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January 15, 2022

My Peace of Mind didn’t Come from my Spiritual Practice—It came from This.

 

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I sit so very alone and still this early winter morning.

Alone and still, as I often am these days, but not, I’d say, lonely. Instead of putting me off, being still and alone draws me in, forcing an unexpected focus on the aliveness in my old body and, suddenly, a desire to understand why that is.

What is there to say but “thank you” for this last strange year with myself, which—because it stemmed first from COVID-19, then from Trond’s sad death and, more recently, from a relentless, extreme fatigue—I haven’t always appreciated?

Today I am grateful.

Here I am, all by myself, with not a single thing planned for the day. It’s true I am, as of late, profoundly tired. And I’m a little confused, wondering why I’m here at all, let alone in relatively good spirits, given the horrific losses I’ve faced in the last few years. But I am here, thank God, and I want to take a moment to celebrate it!

Even my daughter, who knows me as well as anybody, seems surprised at how upbeat I manage to remain. How can I make jokes and laugh at myself—and life—after losing my dear husband of 50 years, my two homes, my entire East Coast life, and, most critically perhaps, my precious energy in what seemed like the flash of an eye?

All that with Trond’s life-robbing, soul-dousing dementia—and a horrific year of seeing him through to the end of it—thrown into the mix?

I honestly don’t know where my persistent, good humor comes from. But for want of a better word, I will call it Grace.

I can’t attribute my relative well-being to a sustained spiritual practice because I haven’t maintained one for longer than I care to admit. In an act of the transparency I remain committed to, I must tell you that many of my otherwise empty hours are spent reading magazines, watching political commentary on MSNBC, or in bed resting. Although I sometimes sit up as if to meditate, I rarely enjoy the sweet results I’d come to expect from more regular practice.

Sure, I try to take the long, deep yoga breaths and repeat the mantra I taught to others for years. I say “try” because I am easily distracted by the monkey mind that yogis complain about. The difference is I seem to accept that with increased equanimity now.

Some of my former yoga students purport to continue to this day the postures and breathing I practiced and shared with them decades ago. While it’s true I’ve continued often to sit quietly with eyes closed, to call my recent attempts a meditation practice would be an overstatement.

And my current sporadic Pilates training hardly compares to my deep asana practice of decades ago. So no, I can’t thank what we think of as a sustained spiritual practice for my peace of mind. So how is it I’ve survived and, at times, even thrived?

It’s not easy to articulate. But I think it has to do with a growing self-awareness, and especially a profound “body” awareness, gleaned from the years I did practice yoga assiduously. Down on the floor, stretching and sitting cross-legged for meditation and pranayama, I learned to be with myself—body, mind, and spirit.

Myself as I am.

Imperfect and real.

A very human being.

That simple yoga practice, melding physical and spiritual, taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, more and more at peace with all that I am and, ultimately, with all that I am not. It taught me patience with my dear self and with the exigencies of life in a limited, and now quickly aging, woman’s body.

It is for that, dear ones—and for your presence here with me now—that I find myself grateful today.

May God bless us all.

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