Two years ago, I found myself with nothing to do on a crisp, November evening.
My mother was safely in her bed, my father, out with a friend. No one needed me, nothing had to be done, no crises demanded handling. This feeling of not being needed was new to me, as the past year (my 25th), I had spent all my energy and time caregiving for my mother, ill with Dementia.
I consulted a friend. “What should I do with myself,” I pleaded, and she paused, then with gusto, prodded, “Go to yoga!”
Yoga had always been a strange cousin to my rich family of activities. It always seemed like we would get along, but I never had the courage to reach out first. My complete lack of balance coupled with a fear of spandex always nagged me to stay at home and watch TV instead.
However, this day was different. This day, I was desperate for some tranquility, and was searching for relief from the stress that caregiving deeply carves into body and soul.
As I nervously entered the lavender scented candlelit foyer, I mumbled my newness and rented a mat. Practice began, and I stretched, stumbled, sweated and silently cursed my way through the most difficult yoga class I had ever practiced. I pleaded for the end, hoped no one was watching my fumbles, and when relief from clenching my horribly hibernating muscles arrived, I gratefully collapsed into corpse pose.
The room darkened, the incense was lit, and a quiet humming song played in the background. My heart opened as I lay there, the stress peeling away, and I felt the work I had done. Tears flowed from my eyes. I cried for my mother, whose progressive illness called me to move home, for my weary and defeated father, whose deep grief I could not help, I cried for the tension that had built up in myself throughout the sleepless nights and emotional trauma that occurs when you watch your loved one disintegrate before your eyes.
I realized this was the first moment I had fully slowed down in a year. I cried for that too. I, for once, was not worrying about whether my mother was okay, I was not needed to write a check or research a medication, I did not need to feel numb. My mind was still racing, but in that sweet, silent moment, I found some joy.
I focused on my toes and made my way up to the crown of my head. I listened to my tense hips, I heard the whispers of my knotted, hunched shoulders. I felt the ache of a heart breaking in grief. I felt all these things, and was grateful for each.
The class created a tranquility so raw it surprised me. My practice had squeezed my pain and stress out through my eyes and released the tension. In doing so, my strange cousin started to feel more like a dear old friend, cozy and warm, comfortable and safe, knowing just what I needed.
I had found space to process, space to rest. Not in the studio, or from the warmth of the room, or in the community of fellow yogis, or even in my favorite instructor, but within the cozy bedroom of my own soul. I wrapped myself up in comforters of mindfulness and let the pillows of peace surround my mind. I had discovered the superhero ability to reach inside myself to attain my own sense of calm.
The inevitable, and always unwelcome “start wiggling your fingers and toes” interrupted my tearful, sleepy epiphany, and I began to slink back into my environment.
A quote was softly spoken,
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh.
I slowly wiggled myself awake and considered my situation. I would assuredly return home to find an unyielding stack of medical bills, and an overly fatigued father, but I wouldn’t be alone this time.
This time, I would have my dear friend by my side, reminding me to go home to the present, and take care of myself along the journey.
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Author: Abigail Eisley
Editor: Catherine Monkman
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