When Women Waken water issue

My essays The Flow and I Am So Moved

http://www.whenwomenwaken.org/tag/diane-lowman/

 

I AM SO MOVED

I pace back and forth like a caged animal on carpet covered with what appears to be extremely wide scotch tape, incarcerated by cardboard boxes stacked nearly ceiling-high. I do not know where to start and I cannot rest until I do. Every time I peel the packing tape back enough to peek in to a box, I see stuff that I’m saving for things that won’t happen, even though I shed most of the contents of my home before the movers came to pack and ship me off to this new, downsized apartment.

Over the 18 years that I lived in that house, my children grew and my marriage broke. As a single empty-nester, the house felt like someone else’s coat. Someone who had a young family and needed a big yard.

One of my yoga teachers said that life is like the ocean: full of inevitable, unavoidable waves. We can frolic in and ride with them, or we can flail and let them pull us under.

Lately I’ve been flailing. The stormy surf of the moving process has tugged and tumbled me. My personal tsunami began with the decision to sell the house, and preparing to put it on the market, and keeping it pristine for visitors. Each showing had me riding high on waves of hope, which were dashed when they didn’t produce an offer. I was afloat in inspections, title searches, and paperwork signing; seasick in limbo.

The riptide of weeding and whittling of all my belongings, packing what remained, and the physical move sucked me under and left me gasping for air. The daunting tasks of unpacking and attempting to settle have me struggling to surface from a sea of cartons. I am exhausted. Proud and empowered, but tired and resentful of doing everything by myself.

Waking up in the new apartment, I’m disoriented, not quite sure where I am. It takes a moment for the fuzz to lift and the reality to dawn on me. In my car, I have to resist the instinct to drive to the old house and remind myself to instead to drive to the new apartment.

I have mixed feelings about the move, and my moods changes like the waves on the shore where I walk almost every day to soothe them.

I am as battered and worn as driftwood. To be perfectly fair to the furniture I have bumped into each piece at least once, creating an interesting mosaic of ocean-colored bruises on my limbs. I have lifted and moved heavy boxes out of tight and awkward spots so I can get to other boxes in hope of finding something I need. I actually almost cried for joy when I found the laundry detergent. I could finally wash everything I’d sweated through profusely in the endeavor. I have put things away which I now cannot find, and still cannot find places for things I haven’t put away

Yet, despite feeling awash in despair, I see rays of light: I can sit on the terrace with my Buddha statue and see trees and stars and the moon.

I go out every single night before I go to sleep to look at the sky, just like I did every night when I worked on a container ship many years ago. There, too, the seas were sometimes calm, and sometimes rough, but the big red ship abided. Silent and strong, slicing through the sea. So I relish this moment in the day that reminds me that I am at home. Surf’s up; let’s ride.


Writer’s Note about the Container Ship

Diane spent the summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury College working on a German container ship.  She sailed for  three months on Hamburg-Sud’s Columbus-Australia to ports  between New York and Australia and New Zealand, accompanied by its crew of 26 men.  She swabbed decks and mended linens and had the opportunity to visit Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane in Australia, and Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland in New Zealand.  She waved at Tahiti, and befriended the pilots who helped the ship navigate the Panama Canal.   She plans to write more about her adventures.

 

THE FLOW:

“C’mon, Mom! The guy is here to show us what to do!” Devon’s voice pulls me out of an eddy of rumination.

I sit doubled over on a bench, wrapped in a neon yellow life vest, a wave of panic washing over me. I’m paralyzed and I want to run. The life vest can’t save me; not from this wave, nor I fear, from the rapids we’re about to voluntarily face for “fun” on this river rafting outing. Anxiety has plagued me since the divorce was final, about a year ago, making my life increasingly uncomfortable. I’d hoped the fresh air and breathtaking scenery on this trip to Colorado would calm me, but the fantasy of a change-of-venue quick-fix has evaporated as quickly as my nerve to get into the raft.

I keep my back to my family – all of them, including my two teenaged boys, nieces (also teens), my sister and brother-in-law, and my mother. I do not want them to witness my meltdown.

“I cannot do this,” I think. I consider how I can avoid the trip down the river, and if I can even sit here alone if they do go without me. I unclench my jaw and fists, let my shoulders drop, and deepen my breath. I evoke images of bunny rabbits to replace the visions of mangled, drowned bodies strewn over river boulders that have invaded my mind. I am trying really, really hard, but I am scared and immobile.

“OK, I’ll be right there,” I manage to mumble, but I’m not sure I can move.

“Are you OK? My sister Suzanne knows I’ve been struggling, and comes over, putting her hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I can go.” She is quiet for a moment.

“It’s safe, Diane. There’s nothing to worry about. You will have fun. It will be good for you.”

“I know,” I nod.

I decide that no matter how terrified, I will not let my boys see it take me down. I do not want them to see me weak; do not want to worry them. I want to model bravery, not cowardice, under pressure.

I stand up on legs that I’m not sure will hold me. “I’m coming, honey.” I almost don’t even care what happens to me any more.

The current is strong but calm, like I wish I could be, and the first half of the trip flows incident-free. Halfway through we stop for lunch, lugging the equipment and supplies ashore. “That was the easy part, folks!” chirps the sinewy, tanned river guide. “The bottom is a wild ride!”

“I have to pee,” my niece Jessica says, happily distracting me. Nothing like imminent urination to take me out of my own mind. “Me too,” says her sister Julie. Suzanne nods at me to take them to the “bathroom” downstream. We remove our shoes and wade, ankle deep, just out of sight of the group, drop our shorts, squat (thank you, yoga), and let the stream take ours. I’m watching the bank for what I imagine would be hungry bears, but instead see a black snake slither into the water and meander directly toward me.

Interestingly, this “fight or flight” reflex differs from the one I felt on the bench. It’s real – more tangible. Yet oddly, I feel an extreme, almost heavy, calm. The girls have not seen the snake because they are facing away from the bank. I weigh my options. Hurry them up and run? This could be messy for all of us, and aggravate the snake. Stay still and take our chances? I wouldn’t know a poisonous snake from a benign one. I follow my intuition to wait and watch.

I keep a vigilant eye on the foot long serpent as it slides languidly toward my left leg. Just as I reconsider my plan and get ready to pull the emergency cord, it turns sharply right and heads back toward the bank. I follow it every inch of the way in case it changes course. And just where it reaches the shore, something shiny catches my eye. As if the snake wanted me to see it.

We pull up our shorts and start to make our way back, but I pause to unearth the treasure – a silver ring – half buried in the sand. I rinse it off to better see it; it’s covered with what looks like Hindi or Hebrew writing.

“Look, guys, a ring! And oh, there was a snake too.”

“Wow. What??!!” The girls cry. “Let’s see!”

Too big for my ring finger, I slip it on the middle one. I have no idea what the script says, but the ring feels good. Back at camp I think of my boys first, as always, and ask if either of them want it. “No, Mom, you found it, you should wear it,” says Dustin, channeling the voice of the universe that I’ve obviously failed to notice shouting at me. So I do.

I relax into the rest of the ride, letting the current take me. It turns out to be a lovely week at the dude ranch. I make friends with my horse, and he with me. Something shifts with that ring on my finger.

At home I begin a dogged search to decipher the ring’s message, although it again, should have been quite obvious to me. I find the answer in my own proverbial backyard.

“Oh,” says one of my favorite yoga teachers, when I show him the ring. “Sure. It says Om Mani Padme Hum.”

“No way. No way!” I shout. “Duh!” I say, smacking my head, V-8 style.

One of the oldest, most common, and most oft-invoked Sanskrit mantras, it very roughly translates to “the jewel of the lotus flower holds the key to enlightenment,” but it is said to contain all of the teachings of the Buddha within it.

So, in that river, I found compassion. I have worn the ring on my left middle finger every day since for the last seven years. I used to worry deeply about what would happen if I lost it. But at some point I relaxed into the realization that if I did, I would no longer need it. Or perhaps more importantly, that whoever found it would need it more.

My Name is Diane

https://brevity.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/am-i-a-writer-or-impostor/

Am I a Writer or Impostor?

March 29, 2016 § 41 Comments

11 Votes

image1By Diane Lowman,

Can I call myself a writer?  I have a dozen published pieces.  I am constipated with essays that back up in my head and want to come out onto the page.  My stream of consciousness – when it takes a break from thinking about my kids, or what to eat, or how I really want to lose five pounds – churns narrative constantly.  In my head I’m a writer; I’m just reluctant to say it out loud.  Perhaps it’s the distinction between the verb and the noun.  I write.  I am a writer.  The former is unequivocally true.  The latter conjures Hemingway or Shakespeare, and I lack the arrogance to put myself in that stratosphere.

I recall that when I was just a homemaker and mother – by which I mean CEO, COO, and CFO of an empire and its inhabitants – people would glaze over or arch a sympathetic eyebrow when I told them what I did.  Or, in their minds, what I didn’t do.  My BA in Economics, MBA, and PhD in Holistic Nutrition (oh, and black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Reiki Mastership, and Yoga Teacher Certification) afforded me no street cred.  I had no title.

Now that my boys are young men, I am no longer primarily a caregiver, although I will give them care eternally.  When people ask what I do, and I answer, “I teach yoga,” or “I tutor Spanish,” they seem relieved and pleased to have something more concrete and tangible to hang their approval on.  “Oh!  That’s great!”

I feel justified in verbalizing those vocations, perhaps because I go somewhere and get paid to do them.  And although I’m always flattered and genuinely surprised when an editor chooses to publish my work, and even more amazed when people actually read it, I still feel fraudulent saying:  “I’m a writer.” Everyone who takes pen, crayon, or lipstick to paper is a writer.  What form of validation would grant me permission to own the moniker without feeling like a faker?  A handsome paycheck?  A piece in the New Yorker?

According to the American Psychological Association, in the 1970’s, Imes and Clance described those suffering from “impostor phenomenon” as “high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.” I won’t go down the rabbit hole of denial about whether or not I’m a “high achiever,”  but I unequivocally identify with the “unable” part of the phrase.

I will practice saying, “I am a writer” out loud.  Maybe in front of a mirror, like Al Franken’s SNL character Stewart Smalley:  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Maybe the next time we meet, I will shake your hand, and say, “Hi.  My name is Diane, and I am a writer.”

Sprung

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/42500-my-life-on-the-post-road-sprung

I espy two squirrels frolicking at the base of a tree: they chase each other’s tails, tumble, and scramble. Spurred on, surely, by the warm waft of air that smells decidedly different, decidedly like spring. The birds, cacophonous, chatter animatedly about returning from their trips south, nest building, and baby birthing. Spring is definitely my favorite season. But I am fickle. I favor winter when the first snowfall quiets everything in a white velvet blanket. I savor summer the minute my toes touch the hot Compo sand. And I thrill to the scent of fireplaces burning wood to ward off the first chill in the air. Every season is my favorite season.

Or, maybe it’s the change – the newness – that I really look forward to. I was born and raised in and around New York, where the steps of the library, the Met, and every inch of even concrete parks overflowed with pasty office workers poking out of their holes like Punxsutawney Phil when the sun began to hint at warmth in the city. During college years in Vermont, any temperature above freezing was cause to strip down to shorts and tee shirts and lounge on the Adirondack chairs that dotted campus.

When I moved to Los Angeles, where I lived for 10 years, I would fall over myself to spend as much time outside when the temperature was 72 degrees to take full advantage of the gift of good weather. Until I realized that, plus or minus five degrees, it’s always 72. At first, I reveled in the “sunny” in Southern California. But over the years the evergreen palm fronds bored me. I craved a cloud, a cool breeze. No one ever seemed to age in Los Angeles. Or if they did, they were moved to one of the enormous retirement communities located close enough for relatives to visit but far enough away to not remind the vain and largely plastic “industry” folk of what natural aging looks like.  The weather seemed to mirror the population: artificial.

I migrated back east, in part, because I missed that essential part of the natural rhythm of life that Los Angeles lacked: the seasons. Of course just as we arrived – to the D.C. area – a heat wave gripping the east coast made living in a new place with a new baby difficult. No, the seasons are not perfect. Sometimes it’s too hot. Sometimes it’s too cold. But often, it’s just right.

So as I watch the squirrels scamper, I think about how I will savor the rising temperatures, longer days, and budding flora. But I will also appreciate the blustery, rainy days, because it’s all part of the package. The yin and the yang that make our experience of life more whole. Snowy winters make warm Sound water sweeter. And sweltering summers make wind chills more invigorating. I will drink in the best every season has to offer, toasting to usher in the new one, and to say “au revoir” to the one on the way out.

Photo by Sally Allen

Puzzles

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/42486-my-life-on-the-post-road-puzzled

The air crackles with anticipation and nerdiness. We are sardined into the McManus Room awaiting the arrival of Will Shortz, crossword wizard, and puzzle editor for the New York Times. He graciously presides over this annual contest hosted by the Westport Public Library.  Veterans and neophytes alike flock to attempt the puzzles he brings. We have 20 minutes for each of the first three. As finalists, the three contestants who finish those correctly and in the shortest time, compete to complete a fourth puzzle, writ large and propped on an easel, on stage. The winner must not only finish first, but also have a perfect puzzle.

This annual ritual thrills me for so many reasons:

I feel less like a geek when surrounded by these kindred spirits. Where else would it seem completely normal to see this much crossword-themed clothing? The winner’s black and white squared, short sleeve cotton button up shirt was a blank crossword waiting to be filled in.

I get to indulge my love of “words, words, words” (Hamlet,II,ii,192). We generally read and write alone. There are not that many opportunities to exercise this mutual passion en masse. The snacks and water provided by the library assures steady blood sugar and hydration so that we can pour forth maximum effort through our pencils. I love teasing my brain to unlock answers that I know are there, or to deduce those that aren’t, from clue and context.

I challenge myself. Although I do the puzzle daily anyway, it’s often a leisurely, sometimes even lazy endeavor. In this timed competition, I concentrate intensely to push the synapses to connect quickly and efficiently. While I may never run a 10K, this is my marathon. It’s exhilarating, and I feel proud of the certificates I’ve won for penmanship (in pencil) and perfectly completing all three puzzles over the years.

I get to see THE MAN! Many of my icons are either dead or unlikely to drop by the library on a Saturday afternoon (or both). But Will Shortz, genuine, funny, and brilliant, stops by to bend our minds regularly. He not only brings us the treat of next week’s as-yet-not-seen-by-the-public NYT puzzles, but regales us with stories of his life in the puzzlers’ fast lane. While the volunteers review the completed puzzles to determine the finalists, he challenges us with brain twisters similar to those he shares on NPR’s Weekly Sunday Puzzle radio show. This man has serious street cred! HE created the clues that The Riddler leaves for Batman in Batman Forever.

I look out over the room after the third round but before they announce the three finalists and, oddly, think of Elton John: “They’re packed pretty tight in here tonight.” But it is, of course, Saturday afternoon, and there will be no “dollies,” alcohol, or fighting (I’ve yet to see the final round come to a fisticuffs). But there is as much joy and camaraderie as in any British pub.

I hope the library has a larger space for this event in its expansion plans. After all, who couldn’t use more joy and camaraderie? That’s a puzzle that’s easy to solve.

Sun Reflexology 

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/42472-my-life-on-the-post-road-sun-reflexology

I had driven by Sun Reflexology for years before I ventured in. Sandwiched between a small Dunkin’ Donuts and a surf shop in a dilapidated peeling white brick strip mall, it looked less than appealing. It was not until a friend urged, “you have to go get a foot massage there. It is the most relaxing thing in the world!” that I finally breached the threshold. Once inside, I wondered why I’d waited so long. The Chinese staff is warm, welcoming, and gracious. They do only a few things, and they do them exceptionally well. The décor is Spartan: Black recliners line the paneled walls; small stools for the reflexologists sit in front of each. But the décor doesn’t matter. It’s what happens in those chairs that makes Sun heaven.

Today, impossibly large, impossibly red angelfish stare at me with impossibly large eyes. They loll lazily in the large see-through tank that serves as a wall divider. I watch them watch me, barely conscious. I feel as groggy as, but much happier than, my boys did as they came to after having their wisdom teeth removed. But I’m not technically anesthetized, just reclining in a Naugahyde lounger, covered with a brown towel.  My feet soak happily in warm blue water in a small wooden barrel.

My former husband and his wife gave me a gift card for this reflexology session for Christmas. It has taken me nearly two months to convince myself that it is actually okay to devote this much time to myself.  It would have taken three if I’d been paying for it.

Gentle flute music lulls me further into a coma as the masseuse – Lisa – performs magic on my feet. I feel sure that Lisa is no more her name than Stan was the name of the technician who helped me from the call center in Bangalore last night, but I just cannot worry about that right now. I’m too busy being blissful.  She plays my toes like a harp. “Who would even think of kneading the inside of my second toe?” I think, as I am suffused with gratitude that she does. She rolls each digit like the dough we watched the Amish roll into Bavarian pretzels in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When she reaches my heel, I think of poor Achilles, but she’s broken down my defenses too. I couldn’t defend Greece against Troy, either, after she’s plied my tendon.

The place is dimly lit and hushed in deference to the other suburban women lined up like the anatomical shells in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The workers whisper, and clients are silent. Every now and then all heads lift in unison, turning their eyes to shoot laser beams at some poor soul who has forgotten to silence her phone. The reverie must not be broken!

I know we are nearing the end of the session because Lisa begins to rub smooth, hot stones up and down my calves. I begin to mourn. I want to marry Lisa. I want to take her home with me.

I vow to come back at least once a month – make that once a week – to indulge. This is better and cheaper than therapy. But even through this ecstatic haze, I know that it will take me three months to convince myself that I deserve this again. Unless I get another gift certificate.  Then I’ll be back in two.

The Cleanse

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/42386-essay-the-cleanse

David Byrne serenades me: “And you may find yourself in a beautiful house… And you may ask yourself. Well, How did I get here?” I am, as he says in Once in a Lifetime, watching the days go by. “And you may tell yourself. This is not my beautiful house.

Because soon, it won’t be.

As the day fast approaches for my downsizing move, I slowly and systematically slog through all the stuff in mine. I have spent hours every day, for what feels like eons, sifting, sorting, tossing, packing. I am starring in an extended, drawn out, multi-month episode of Hoarders on TLC, a show I watch regularly, with a mix of morbid fascination and horror. I rubberneck, like a gawker at a roadside crash, unable to turn away, mostly to assure myself that I am not one.

Which, despite the mountains of stuff I’ve accumulated after 18 years in this house, I am decidedly not. I have almost neurotically categorized and stored my things.  Cabinets, closets, drawers, and, well, containers, contain everything in an orderly way. There are no half empty Spam tins littering my carpets, which are not covered with animal fur and excrement. No small creatures, welcome or otherwise, live with me.

But still. There’s sooooooo much stuff. I find myself constantly adding verses to the Talking Heads song: “How did I get all these things? And why am I having such a hard time getting rid of them?” I wonder why most of us are so determined to accumulate stuff and so reluctant to liberate ourselves of it.

For me, at least, the answer is as multifaceted as the mess. First, the collecting is so much easier than the dispersing. It’s fun to get stuff. We “need” stuff for inside and outside our homes. We need a really lot of stuff to achieve and maintain beauty. We cannot go out unclad or unshod, and every season – nay, every day – requires an entirely new ensemble. We need the every day going-to-Trader-Joe’s-wear, the I-want-people-to-think-I’m-an-adult-and-take-me-seriously outfits, and a full complement of Even-though-I-never-go-out-to-nice-places-I-should-have-something-just-in-case clothes. And of course apparently there is no legal or scientific limit to the number of black or white GAP t-shirts one can own.

Inside the house, I’ve discovered, there can never be enough serving bowls, frying pans, and utensils for obscure culinary feats, even though I abhor both cooking and entertaining. My sister Suzanne often wonders how my children did not starve or become severely malnourished growing up.

And the tchotchkes… or knick-knacks, for the Yiddish-ly uninitiated. Oh the tchotchkes! It seems every flat surface and vacant wall space begs to be occupied by some cute, creative, or culturally significant 3D item.

Children must each have one of literally everything in the universe, so said universe does not become unbalanced and implode into a black hole more rapidly than it otherwise will in several billion years. In my basement, every Hot Wheels car, Pokémon toy, and Batman action figure ever created sits idle in color-coded storage bins, like Andy’s toys in Toy Story, waiting for someone to play with them. Maybe the black hole would have been useful in that it would have instantly consumed and vaporized them. The toys. Not the children.

Then there is the practicality argument that I engage in with myself which resembles some of the dialogue on Hoarders a little too closely for my comfort. I carefully curated this collection. It feels frivolous to just toss or donate things that there’s a miniscule chance that I might remotely have a need for in the very distant future (but prior to universal black hole implosion). When you face getting rid of nearly everything, surely that increases the chance that you might miss something.

“What if I really want to make paella?” I think (please refer back to the paragraph about cooking. I’m not sure why I need a kitchen. Maybe, like Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, I should just store sweaters in the oven). I’ve unearthed a blue speckled paella pan from beneath a swath of gold and brown toile fabric that I meant to turn into pillows “and still might in the new apartment?” I ask even myself askance. Fresh start, right? Empty nest, empty the drawers. Every time I’m tempted to keep something, scenes from the show pop into my head, and reason triumphs over emotional attachment.

Keeping the stuff for practicality’s sake is one thing, but emotion is another beast entirely, and tougher to get past.

After having cleaned out mom’s apartment after she died recently, it’s odd to find myself going through this exercise again in my own home, but I’m glad to spare my adult children the task. “But mom gave me that,” I think, as I look at a perfectly hideous costume necklace she gave me. It’s sort of hidden away and I haven’t worn it once, but I feel sacrilegious parting with it, as if I’d offend her and desecrate her memory. Yet I pry it away from my own grasping clutches, and do so over and over again with items that glow with radioactive emotion. The straw bag I bought in the street bazaar in Nairobi; the countless small replica Mets batting helmets that the boys ate soft ice cream from in Shea Stadium; the simmering spices my mom gave me “to make the house smell nice when you go to sell it.”

The corollary to the emotional issue is the bargain argument. “But it only cost $3 at the summer sidewalk sale” is no more a reason to keep something than it was to buy it in the first place. I stringently adhere to the “if you haven’t used or worn it in a year, toss it” rule.

Going through all this stuff is not nearly as fun, and is exponentially more exhausting, than hunting for and gathering it. I work for hours each day and then feel as if I’ve entered the Twilight Zone because I seem to make no progress.

I drop on the couch, exhausted and defeated, and watch Hoarders. It brings a small measure of comfort as I revel in the fact that at least I don’t have to walk a path carved out of a seven-foot pile of things the cameras, therapists, family members, and organizers need to navigate.

So I toss, and toss, and toss some more.

Of course I have kept many things. Things I believe I really need, will use, and most importantly, will bring me joy. Some have true sentimental value: my father’s cane collection (he has now been gone almost 14 years). The samovar my mother’s grandmother carried with her from Russia to America. The boys’ bronzed baby shoes.

For the most part, though, I realize that the stuff is not the people. It’s not the memories. It’s not emotion. As the people on the news whose homes have floated away or burned down always say, “It’s just stuff.” I find unequivocally that the more I let go, the more I get back.

Corpse Pose

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/42409-my-life-on-the-post-road-corpse-pose

You know your yoga practice is working when you get better at life, not at a certain pose,” intones the gracious and gifted yoga Master Teacher Jillian Pransky.

Her expert tutelage evokes many such “aha” moments during a weeklong Therapeutic Restorative Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.  Nestled in the heart of the autumn Berkshires, this place cradles me in a gold, crimson, and orange embrace.  The community of like-minded people, too, has embraced me in acceptance and connection.  I anticipate a bumpy re-entry into the atmosphere of those whose eyes glaze over when I extoll yoga’s myriad benefits.

I am most drawn to this deeply calming practice as I get older and, I hope, wiser.  The steady stream of people leaving my life – through divorce, children maturing, and parents dying – has made for choppy seas.  Yoga practice does not necessarily calm the waters; it is the natural Dramamine that helps steady me in the waves.

One evening Jillian asks that we attend her restorative yoga class held for the entire Kripalu community.  Hardly a hardship, this is the best homework I’ve “had” to do.  The class is divine.

Savasana, or corpse pose, closes every yoga session.  Practitioners believe it’s the most important pose because during this prone position, with eyes closed, the body integrates all it has experienced during the practice.  It makes you whole.  It can, though, be as challenging as it is relaxing, because the stillness can be scary.  It opens you up and leaves you vulnerable.  But of course, visiting those dark places can illuminate them and make them less frightening.

Usually in Savasana I feel quite expansive.  The boundaries between my body and the air around me soften, and I open up. This evening though, I feel expansive, but within my body.  I feel separate from it, as if I am looking at it from the inside – able to poke up at this vessel I inhabit with curiosity and wonder.

The English meaning of the Sanskrit name feels particularly poignant on this night.  When my sister and I sat by my mother’s side nearly a year ago as she lay dying, after she’d lapsed into that space between here and there, I often wondered how she felt, what she experienced.  Lying in Savasana this evening, I feel I now know.  Tears roll down my cheeks and onto the yoga mat as I experience, in the most tangible way I ever have, my soul.

In the morning session, we debrief about our experience.  I feel reluctant to share mine with the group despite their clearly demonstrated unconditional acceptance.  They’ll think I’m crazy.

Still, I tentatively raise my hand, and when Jillian recognizes me, I begin.  The room listens in respectful silence as I recount what is difficult for me to even put into words.  I notice some of the students put their hands together at their heart into Anjali mudra, the mudra of honoring.  Eyes lower, and I hear soft sniffles of compassion.  And I, too, cry as I explain how deeply the practice, and especially Savasana, affected me last night.  I have struggled for nearly a year to make peace with my grief.  As I open up to the class, like I did to my feelings in Savasana, I allow myself to look at them, to touch them, to acknowledge them in a way that I’ve not done since she died.  The parallel I see between the peace I felt in the pose and the peace she must have felt at the end brings me profound comfort.

“Thank you so much for sharing that,” Jillian says as she wraps me in a deep and consoling hug.  And I feel no regret, shame, or judgment at having verbalized the profound moment.  Quite to the contrary, I feel I’ve let a little bit of sadness that I’ve been holding onto inside dissipate into the solace surrounding me.