In yoga class ten years ago or so, I felt for the first time the earth beneath me. I was lying in the dark with a blanket over my prone figure. My teacher said, "Let the earth support you." I thought, okay, if you say so. I noted the floor beneath me as it met the points of my shoulder blades, vertebrae, sacrum, elbows, heels. I relaxed into it until I could feel gravity tugging at my skin, my muscles, my deep heavy bones.
By some miracle, I was not immediately swallowed up by a sinkhole. Nor was I left to scramble at some post or floorboard like the doomed passenger of a sinking ship. Nothing tilted, nothing moved, nothing hurt. I was just spread out heavily and the ground held me. I kept breathing. And that's what it was like to feel solid ground. I realized that I usually walked around as if I were about to fall through a trap door.
No wonder I was so tense.
This is what savasana does for me. And as far as I can understand, this is what it is supposed to do. Now, much of the time I struggle to quiet the shopping lists and plans for dinner and thorny conversation I need to have with some person later. After class, Honey, I tell myself. You can go back to thinking about all of this after class. It will still be there!
Sometimes, this is about as far as I get in savasana with my mind. If it's a missed opportunity for real integration of mind and body after a hard practice, well, that's what it has to be today. (Really, though, spiritual teachers say there are no wasted efforts and no missed opportunities so long as the intention and awareness are there. So if I notice that I'm having a hard time letting go of my daily mental hamster-wheel marathon, then I am more conscious than I was five minutes ago.)
Lately, my life feels disorienting and relentless. Savasana has been one of the most challenging yoga poses for me to perform. The strong, muscular, pushing-the-edge poses of yoga practice feel like a great release and something solid to master. But when I come to a moment of quiet, when I am invited to "relax", I feel that old sense of sliding off the deck of the Titanic.
Yesterday when it came time for savasana I found myself right back on the mental hamster-wheel. I realized I was trying to solve a problem for which there is no solution. I knew there was no solution, but I couldn't seem to abandon the effort, however fruitless and exhausting. I remembered that savasana is my chance for a wee vacation from that. I promised myself I would be allowed to continue obsessing later. So I felt the points of my bones push into the floor. And then my skin, from the back of my head to my heels, spread out a little. And then my deep muscles fell downward, too. I surrendered.
I floated in the quality of surrender for about five seconds. Then I thought, Right! This is what I am supposed to do with my life right now. Surrender! I can surrender to this situation, and that situation, and then maybe x or y will happen...
Soon I was obsessing again. But I had contacted a quality that I could remember, that beautiful sense of not being in charge. Chances were good that I'd be able to contact it again. Practice, practice, practice.
This kind of mental training is not unlike training of the body. The muscle must be built. The memory must be made. Then you can come back to it, recognize it the next time, have something to work toward.
I will try again today.