Part 3: In which I stage an attack and have revenge exacted upon me by the universe
By day three of the yoga teacher training we had covered the spine, by day five the systems of the body and by day nine we were in the groove. Eight hours of training per day was leading to about 1.5 minutes of reading before my eyes closed and I’m just assuming the bugs starting crawling all over me, although I’ll never know. I never had any bites or a rash or anything. I was sleeping easily 10 hours on a hard mattress, waking up sore and doing it all over again. I was hungry and sweaty and getting achier by the day, but at least I was occupied. Looking at things from the most positive light was something I was working on.
“Tomorrow’s a big day,” I told the ants the night of day ten. I had doused them with a bucket of water two nights before, but they had reorganized and returned, apparently with no hard feelings. After washing my face in the shower (no sink, remember), I fished my mosquito repellent out of my bag (99% DEET!) and sprayed the wall. They fell to their deaths on the dirty blue tile.
My divorce was to be final the next day. My lawyer’s office had emailed me the week before. “The judge will be back on Wednesday and sign your decree then,” the paralegal had written. “I’ll shoot you an email as soon as I know.”
The next morning after yoga I ate my mueslix standing up and set off over the craggy hill to the Sanctuary, a nearby resort with western food and internet access for 30 baht for ten minutes. The sun beat down through the humid mist. I draped a sarong over my shoulders, but the sun seared through it anyway. Sweat poured down my temples, over my stomach, between my legs. Also, an old back injury had resurfaced so I was walking with a bit of a limp and pausing intermittently for forward bends. I should have waited until it was cooler or I felt better, but I didn’t want to.
Today was the day. After ten years of being just another half, I would be, once again, just one. I wanted to know. I didn’t want to wait another day, until the evening, one more hour.
I made it across the sand to the resort’s computer center, flipped off my shoes at the door and logged in. The connection was so slow it took three whole minutes to see my inbox. But finally, inevitably, there it was:
There was no email from the paralegal. Or my lawyer. Or anyone having anyone to do with it. I refreshed the screen in disbelief. I sighed. I had taken four planes, a van and two questionably maintained boats to this tiny island to escape my problems, but they had followed me there and waved to me from across the beach.
You are not allowed to move on, they said. Nice try.
I sat in our meditation session for nearly two hours that afternoon – Director was quite good at guiding us through meditation – taking deep breaths and watching frustration, anger, resentment and sadness swirl around my awareness. The only problem was, we had learned in lecture that we were to acknowledge these and watch them come and go. They were supposed to be transient. Mine were just hovering there, staring at me.
Go away, I begged.
They flitted around and eventually took a seat. “We’re staying,” they said.
They were just like the ants. Taunting me.
By the time evening rolled around, I hated everyone. Well, mostly myself, really, and every decision I had ever made that had gotten me to where I was. I was stiff as a board, my positivity practice had been shelved and I couldn’t have cared less about where I was or learning new asanas and demonstrating them perkily for the class, which is what we normally did at this time. So when an Irish woman with brown hair and freckles arrived and announced that she would be lecturing us about the chakras, my cup spilled over with surprise and relief. I didn’t have to do anything. And I was actually sort of interested in the chakras. I could just sit and listen. The day was finally looking up.
Ireland came to a cross-legged position on the floor and beckoned to us. “Come in closer,” she said, inviting us in until we were so close our knees nearly touched. She smiled and folded ringed fingers in her lap.
I was okay at first.
“The seven chakras are not physical entities but psychic energy centers located at various points from the base of the spine to the crown of the head,” she began. “The chakras – Sanskrit for “wheel” – function by turning, distributing energy freely…
“Svadisthana chakra – the pelvic chakra – relates to creative energy, passion and desire. Bad relationships or a poorly matched partner are not good for this chakra…”
“…if energy in the Manipura chakra is balanced, the person likes herself, has high self-worth, is quite free…”
I looked down at my notebook and quietly took a deep breath.
“The fourth chakra is the Anahata chakra. The heart chakra. If this chakra is turning properly, one feels love, kindness, empathy, compassion, joy, gentleness, laughter, and bravery…
“If not, there is sadness, grief, loneliness, devastation, love deprivation and hurt…”
Tears pooled in my eyes.
“Often this originates from an incident of betrayal or mistrust…”
I pinched the space between my eyes and tried to wipe them away. Please, no more. We can go back to teaching practice, learning asanas, whatever.
Just not this.
I got my wish a few minutes later when she suggested we use the last twenty minutes of class for a brief practice. I rolled out my mat. Twenty minutes was nothing. Maybe after ten minutes we would find our way to savasana and that would be it. This whole, ridiculous day would be over.
Nice try, they said.
When we stepped back to plank, my arms shook like leaves. I had gotten to the point where I was so tired and sore that I couldn’t hold myself. When we pushed up into cobra, my lower back sang out. When we pressed back into downward dog, hot pain shot through my palms. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I had been practicing yoga for fifteen years. It was like in all that time I had learned nothing and I was right back at the beginning.
Just like my life, I realized.
Ireland treaded by me and paused. I could feel her watching me and wondering: Did this person just start yoga? What is she doing here?
This was a good question.
I sat back into child’s pose. My cheeks pinched, and my lip quivered so I bit down on it hard and told it to stop. I pressed my face hard into the mat and breathed deeply, but it didn’t work. Tears streamed onto it like a river.
When I couldn’t stop, I stood up and stomped out, eyes following me out like bees.
I was leading the most fragile existence. On the outside, perhaps there was nothing remarkable to see. On most days I felt like a hiker on a mountain path, making my way along, head down, putting one foot in front of the other in a completely forgettable way. But one gust of wind, one missed step, one loose rock, and I would fall. Even a tilt of the head and an, Are you okay? from a stranger and my eyes would start to burn and I would have to look away. It’s possible to abandon a person without really leaving them, you know? Marriage taught me this. We were supposed to be together forever, but when you don’t trust someone anymore, what is the point? When your spouse treats strangers with more consideration than he treats you, what can you do? Nothing. It had taken me years to realize this gem of wisdom. You can’t make someone keep their promises to you if you’re not important to them anymore. You just can’t.
So I had left. I had packed up my things, told him to take my name off our accounts and left.
“Are you okay?” She found me on a plastic chair on the sand, in the dark, alone.
“I just feel really broken,” I managed to get out.
“That’s a good place to be,” she said, and smiled, like I had just told her everything was aces. “Do you want to talk about it?”
There was rain. The waves crashed, waves so big the locals sat on the beach and watched. Sometimes it was hard to hear in the shala. They said it was going to continue like this. This didn’t make sense. It was the dry season. It rained anyway.
Kristina Chandler is a lawyer and certified yoga teacher who began practicing yoga in 1994 to rehab an injury, fell in love and has been hitting the mat ever since. She’s practiced yoga all over the globe, from Bali to Sweden and many places in between. Check out her other musings on yoga here.