For many of us, yoga was something hippies do. It was a strange practice we knew nothing about but as ignorance always does, we created this story in our head without understanding what it was. We decided it was weird. We didn’t bother to learn about it.
The day I found out my father was sick, all my years of practicing Buddhist philosophy and yoga certainly helped prepare me. I had an understanding that life is about impermanence and that we are all a development of our choices. That we are on our own paths, that we can inspire but not motivate. That we can and should always lead by example, make decisions with the heart but also not be foolish.
What it didn’t prepare me for is the sadness I would feel for those who didn’t see life that way….who never gained the wisdom to understand that the very thing they used to escape, is what kept them trapped and suffering. In Buddhism, is it called Samsara, the circle of life. We in a sense trap ourselves by continuing to make the same mistakes that keep us miserable.
My dad, similar to many folks of his generation, used alcohol to escape discomfort, confrontation and emotion. He protected his heart fiercely from pain and of course beauty. For you can never have one without the other. Our parents are supposed to be the wise ones. They are supposed to be the ones who teach us how to overcome, self worth, to believe in your ability to contribute to the world and how to manage life’s very hard obstacles…. but what happens when you keep growing and they don’t?
One morning I woke up and felt absolutely awful. The air was thick, my head was pounding and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I had two choices…I could lay in bed all day and allow the sadness to swallow me. I could give in to the pull to drench my spirit and as a result, drench my husbands spirit and anyone around me. Or I could get up, take a hot shower and make an effort. I could go to yoga and try my best to release. I could sincerely try to receive the spirit of yoga which is really about letting go. Letting go of what you cannot change, but also believing in the power of compassion.
And so, that morning for the first time, I really used yoga to my advantage. I closed my eyes when it was safe and allowed the tears to fall down my cheeks. I know what you’re thinking, how sad, but I can tell you, that it felt the exact opposite way. With every movement and every exhale, I let go of the need to save my father. For weeks, it felt like I was a dam holding a ton of water and suddenly, I was able to just lift the dam and the dam was me. All that pressure, the elephant that had been sitting on my chest for a few weeks, got up and walk away. The air thinned a bit and I felt a slight sense of relief. Enough relief for me to know that I had made some progress.
After that day, I immersed myself in prayer, meditation and spiritual practice for weeks. During his last 2 weeks, I spent every morning with my father…present, crying when I needed to and accepting that this is part of life. When he left us, I prayed that he had made peace with his shortcomings for most of us have some guilt we carry that serves us no purpose.
Yoga gives us permission to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings. It gives us an opportunity to pause, and give our minds a break from chaos. Yoga made me cry that morning and has since made me cry a few more times and every time it has happened, a huge amount of pressure is lifted from my shoulders and I walk just a little bit lighter that day.
Wishing you peace to your heart. xo