Dear Readers, some of you know me more personally than others. There is a facet of my personality to which I have only recently become enlightened, though those closest to me are infinitely more familiar with it than I can even imagine. You see, there is Me, the person most know and love, and then there is Me in a Tree. That’s a whole name; Hello, my name is Me in a Tree. That’s the anxious little creature in my head who lurks and banters with Me about things that I usually can’t control.
I’ve been watching interactions between Me and Me in a Tree lately and it’s interesting. Me in a Tree hates being emotionally or mentally centered. To hell with physical alignment. Me can only do so much to stay balanced, and there’s a lot of shit out there that’ll throw me off my center.
The more I practice yoga, the better I feel. Maybe I un-wrench a wrenched piriformis muscle http://wp.me/pKCsJ-io . Maybe I forward fold to my heart’s content after a bad night at work (paschimottanasana take me away!) I blame yoga, at least in part, for my marked decrease in aggression and greater emotional sensitivity. Sometimes, old dreams or an unbidden calling will not leave Me alone; grief and bubbling humor mingle in the mind as my heart opens and grows stronger.
Tonight I’m at work. There are eighteen members of a single family waiting in the lobby for a table. They are milling around when I walk through to go to the restroom. There is a plume of fragrance, like fabric softener and spicy cologne vying for dominance. I smell Lancome Tresor on the women. The smells compliment each other. In the midst of this group I pass a man who lifts a child about the age and size of my niece. He loves this child. I don’t know if he is the uncle, big brother or father, but it’s in his eyes. And they smell like love and laundry.
This fragrance combination steeps in my archives from a post I wrote when my cat died. The actual fragrance wafts with me into the bathroom, where at once I am unraveling my apron tie and the next I recall every moment I held that fragrance to my face. I turn around in the narrow stall, hanging my apron on the purse hook of the door. I maneuver my tie and tuck my glasses into my pocket so they don’t take an unceremonious dip in the toilette. I think love and laundry. http://wp.me/pKCsJ-6R
Histrionic Me in a Tree says, I can’t think of this right now, I can’t bear it. And proceeds to ruminate on it. And then the emotionally sound Me thinks back without missing a beat; I have thought it and felt it and I’m fine. This is beautiful. I return to my breath as my thoughts return from a time I didn’t think I could bear. But things born of love are such an outrage that we bear them, beautifully.
At once, I want to leave work and go to a bar.
I want to leave work and go home to my living cats.
I want to go home and fold over something and stay there.
I want to go home because there is an ache in my heart and it is poisonous.
Let me tell you a story.
Before time as we know it, there was a war raging between the celestials and the demons. To turn the battle in their favor, the devas need the Amrita, an elixir of life, which is tucked safely at the bottom of an ocean of milk. In order to retrieve the vessel containing the end to their problems, the god of preservation, Vishnu, suggests the devas and demons work together.
Under Vishnu’s supervision, the devas and demons upend a great mountain and persuade Vasuki, king of the snakes, to be the lever made to spin this mountain in the ocean. Like a spinning top, the mountain moves the milk and a cyclone forms, first revealing great treasures from its depths.
The devas and demons are focused on the glistening pot of immortality beginning to reveal itself in the wake of their labors. Even as the desired fruit of their labors bucks to the surface among these many boons, a poison is leeched from the tumultuous milky waves.
If the poison mingles with the ocean it will bring destruction to the whole world. The effort to gain possession of immortality’s elixir is futile in the face of such great tragedy. Brahma, the creator, begs intercession from the Lord of Yoga, Shiva, known in this trinity as the destroyer. Shiva turns the poison to his lips before it touches the earth. Shiva swallows the product of this ardent practice and in so doing receives yet another title, Nilakantha, the One with the Blue Throat.
It is no accident that the Lord of Yoga is able to swallow the poison that would destroy everyone and everything else on the planet. That’s what yoga does. But it’s not the entire planet about which we are speaking. The poison is in the mind. It did not occur to me that a yoga practice could churn the emotional and mental landscape and allow me the ability to navigate it.
My yoga practice is practical. Emotional sensitivity is not practical, a yoga butt is. So first I get a yoga butt. But then an unbidden emotional intrusion casts light on a deep reserve of compassion I didn’t know I’d been building through my practice; a practice I can even use in a bathroom at the Olive Garden.
Then I see my center, from way far off.
Then I think I’m gonna teach this yoga stuff, because that’s what happens next, right?
Then something happens to my mind and heart and they meet on the battleground of loss and hurt and I return to my practice not on a mat or in a retreat but in a toilette stall in a restaurant where I carry trays that feel too heavy for my back.
Then I realize I can never teach this stuff.
I can only introduce it. You have to meet your own self in a tree.
I can say that yoga works, even though I don’t know how. But much like love and laundry, some things don’t have to make sense.