A Life Well Spent

The yoga teacher certification program that I am currently taking is quite intensive. I find that I am not posting here as often as usual, so please bear with me. Also, please understand when my entries end up being so yoga focused (or influenced). I am basically eating (literally–I will tell you about yoga meals in an upcoming post), sleeping, and reading yoga right now.

As I was lying in Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of the two-hour practice which started our training today, I was struck by how very much I love Savasana now and never want to come out of the pose (which is basically lying on your back flat against the earth, palms facing up). When I first started doing yoga about eight or so years ago, I used to go into Savasana and just think about how I wanted to get up as soon as possible. I was so impatient with taking a few minutes to pause and couldn’t stop thinking about all of the stuff I had to do. Now, I experience Savasana as the wonderful culmination of a practice filled with the right level of push and pull (contradictions), ease and resistance, challenge and rest.  I realized today that, if done right, a good asana (yoga poses) practice should be like a mini version of life and Savasana (and Buddhists certainly use it this way) as a mini version (or rehearsal for) of death. When I am on my death bed, I hope that I willingly slip into the deep rest that awaits me, feeling peace in the life well spent. A life of rest and peace, but also one of challenge and risk. I hope that I am ready to give my earthly body to the earth and I do not resist it, like I used to resist Savasana in my early years of practicing yoga.

I guess I became very introspective today, because I started thinking about all of the wonderful experiences that I’ve already had in my life. I feel quite blessed because, in many respects, I feel that I’ve already experienced many lives right within this one life of mine. Sometimes this happens through reading a book, like Into Thin Air–where I experience mountain climbing without ever traveling to the Himalayas. More often, however, truly living involves taking risks or at least getting out of my comfort zone and having an experience. Experiences are the one thing that cannot be taken from you. (I think that Viktor Frankl said this in Man’s Search for Meaning).

In this light, I thought I’d list twelve highly meaningful experiences that I’ve had in my life. Doing so will prompt me to stack some more such experiences in. So here it goes:

  1. Swimming with my friend Julie’s dogs, Chloe and Scout, in Lake Michigan at a dog beach (essentially, swimming with dogs). I still carry the joy of this experience with me.
  2. Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water in Pennsylvania. Honestly, if you are ever in Pittsburgh, it is so worth the effort to rent a car and drive to this masterfully built dwelling. From just being in this place (I would say a sacred place), I felt an amazing inner peace touching me for weeks to come.
  3. Spending the weekend alone at the Regensburg Jazz Festival at the end of my summer studying in Regensburg, Germany, just walking from square to square, beer garden to beer garden, listening to some fantastic jazz music, eating brotchen and drinking the best kaffee of my life.
  4. Traveling with Hannah and Ethan to the Winnipeg Folk Festival about five years back or so. Really, I realize now that kids grow up so fast, you just have to do stuff like this or the time passes you by. It was such a wonderful experience for all of us. And we got to see The Be Good Tanya’s (a favorite band of mine) and Ethan thought it was a bit like Woodstock (lots of mud and sliding around).
  5. Going to Wolfridge Environmental Learning Center family camp with Hannah and Ethan. I only did it once, when they were about 8 and 10. Seemed like there was so much time to do this a second time, but I never fit it in again. It was just a delightful experience for all of us. And the ropes course helped us all to face our fears (me as a single parent, the kids facing what it is that 8 and 10 year olds face) and understand the inner strength that we can always draw upon. And wow, everything about the week was just wonderful. Thank you Heidi of the past for giving this experience to me. I still treasure it.
  6. Taking a flight into JFK in New York with Hannah and cabbing to the Broadway theater where Spring Awakening (with Lea Michelle and Jonathan Graff–then not so well known) was playing, risking a plane ticket on our one slim shot for student rush tickets and having Hannah win the lottery for rush tickets, getting seats in the front row.
  7. Camping out with my band friends from the Rhinestone Diplomats, who got Ethan and I into 10,000 Lakes Festival for free because they were playing that year. Ethan and I saw Tim Reynolds play his amazing guitar up close. I was out there hula hooping to Michael Franti and Spearhead and of course, dancing to the Rhinestone Diplos. And just hanging around the campfire with guitars flying.
  8. Attending New Orleans JazzFest with Chris when I was pregnant; even when I was so nauseous and seeing the Dave Matthews Band in that setting. We also saw Wilco on a small stage and Erakah Badu, among others. Even though I was sick much of the time, I am still so very glad we did this trip. Jazzfest had been a bucket-list item of mine for quite some time.
  9. Spending my Saturday mornings for one year (the year of my divorce) sitting mediation with a Buddhist  Priest at my Episcopal church. I learned so much from him. I learned how to pay attention to the ebb and flow of comfort and discomfort, pain and joy; I learned how to get quiet enough to hear the still small voice inside. And now that we are required to sit 20 minutes everyday (for our yoga training), it seems pretty easy. I know that there are BuJews. I think I am a BuChri. The buddhist tradition carries so many gems to bring us all close to our God.
  10. Texas RenFest with Chris (and the Nacogdoches gang). Fire-rimmed hula hoopers, drums, pine trees, a whip in the darkness, challenging my fear of snakes (merely due to the venue, I wasn’t snake handling–haven’t done that since I was six years old, with Ranger Jane in the Badlands), and dressing up and playing Lord of the Rings (in essence). A bit of hedonism, yes. Ha, ha. But ohh, good times.
  11. Attending U2 concert alone in 2001, close enough to see whites of Bono’s eyes, drinking in his energy and enthusiasm for life (watching how he can give to every last member of a stadium audience), and making friends with those around me. Challenging myself at every turn. The beginning of a decade that would challenge me in every way and grow me in every way.
  12. Retreating alone to the Oregon coast for two nights, one day, in the middle of a business trip a few years ago. Honestly, it was literally the perfect day. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced a perfect day from beginning to end. It stays with you for a lifetime. The knowledge that you can have a perfect day seems to allow some buoyancy during the darker times of life. I think that I even read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea on that day and I think she says “You get perfect days, not perfect lifetimes.” Or something like that (forgive me for not looking it up). Knowing that such days are possible makes everything else worth while.

Yes, I’ve had some quiet years again recently (from an experience standpoint). There is a time to stay at home and nurture your young intensely (the nursing time for me). But now, we are moving into a time when we can build the fires higher again; a time to create some treasured memories with Josh and Ethan still. Even Hannah when she can fit us in. Because kids grow up too soon and well, we grow old too soon. But to rest knowing you’ve lived a life well spent, well that is a blessed thing.