See this sunrise?
It’s not an NCAA basketball game where I could have won my bracket. It’s not the voice of Sinead O’Connor at the canceled concert I was looking forward to seeing. It does not come with the knowledge I stood to gain training with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute. It also doesn’t give me back the proud mom moment of watching my daughters perform their musical or the happy human contact of the postponed trip to visit my companion in another state that FaceTime can’t replace. But this sunrise brought joy to my reality after a sleepless night. Today, that is what the world gave me, and it is enough.
A difficult but confident decision was made to close my yoga studio on March 15th in advance of the Wisconsin state #saferathome mandate. I attended my last yoga class knowing that it didn’t feel right. My desire to support neighboring studios at this time cannot take precedence over protecting loved ones and those who may be asked to care for them. If attending a class as a student comes with guilt, why would I offer them? No amount of essential oils or pranayama will keep my parents or our healthcare workers safe right now. What I struggled with in making this decision is not the idea of closing or staying at home, but how it is being presented.
The terms “social distancing” and “quarantine” make me cringe and contract.
Sorry, I accept the purpose, but the language is brutally depressing right now, even for an introvert. It’s only a stone’s throw from solitary confinement to me. So, in finding purpose in my petulance this weekend, I am training my brain to substitute “spiritual awareness” for “social distancing” and “retreat” for “quarantine.”
Disassociation from the outside world does not need to be seen as a punishment. It’s an opportunity. When I first got divorced, the four-day weekends without my kids were devastating. Their bedroom doors were kept closed as if I couldn’t see the empty space, it didn’t exist. I went from being “mommy multitasker,” to experiencing painful absences from my kids and acquaintances and having time on my hands to brood. In an unconscious argument with what was real, I made plans doing anything that would avoid silent time alone by keeping so busy that there was barely a moment for denial. In time, those moments left deep cracks in me.
The saying goes that the cracks are where the light comes in. Exhaustion. Grief. Financial fears. Loneliness. Anger. You can only hide from those feelings for so long. Then, against my better judgment and pocketbook, I went on a silent retreat. Intentional silence was like nails on a chalkboard. I realized I was drowning myself in busy when I didn’t even know I was in the water. Compassionate spiritual silence (Mauna as it’s called) was a life vest. Since that retreat, when I’m submerged, I can’t hide from myself. Coming up for air looks a lot like “social distancing.”
As a result of the painful yet insightful retreat, I began to occasionally schedule purposeful silent extended weekends that I called “home hibernation.”
There was lots of outdoor time to practice presence and gratitude. I had “dates” with myself for dinner, consciously cooking a healthy meal. In time, something changed. Slowing down brought clarity and spiritual awakening. “Home hibernation” was re-titled “ashram weekends”. I could open the door to my kids’ empty bedrooms again without tears. I learned to reach out socially not as an act of defiance but with love. I get it that a global pandemic is not a fair comparison, but it invokes the same feelings for me. What do you feel right now? Can you name it, be with it, and know that you are still a divine being?
The financial implications of closing my studio scare the crap out of me, as they do any small business owner, but worry only plants aggressive seeds. Fear is a form of self-mutilation, as opposed to human insufficiencies and difficulty which are normal. I cannot control a pandemic that at times still doesn’t seem real. However, I can influence my biology with my thoughts and perhaps shine positivity through the veil of universal consciousness. Imperfection is human, the “I, me, my” of what I am forced to give up keeps surfacing. But part of my job is to keep up the morale. I see my daughters’ grief and my son’s anger and feel both of those things. Spiritual awareness is not perfection, it is recognizing, accepting, and redirecting selfish egoistic thoughts. More than ever, our connection is obvious and terrifying all at the same time. Are the choices you are making helpful to some and harming to none?
Ask yourself, “what’s my role?” Mine is to increase my online presence. I believe it is my highest good and the best way to reach out to my students and beyond. I know the difference between creating “busy work” that blinds me and using my gifts. What are your gifts? Find your purpose, and reach out to others with that purpose in whatever wacky cyber-social ways you can. We are still allowed to laugh and smile.
We are all on a retreat together.
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