LEARN TO TEACH SENIORS!
Facebook and other social media have been filled with intense expressions of anguish, violence, sorrow, hate, unity, despair, hope, and higher consciousness following the flurry of pain and counter-pain that sprung into our global consciousness last week.
I’ve been on a strict “info diet” since last Friday, consuming controlled portions of all the messages floating around — and that includes the posts that are about light and love in the face of tragedy. That’s because sometimes it appears that yoga and other so-called paths to wakefulness are about escaping the cold, hard truth of the world we live in under the guise of “enlightenment.”
But that’s never been how I roll. I’ve never used my yoga practice to escape. Maybe I never had that luxury. When I landed on my first yoga mat in 2003, I was nearly dead. Whatever was happening during those classes didn’t make me feel worse and, every so often, even brought some relief. So I kept showing up in my utterly wretched state, mostly for lack of a better idea.
Since then yoga and mediation have been one of the cornerstones of how I cope with the harsh circumstances of being human in a capricious, unjust and painful world. It’s because of my Kundalini yoga practice that I’m able to see the facets of existence that uphold love and light and to choose the kind of person I’d like to be as I walk around (or crawl, depending on the day) on this third rock from the sun. So at first it was about not dying and surviving whereas now it’s about something more elegant and happy.
But I’ll tell you what my practice is NOT: it is not about platitudes or sticking our head in the sand or hopping onto soapboxes of higher consciousness. It’s also the underpinning of my approach to teaching. In my classes, we don’t stare and obsess over the rough stuff, but neither do we pretend it’s not part of life. If you want to join me for some breathing and moving and meditating in the middle of it all, please come out for class. I’ll be happy to see you and I’ll hope that it will bring a little comfort.
Being clever is not the same as being smart.
Being cunning is not the same as being intuitive.
Being spiritual is not the same as being enlightened.
Being enlightened is not the same as being self-aware.
Winning is not the same as being victorious.
Conversation is not the same as communication.
Exertion is not the same as commitment.
Discernment is not the same as judgment.
Tolerance is not the same as acceptance.
Perception is not the same as reality.
My friend’s dad died last month and she is sad.
His death was not a tragedy. He lived a full, long life. It was his “time.” My friend believes in an “afterlife.” She’s grateful he won’t suffer and that he was pretty sharp and good-humored almost to the very end.
And she’s sad. Because that’s how human beings feel when someone they love dies. The details don’t much matter on that score. Young or old, estranged or close, expected or sudden, loss hurts and we need love and support to come to terms with it.
Her dad lived in another part of the state so she’s been up north, tending to him as he shuffled off this mortal coil, and then tending to the business of death, before making it back to LA last week, exhausted and essentially traumatized by the all-too-common dysfunctional family freak out that accompanies the death of a patriarch or matriarch.
When we were finally able to talk on the phone, she told me about the horrible drama that had unfolded the day of the funeral. I listened until she was done with the tale and then said, “It sounds awful. And it sounds like no one has really been taking time with you about the fact that you lost your dad and I’m really sorry because that’s what matters most. I know how much you loved him.”
She burst into tears. We sat with that for a bit. In between sobs she thanked me repeatedly for attending to her feelings and I was so grateful I was able to support her that way.
Because, the fact is, as a culture we really suck at handling death and grieving. Grief is messy, inconvenient and draining. We often leave those suffering to cope in isolation because we don’t know how to be present for their feelings and needs.
But all that’s really needed is to sit, breathe, listen and care. There’s nothing to fix. Death and grief are bigger than you or me. In fact, you need not say anything. But if you feel the urge to reach out with words, I’d like to recommend two sentences that in my personal experience are genuinely soothing:
(1) I’m thinking about you and sending love.
(2) If you’d like to share something about your father/mother/sibling/child/friend/loved one, I’d love to hear it.
My friend has a long, in some ways endless, road ahead in adjusting to the absence of her father. She’ll walk through it, one day at a time, and she’ll carry on.
While she does, I can hold her hand and I’m grateful for that.
My friend is sad.