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loveandpatientpartialheartcbl2014

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

For too long I have been silent. No more. My heart hurts for the discourse I read, and then further when I hear that some in our country are carrying out acts of hatred toward those who are considered the Other. For my friends who believe justice has been served in this election and that the losers on this side of history should just grow up and accept what has happened, I want them to understand that many people are afraid that is now OK to be judged (and punished) for how they look, or who they love. I’m not got going to grow out of my concern for the Other—and, for me, it is specifically because of what I’ve learned from others of faith and from the Bible. My God is a God of love and my faith compels me to strive to be a person of love—no matter what.

We all pick and choose what we quote from the Bible. I know this is considered a crazy and possibly heretical thought by many Christ-followers, but as a literature major, I can tell you I always read for depth and meaning in everything I read. While I may not know the Greek and Hebrew behind the original creation of the passages we know today, nor do I know all the history surrounding the events in the books of the Bible, I most certainly know to recognize when there are conflicting passages in the Great Book. I must prayerfully consider and reconcile the differences.

For me, I choose to pick the verses where Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love the Lord and God with all your soul and your strength and your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In his exchange in Luke 10 with the expert of the law who correctly answered that those were the most important laws, the man then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by starting out with, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . ”

He launches into the parable of the Good Samaritan–and I’m pretty certain that Samaritans were on some sort of registry there in those days. Who was the hero of that story? The outsider–and the man who showed love. What was Jesus telling us here? That love is love. And to love everyone.

There’s that “love everyone” thing again–which seems really, really hard to do these days.

I’m going to try to love the people who have made statements I consider unconscionable—not because my mean-spirited human heart wants to do so, but because my God asks me to love all my neighbors. We can disagree on how we approach the laws of this country, but unless the rhetoric includes language of kindness and empathy, I want others to know that I won’t stand for it. These days it’s all the rage to be snarky but it isn’t very Christian. And yet that’s just what we Christians are showing the world.

Who is my neighbor? You all are.

 

 

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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My dad’s parents lived well up until their last few years and they lived long—both until 92. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have grandparents who were active and independent—even into my late 20s—before old age finally caught up with them. Before that they made annual car trips halfway across the country to visit their relatives while also being able to drive themselves to watch our sporting events or to come stay with us. Granddad didn’t retire for the final (his third) time until he was in his mid-80s.

Although their own family was small—just my dad and our family—they had a large circle of extended family members and old friends who they always made sure to see. Their best times in old age were spent visiting with these people—something I thought was B-O-R-I-N-G. What I didn’t see then was how they got together with those in their circle, even during hard times. They loved to see new babies or talk about good times, but where they shone was visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes and attending funerals.

I have never been one of those people who walks into a nursing home at ease—though it breaks my heart that so many people are living in bodies and minds that are failing them, I am also afraid of approaching and interacting with them—as if somehow it’s all about me and my discomfort and not theirs. This despite the fact my grandparents brought me to visit in a nursing home often in my younger years because one of their (our) relatives lived there much of her long life after an early head injury. Thanks to them I at least understood that old age didn’t always look like the independence Granddad and Grandma maintained—and I witnessed what faithful commitment to loved ones through hard times looked like.

When my grandmother finally ended up in such a place in the final two years of her life, it was hard for me to see her that way in that space. I didn’t have to face my discomfort too often because I lived far away busy raising toddler twins, but in those years while my grandma declined, my father kept up the good visiting example set before him by his parents.

Later as my own mom descended deep into Alzheimer’s, I moved her into memory care. I had to learn to override my discomfort in order to visit her most days, but I did. And when you visit someone in memory care, you visit many other people beside your own loved one. I wouldn’t say I grew relaxed, but I could reach out to the other (mostly) women who I met there—people who I could see as individuals hanging onto who they were by a slim thread and people who needed to know they were not alone in whatever scary lack of understanding their own minds exhibited. Like my grandparents and father before me, I held hands and talked.

Now, four years since my mom has been gone, we are back to visiting my husband’s mother. A fracture of the femur and subsequent hip surgery sent her to a physical rehabilitation center, but it is an inability of her mind to absorb all the instructions that has finally sent her into a skilled nursing center—aka nursing home—to see if she can recover enough to walk back into her home. Once again we are confronting the frightening realities of people whose bodies and/or minds do not work as they should—including hers. But, still, we hold hands and talk.

My grandparents taught me how to do this—I don’t know if they were ever afraid or sad or tired of going when they went to see people, but they just went and visited. That’s what they did. I had no idea how brave they were to do so year after year for so many people and to keep visiting until they visited one last time for the final goodbye.

Visiting someone in a care facility is hard for me but I have to remind myself how much harder it has to be to be a person at the mercy of failing bodily systems away from my home and those whom I love. God bless the workers who care for our loved ones in our absence, but may we never forget how much power there is in spending our own time with those loved ones who long for who and how they once were and how we can give them a connection to the lives they have led outside their confinement.

I used to think my grandparents’ use of the word visiting spelled B-O-R-I-N-G, but now I know it spelled L-O-V-E. Now, that was living well.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Yoga is funny—there you are being all mindful—or at bare minimum focusing on how long you have been in the moment of one particular pose—when something else pops into your mind. Maybe something about moving a certain part of your body brings that thought to surface or maybe it’s just another mystery of how your own mind works.

At the end of Wednesday’s class, I thought I was relaxing into savasana when somehow my mind turned to who I was when I was growing up. Too many heart-chakra opening poses so soon after my recent high school reunion trip must have jogged my brain into thoughts of, well, jogging/running.

And just like that I was mad at running.

Oh, Running, I thought you were The One. My first True Love. I was devoted to you—monogamous. Sure, when I met you, I did so with my teammates at my side. Unlike some of those girls, I never shirked on workouts or pretended I didn’t see the coach’s signal to start. You should have loved them more—with their longer legs and easy breathing—but they would not commit to you as I did.

And when that school year ended, I began taking those baby steps that lead toward what eventually became an obsession. We began to meet almost daily. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor unrelenting winds that ranged from 95-degree furnace blasts to sub-zero chills that froze my eyelashes together—kept me from my appointments with you.

I wanted more from you—I dreamed of glory but what I got was quiet time and peace in the moment and a chance to hear the thoughts in my own head. As the miles passed beneath my feet, I learned to love the process and how not to focus only on results.

But you turned out to be a fickle lover. You broke my heart with a kind of pain I didn’t expect. I knew the pain of working hard and strengthening my body. I knew the pain of keeping moving through all sorts of weather or feeling as if my lungs could not catch air—which was ironically the result of an undetected medical condition that would not be discovered until 13 ½ years after we started together. What I didn’t know was that though my body was designed to keep up with you, it wasn’t necessarily designed well to do so for as many miles as I did without adjustments to how I moved. That pain didn’t exactly make me stop, but it made me understand I couldn’t just all out follow you without possible repercussions. What I did for love was not enough—I had to protect myself by not trusting you with abandon as I first had.

We’ve had that kind of on-again, off-again relationship that friends will warn you about. I don’t expect so much from you anymore. I set boundaries for myself and—mostly—live with them. Though I still have the speed to try to catch you, I’m not ready to push myself just to have another piece of me break again. I see you more as an old friend these days than as the focus of my passion. And that’s mostly OK. That we can still meet is almost good enough—except for during those rare moments when my heart remembers that I thought we could have so much more together.

Maybe if I keep working, one pose at a time, I’ll find the peace that brings me to accept that however many miles you and I get to share, those miles belong to a good-sized portion of the best days of my life—past, present, and future. May all that practice help me to open up to releasing what was in order to make space for whatever is yet to come.

Jenne

Jenne

She was the closest I had to a sister. Our families kept the keys to the other family’s house, shot off fireworks, traded watching and/or driving kids as needed, shared Christmas Eve dinners, watched football games, and had nights filled with Nerf Wars (the kids) and card games (the adults). We lived just across the street from one another—our lives were so interwoven that we all knew we had a second set of parents looking out for us—even when we’d prefer we didn’t.

Our brothers were the same age so as soon as her family moved to town, the boys started shooting hoops together, playing backyard baseball, and, in general, terrorizing the kid-free neighbors with the perfect lawns who didn’t appreciate all the balls and Frisbees that flew across property lines.

She was younger than I was by four years but I never really minded playing with her. I remember our post-swim stops at Mahula’s, especially the time she got the cotton candy stuck in her still-wet hair. Wherever our brothers played sports—football, basketball, and baseball—we went along, especially looking forward to the post-game ice creams and other treats. Eventually we found our own sports—she, softball, and me, track—so we didn’t always have to trail around in their always moving footsteps.

When I left for college, the year after our brothers left, I lost track of the near-daily interactions but not of the long distance news and the get-togethers that still happened when I came home on breaks. She grew up, too, leaving for college the year I left home for good to find my way in the adult world. I always thought I would see her again.

I had hoped to make it back for the weekend before the usual Christmas Eve celebration since I would only need that one day off to go home for four days. My boss denied my request, saying I hadn’t been at the company long enough. Instead I watched my co-workers get drunk while they listened to Madonna. I wasn’t in Kansas—OK, Nebraska—any longer, was I?

My father’s phone call woke me the following Saturday. Jenne was dead, killed in a car accident while home from college on Christmas Break.

I didn’t ask to take New Year’s Eve off—I told work I had experienced a death in what was pretty much my family. I wasn’t going to sit at work, watching co-workers get drunk while a father and mother and brother buried our Jenne. I took off in my hardly road-worthy ’62 Rambler, daring the bitter cold to stop me—which it did not. While home, the voluminous trunk served as a stand-in freezer for the outpouring of food a grieving community kept delivering.

At all the gatherings at the home of the heartbroken family, I kept expecting her to walk in and say, “What are you all doing here? I’m not dead.”

But, of course, she was and still is these thirty years later. We’re left to wonder who she would have grown up to be and what kind of a middle-aged woman she would be right now. Over the years I think of her at strange times. When I’m typing—because she was good at typing and I am not. When I started having grownup friends who were born the same year she was. When I see—now rare, of course—a Mustang of the type she drove—the one with the wheel that was knocked away from the force. When a kid with wet hair is eating cotton candy.

After some time had passed, her mom wanted me to take some of her fairly unworn shoes. I did, but I couldn’t really bring myself to wear them after all. I finally realized: I couldn’t fill her shoes. No one could.

Dearest Jenne—sometimes I still can’t believe that’s all you got of life and all we got of you. So much has changed in this world since you left us, but I will never stop remembering what it meant to have you as my little sister from across the street.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

Most all was calm, most all was bright. That’s how this Christmas felt after so many years of distress and darkness. I’m not a person who expects a perfect Christmas, but it’s been a long time since our Christmases felt normal-enough in any way.

First there was the Christmas Eve when my mom fell and we couldn’t deny anymore that who she was was slipping away. There would be three more Christmases with her—each one with less and less of her present. But the first Christmas without her here at all, I could hardly imagine “doing” Christmas, knowing she would not be part of the celebrations at all, except in our memories. And so we created new traditions, even down to changing almost everything about the way we decorated.

But my mother was not the only one who had changed in a big way during all these years. The Christmas after Mom’s fall, my daughter—and our whole family, of course—was also freefalling into a developing mental illness—something with which we had no experience. After initial improvements and a couple seemingly reasonable years, her descent accelerated, all while we were trying to figure out what she needed from the distance as she attended college. Last Christmas, though seemingly bleak enough, brought the present of a different diagnosis—which has led to more appropriate treatments—and a renewed sense of hope—for her and for those of us who love her.

Though I still miss my mother at Christmas—and always will—I am learning to accept her absence and to find comfort and joy in the new traditions, just as I did in the Christmases after I lost my father. For most of us beyond a certain age, figuring out to how celebrate again after losing our grandparents and parents and other older loved ones is a life passage through which we must live. I am finally coming to terms with what Christmas means now for me without both of my parents.

However, a renewed feeling of calm and hope for my own children—something I took for granted years ago—is the most precious gift I have ever received. I treasure these things and ponder them in my heart.

Of course, this Christmas season, though more normal than it has been in years thanks to our daughter’s improved outlook, has not been perfect. Now my husband’s parents are in decline, even if not so precipitously (mentally) as my mom had been. And our son is suffering lingering effects from a concussion he received mid-month—time will yet tell how well he heals.

So crazy how hard it sometimes is to feel the true joy of the greatest miracle of all time when you have been seeking other more personal miracles in the lives of those whom you love. And yet, in my own dark nights of my soul, I continued to understand the longing for light to come into this world—and have clung to that light even when joy itself has seemed elusive except in the smaller moments. I remain grateful for the miracles—small and large—that have happened in our lives.

I open my arms and heart to receive this gift of a Christmas that has had more laughter than tears—something I haven’t been able to say for many long years. One of the greatest miracles is that I can still believe in a merry-enough Christmas after all.

God bless us one and all—especially if this is one of those Christmases when you are still trying to convince yourself to continue believing that one day, you too, will again celebrate a merry-enough Christmas.

Mae graduating from college

Mae graduating from college

Earlier this year I ran into (at a running event!) someone I knew before either of us were mothers and when both of us had mothers. I run very, very short distances and she’s an ultra-marathoner. But what we also share now is a term that was explained in an article she posted prior to Mother’s Day—we are unmothered. That is to say our mothers no longer walk this earth, which makes Mother’s Day forevermore a bit of a sad holiday for us, even as we celebrate being the mothers we have become.

Laurie came up with an idea for her friends to raise money in honor of mothers during May. When I first read her blog post, I thought I would be donating to Alzheimer’s, the disease that stole my mother before she ever left. Quite frankly, though, I forgot about Laurie’s challenge until she posted an update on FB today.

Turns out because of the current situation with the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, I already have donated to a cause my mother would support. I didn’t do it in her honor, but the Malala Fund very much mirrors my mother’s beliefs. Mom believed in education for everyone, but especially for girls and women. My mother got a lot of guff from her neighbors and peers in rural Nebraska for being a smart person who craved learning.

Though she scored high enough on the county test to earn a scholarship to the local college, the fact her small town high school was not accredited kept her from the award. Instead, she worked 30 hours a week at the drug store, taking a full load of classes and participating in a variety of musical, social, and academic clubs and activities.

When she graduated with her teaching degree in 1951, she went to work in K-12 schools, teaching everything from choir and band to music education to the youngest students. What she never told me, but I learned later, was that directing bands had been limited to men. But due to a shortage of male teachers during the Korean Conflict, women got to direct bands for the first time at that time.

While I did not know how groundbreaking her first jobs were, I did know that she and her teaching friends were held to different standards than men were. When a male colleague used to park his car by their lodging to hide the fact he was gambling elsewhere, the women had to worry that they would be fired on suspicion of lax morals. Though concerned he might be fired for gambling, he did not worry about the potential for damaging their reputations and livelihoods. The three women had to resort to removing the distributor cap on his vehicle to remind him to keep them out of his dirty laundry.

Mom studied during her summers, completing her Master’s degree six years later. She knew men in the program who only passed because their wives wrote their papers. She needed no one to write her papers.

People gave her a hard time for pursuing education versus pursuing marriage. The “old maid” met up with my father in the summer of her 29th year and was married less than six months later. Though my father longed for the domestic abilities of more typical women of the era, I could tell he enjoyed her intelligence. My parents hung around other educated couples, people who were enjoying the fruits of being the first generation in their families to achieve college educations. Not a one of those women in that crowd was uneducated.

My mom was a lifelong learner and a lifelong educator. Though she stopped teaching in the schools in her early 40s, she did continue as a paraprofessional for several more years before switching to working as an unemployment claims taker where she attempted to educate those who sat at her desk. Plus, she continued to direct various choirs in the community and churches. She also mentored individual young people, tickled pink (as she would say) by their learning, growth, and achievements.

Mom tended to be reading around three books at a time, usually biographies, histories, and other dense nonfiction works. Her favorite television programs were on the History Channel and PBS.

What she really could not tolerate was people who preferred ignorance or who chose to keep knowledge from others, especially from the poor and/or females. No matter the religion, she scorned those who would squelch learning in the name of some narrow version of worship. Her God was a God who gave us all brains to use in order to create a better society. Her God did not ask us just to operate on feelings or spirit, but also on learning about the times behind the sacred texts and understanding the subtleties of the language. And, her God did not keep women and girls away from books, the pulpit, or work.

My mother would love Malala Yousafzai and the fight she leads to bring education to all, especially those kept away by their sex (whether because they are girls or fidgety boys who don’t fit the system), their caste, their rank, their income level, their religion, or their disability or whatever keeps education from them. Education is a great equalizer—and that’s exactly why certain people want to keep others from it.

May we never stop fighting to provide education—and may we return those to safety who are in danger simply for wanting to grow. Thank you, Mom, for fighting the good fight—I honor you by honoring those who continue that fight.

Mae and Trina, 1995 (Trina's MBA graduation)

Mae and Trina, 1995
(Trina’s MBA graduation)

Trina and Scott with Whiskers, the dog we had after Dee Dee.

Trina and Scott with Whiskers, the dog we had after Dee Dee.

Letting a dog go never gets easier, no matter how many dogs you’ve had cross the Rainbow Bridge in your life.

My in-laws had to say goodbye to another dog today. Today I realized that might be especially hard for them not just because she was their dog, but also because they have gone through this so many times before.

As I was thinking about that, then I realized what day it was and burst into tears for my not-quite-five-year-old self. May Day 1967 was my unwilling initiation into the dog loss club.

Oh, Dee Dee wasn’t an elderly dog—which is something altogether since in those situations we have so many years to connect with our dogs and grow to love them more each year we share.

No, she was my first dog, the one who came to me on my fourth birthday, so small she fit into a grape basket. I never imagined she wouldn’t grow old as I grew up.

May Days in small-town-Nebraska were festival days when kids took their handmade paper baskets, filled them with goodies, and distributed those baskets to the doors of the homes where their friends lived. But the wind and our typical unlocked front door conspired to turn our joy into sorrow. As a family opened our door to protect the gifts they had brought us, out ran our little girl, straight toward the wheels of a vehicle being driven down our normally quiet street.

Not sure if seeing that all happen made it much worse or not. After all, I got that she was really, really gone. Even if I didn’t really understand death, I understood what I witnessed.

She is just the first of the names of my “soft and warm and fuzzy” loved ones written on my heart. Dee Dee, Whiskers, Duncan, Chelsea, Fordham, Abel.

And those are just the names of those who have lived with me over the years. I also have not forgotten many of those dogs who stole the hearts of those humans I also have known and loved.

I definitely get that my in-laws are really, really hurting, too. That’s why I’m bringing my mother-in-law flowers tonight. I can’t fix her pain, but I understand it, although maybe not as well as I will understand when I reach her age.

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

Which is ridiculous because I had loving and active parents for many years of my life. They saw me graduate, get married, and have children. They loved their grandchildren and visited me often once I was a grown-up.

Yet some days I just can’t believe they are gone. That all we had together has come and passed long ago. My grandparents lived so long that I never expected the times with my parents would be over before my own kids were barely out of the home for college.

1962 (Don't worry--my dad was a happier person than in this picture, but A. He is a Lange and they look this way in pictures and B. I think my toddler brother is acting his age and frustrating my father!)

1962 (Don’t worry–my dad was a happier person than in this picture, but A. He is a Lange and they look this way in pictures and B. I think my toddler brother is acting his age and frustrating my father!)

Oh, given their illnesses, I would not have asked either of them to live another day. But healthy? Oh, yes, I’d have taken that. And to have extended my days of watching and worrying over their care to a time when I was not in the middle of raising my own kids. Everyone got shortchanged.

I try not to spend much time in regret or anger, especially knowing that others have had losses much earlier, but then there are the days when I just miss them and it still doesn’t feel right.

My dad has been gone for twelve years. How is that even possible? The good news is that when I recently saw pictures of him in his last months, ravaged by cancer, I realized I had almost forgotten how he looked then. My memories have reverted to the way he had looked the rest of the time I knew him—which is such a blessing.

I pray the day comes for me with my mother when I forget all that Alzheimer’s stole from her—and from everyone who loved and relied on her. So though she died just over three years ago, the mother I knew left for good over six years ago. My rational self knows that I am an adult woman of over half a century (!) but sometimes I feel exactly like a motherless child. I suppose that is a feeling many of us experience from time to time for the rest of our days—until we leave our own (adult) children feeling like motherless (or fatherless) children.

1964, Trina

1964, Trina

You don’t have to watch too many television shows or movies or read too many books to find the theme that because we love, we hurt—and conversely, because we have been loved, we also hurt. This is a universal part of the human experience—and if we have been truly blessed, we have been loved well from our very first days.

I am so grateful that some days I do feel like an orphan, not because I was abandoned at a young age, but because I was loved so well—and know exactly what I am missing.

Perhaps it’s Holy Week that brings these emotions to a surface, but, thanks be to Holy Week and its culmination in Easter I know that one day none of us need be orphans any longer.

Dick and Mae, Christmas 1981

Dick and Mae, Christmas 1981

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Still embroiled in the yoga changes here, but am trying to breathe and stay in the moment. As a woman—named Sunshine appropriately enough—said in Saturday’s makeshift class in the park, this abrupt change is just the Universe saying that now is the time to make way for something better to happen.

The community recreation center has served me well in so many ways over the last twenty-some years. While pregnant, I took water exercise classes—an exercise itself since my twin-pregnancy-bladder could not even make it through a one hour class. A year later my husband and I were bringing our twins to infant swimming classes, learning games such as “motor boat, motor boat go so slow” and helping them chase down rubber ducks.

T-ball and baseball, tumbling, dance, and swim lessons—our kids learned in the local community. The fellow townspeople we did not first meet at school, we met at the rec center and in the parks.

And as the kids grew, I found more time to return for my own classes. Step aerobics, fitness classes, (outside) water exercise, Pilates, ZUMBA, and yoga. My community circle kept growing as I met people—older and younger—who did not have kids the same age as mine were.

But of all the classes I’ve joined, my yoga classes have been the best community-builders. Yoga is more than a fitness class—it is a way of life. Because of that most people who start taking classes just keep coming session after session, even if they have to miss a few classes from time to time.

The more you place your mat next to someone else’s mat, month after month, year after year, the more you start to realize that you are becoming kindred spirits. Your backgrounds, lifestyles, whatever may be different, but when you give in to doing individual poses, partner poses, or group circle poses in the same space, the more you realize that you have to trust these people—at bare minimum—not to ridicule you, but also to cheer you on when you’re close to achieving a pose that has eluded you for years or to spot you when you try something really difficult. You start to know who is always looking for stress relief or who is experiencing grief or whose hip is in trouble or who is starting to become comfortable and fit in his or her own body. These people see you in very vulnerable—and not very attractive—positions. And every class ends with each of you resting in savasana, eyes closed, trusting that no one else will harm you.

You become a close community, as together you work to remain open. Though a few people float in and out of that community, many remain constant, dedicated to a way of life, led by a particular teacher.

This sense of belonging with these kindred spirits is what I most want to keep from our community. As we transition from a group that meets together in one particular place with one particular teacher to those who stay with the place and those who go with the teacher, may we never forget that what we have shared together cannot be taken from us. My community has grown from a particular place, but is not limited to that place.

Om shanti, my friends. Peace . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Once upon a time, I knew nothing about chakras or energy or any of that stuff. And, if I had known, I wouldn’t have believed in it.

Now after taking yoga for nine years from the same instructor, I realize sometimes you can believe in things you don’t understand. Though they don’t always make sense, often they just are.

Years ago I was in a book club where the month’s hostess chose the book for the night and any associated themes. We were all so cliché—I would choose the small town or chick lit books, someone else would choose a current bestseller you could never find in a library or in a paperback version, and another would pick a genre book, etc. For the most part it was good for us—it stretched our limits.

Good-hearted Angie always chose woo-woo books, which were really enlightening for the skeptic in me, even if I didn’t believe. One time we read this book by Michael Crichton (the Jurassic Park author) where he detailed all sorts of spiritual experiences. I had heard of chakras through yoga, but had no idea that even a person such as I could feel energy from another person’s chakras until I read that book. Not that I thought it was true, until I tried to do so. Call me shocked and amazed.

Around the same time, I experienced one of the more physically difficult yoga classes we would do—working with a tennis ball on each side of the spine and moving them throughout class from the pressure points in one chakra to the pressure points in the next. Reaching all that deep tissue was really painful, but I had no idea that accessing those areas would also bring out the corresponding emotions for each chakra. When those tennis balls reached the heart chakra, all of a sudden I was in tears, crying not because of physical pain, but because of buried losses—my father’s death a few years earlier but also a death twenty years earlier, a friendship too soon ended, and all sorts of losses of the heart. It happened just as the instructor had explained even though I didn’t expect it to happen to me.

In order to benefit from yoga in a more than physical way, you have to develop a trust for your instructor and give in to the process. There is a reason many yoga instructors are called gurus—I respect and follow my other fitness teachers, but yoga asks me to surrender control in a way that goes beyond that.

At the same time, yoga is this ancient practice that requires a whole lot of knowledge. The more I learn about yoga, the more I understand that this practice can harm me if not guided by someone who really understands anatomy and how the body (and mind) works—and does not work. Faith in my instructor’s knowledge is also a big part of how I can feel comfortable enough to give in to the process and trust that what hurts me in the moment will heal me in the long run.

We in our community have been blessed with an instructor who not only knows much of what the ancients knew but also keeps learning much of what modern times can teach. She comes to our classes, aware of many of our chronic personal aches, asks what we need that day and modifies and/or designs the class to meet our needs in that moment. She is genius at changing her plans for us and yet still keeping a class on a timely schedule and running as seamlessly as if she never varied it. Her classes are like stepping into a river—different each time.

I have practiced yoga when out-of-shape and hurting, fit and improving, in pain and while working through serious injury, through my mother’s journey deeper into Alzheimer’s and her subsequent death, as my precious dog sickened and died, during my daughter’s intensive treatments for her health needs, and so on. Yoga has shown me how to find joy in my days and helped me survive despair in the night.

Yoga has taught me to how to breathe, improved my always bad posture, changed my outlook toward what I can and cannot control, and moved me back toward health when painfully out of alignment.

I have learned focus and patience, two attributes I most definitely do not possess naturally. Now when stuck waiting, dressed only in a flimsy gown, for some doctor who breezes in thirty minutes later, I can rest and breathe and feel gratitude for the pause in my day.

For these nine years, I have worked my schedule around one person’s yoga classes, never missing signing up for a session, even if I have had conflicts for individual classes. While pursuing moving from self-employment to working for someone else, I have been considering how I might be able to switch to my guru’s weekend classes.

Though I continue grounded by the practice I have done over the years, my heart hurts to discover that the facility I love and the guru who guides me have parted ways. Suddenly, the earth as I’ve known it has shifted beneath me. By now I know enough to believe that what beats in my fourth chakra is more than a physical heart—it is also a sense of loss for what has been and what has now ended.

If you’ve never taken yoga or only see it as another exercise class, this probably seems more than a little melodramatic. I can only assure you that a yoga connection can grow your heart, much in the way the Grinch’s heart grew from love. Tonight while my heart grieves, I will practice deep breathing, aiming to keep that fourth chakra from shrinking so it can still remain open to harmony and peace.

This I have learned to believe: so often all you can do is trust in the process.

Namaste.

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