From Sept. 5
My mom and I are staying in this midcentury modern house on a hillside overlooking an inlet. The deck is perfect and we’ve spent most of our time out there.
When we got to the house I rolled out my yoga mat on the deck and did about 40 minutes of a practice. During this time, my mom sat on an Adirondack chair with a glass of Chardonnay, smoking and making snarky comments about things people had written in the guest book. The quality of handwriting was low. Previous guest had no taste because they wrote that they liked the décor. She sure hoped the house’s owner didn’t come by with ice cream and wine for us like she apparently did with other guests, because that would be annoying.
Like that. Meanwhile, I continued my practice. I did my utmost to remain embodied while my mother bitched about the freezer not being turned on. I exhaled forcefully and moved my body into powerful poses to keep the flies of her discontent from landing on me. I was reminded of a cartoon by Ellen Forney (local cartoonist, illustrator, performer and yogini), in which a character stands next to her teacher, complaining about how commercial yoga has become. Meanwhile, her teacher does her poses and utters neutralizing rebuttals to the spewing student’s uncharitable arguments.
Well, that was me and my mom this evening. I flashed on how I would draw this scene, how comical it would look. And, after awhile, it was comical. I was in this fierce Exalted Warrior pose, and she was still complaining about something. I thought, wow, how can a person look at someone doing Exalted Warrior and not be awed into silence? It’s a pose of great beauty and strength. When I see someone do it, I get a hit of energy. (In yoga, we call this a shakti, or force, transfer. ) And then I wondered if she was able to enjoy anything at all, or even feel the shakti or any powerful force when it’s being zapped her way.
And then, finally, compassion. I continued my practice with great care for my joints and my muscles. In my standing poses, I gazed out at the majectic evergreens all around me. I did not follow the dramatic story line my mother was weaving. Instead, I felt empathy for her nervous heart. This is not to say that I didn’t wish she would shut up and get a life. It’s just that those sentiments petered out before gathering much flame.
This feels like progress.