.

Last night at my small group we discussed sacrifice and what it takes. And we all sort of moved ourselves closer to the idea that what it took is stepping back, taking a deep breath and readying yourself. We talked about quieting the mind. It made me realize how much I’ve been filling and avoiding and trying my damndest lately to sit on top of all that difficulty instead of sitting with it. I’ve been driving so hard - exercising and working and cleaning. And then I watch TV or play games or cruise Facebook. 

Today, instead of doing my forced cardio session on the treadmill, I went to yoga. And I breathed. I breathed up and down. I breathed stretched and curled. I breathed through the pain. I breathed in the strength. I felt my body expand and contract. The instructor kept saying to feel where you were sticky and breathe into it. And boy am I sticky. Boy am I stuck. So I did a lot of breathing.

And instead of saying, “Get into downward dog,” she said, “Find your way into downward dog.” Find your way. And instead of saying, “Feel the stretch here,” she said, “Where do you feel the stretch? Feel it there.” And each step of the way, as we moved in and out of poses, she kept saying, “Place yourself skillfully.” And then, as I was struggling into forward fold and scooching my feet forward she said, “Take the time you need to place yourself for skillful action. Do what you need to do to be kind to yourself.”

Suddenly, all the twists and turns of my life, all the actions I’ve judged so harshly all made sense. Time is not wasted. I’ve just been taking the time I needed. And in that moment, kindness just washed over me. And I felt the beauty of my body bended and the stretch and the ache and the grief and the glory. I felt the free gift of grace.

It’s not a smooth ride. Pain is inevitable. We are human in mind and body, temporal, temporary, terminal. People we love will live far away. People we love will struggle. People we love will die. And we will cause pain. And we will never be perfect. And we will ebb and flow through times of focus and times of distraction. We will be disciplined and give into all temptations. We will be filled with the warmth of special moments and filled with the rage of injustice. 

I’m starting to understand the Kabbalah concept that all is light. It’s the same thing Jesus talked about and the same thing the Buddha spoke of, teaching and grace coming to us from every moment, every “bad” thing and every “good” thing. It’s free. It’s always there and available to us.

And all we can do is take the time we need to place ourselves for skillful action. And do what we need to do to be kind to ourselves.


Sarah said...

I love this, Heather. Thank you for sharing.

Julie S said...

Wow. Got a little teary eyed reading this. Such a wonderful way to weave the practice of yoga into achieving things in every day life as we try to navigate through the sad, happy and everything between times.

Heather Minter said...

Thanks guys. It's been so strange lately - with all these people I love dealing with life and death and suffering while I just go about my life and complain that I have to do dishes. I heard Robert Thurman say "Buddhism is engaged realism." Only by knowing the brutal reality can we be free from suffering. I'm still working on that...:)

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