October 12, 2013

Within Existence Life Itself Begins. ~ Yolanda Suarez

We each choose different methods to swim through the waters of grief and I chose to submerge myself in yoga.

Some things change us forever—no matter how hard we try we can never again find the key to unlock the door into where we once existed. For me, both great sadness and a personal choice of how to overcome that sadness took place within the same space in time and carried me to a point of no return.

Like millions of people with whom I share this planet, and who have lived through similar experiences, I awoke one day in December 2012 without the knowledge that it would be a day where life would never again be the same.

I received a phone call that my youngest brother had taken his own life.

Suicide: the veiled international disaster that we are yet to learn how to prevent or recover from. This was to be the moment where the first door locked behind me and I would never be able to find my way back to where I had once existed.

The decisions, lifestyle and mental state of my beautifully imperfect brother were always of great concern to those nearest him and there were not likely many different destinations to be reached on the road he chose to travel.

There are many descriptions attributed to the mental state of those in anguish and I have difficulty in labeling any ‘mental illness’/ It is automatically confined into general descriptions and symptoms, with very few remedies offered, other than our ever increasing reach for medications. I figure, if the cure was as simple as swallowing a pill, why then are thousands of people worldwide choosing to end, with such grievous finality, the anguish in which they reside?

In my view, my brother was encaged in a world of emotional and mental anguish, which not even he fully understood.

Sometimes I wonder whether my lack of action to his anguish was due to apathy? As painful as that is to admit to myself, I believe at times we walk besides those in pain, trouble, or need, and do nothing—or, very little. We are busy, too tired, or simply because (as was the case with my beautifully imperfect brother) we arrive at that place over and over again and, in frustration, give up—or, hope for miraculous change. I am still coming to terms with that.

As is so often spoken about, the loss from suicide is loaded with many, many emotions.

A continual battle of emotions now share space in my mind. One day I move from being at peace in knowing my brother now rests; to anger for his actions and the choices which led him to that decision on that day; to guilt for not being there where I should have been; to acceptance of another’s choice in life; to sorrow for the great loss of life; to sadness for knowing that this person who had shared a life with me spent his final moments so alone. The merry-go-round goes around and around and around…

We each choose different methods to swim through the waters of grief and I chose to submerge myself in yoga.

“I believe that those of us who practice yoga have been sent to yoga by our pain”, wrote Rolf Gates in 2002’s Meditations from the Mat—and although I was already practicing, I dove deeper in.

I made a life partner of yoga, encompassing everything from my work, to my practice, to my actions, and it was at this point—when I took on yoga as my method of recovery—that the second door where I once existed locked behind me, the key lost forever.

My pain propelled me to take on yoga like I had not done before. I was searching for a way out of the suffering; a yearning for calmness and clarity both in my mind and in my heart. I came to terms with the fact, very early on, I was not able to shift the darkness without help. I needed to strengthen the notion of acceptance about my brother’s decision. I needed to feel kindness, love and spirit in a heart that was quickly filling with anger and regret. I needed to feel my brother’s presence.

As a result of strengthening yoga in my life, on most days there is a change in the way I view the world. There is a little bit of my brother whom I carry with me everywhere; a passenger that was not there before that day in December.

There are still days when the grief is so great that I wish for nothing more than to shut myself off from the world, to be alone.  Moments when conversations seem insignificant, almost wasteful. I allow myself these spaces in time and immerse myself in that grief.

During these times I remind myself: it is as it is and this too shall pass—and it does.

I also look to the teachings and guidance within the philosophy of yoga. I remind myself that we are more than just our physical self.  I seek solace in the silence, concentration and stilling-of-the-mind exalted in asana—quietening the chaos of thoughts and emotions that encircle me about my brother’s choice.

Working on controlling my breath through pranayama brings a calmness and balance into my world through which I, in those moments, find peace.

On most days I sit silently in a place where I work on acknowledging the beauty which resides before my eyes. I remind myself that, from a place of truth, that very beauty stems and, that somehow, in some way, I will leave this world a better place than when I entered it, and a better being.

Allowing yoga into my life has done that for me. It has been the remedy that has taken me beyond a state of prostrate-being—where I thought I might reside forever—to a place where, on most days at least, I am at peace with my brother’s decision and content with my own choices.

The saddest day of my life carried me to yoga and both swing me from one side of the pendulum to the other: from the utter despair of loss to the hope and happiness of living.

By each of their hands, for better and for worse, I am in a new place from whence I can never find my way back to where I once existed. I now understand that it is within existence itself that life begins.


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Assistant Ed. Paige Vignola/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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