A Tiny Space
Dream – A tiny space is opening up inside – the space for self compassion. The space to care, to be kind to myself. To feel self.
The picture above is me in my garden last summer. I’d been trying to get sunflowers to take off for eight years, and it was so great – it felt like a miracle – that they finally just did, having successfully self-sown the year before. This really lifted my spirits after having been in bed all spring. It was the first year I didn’t put in a summer garden. Not one tomato. This was kind of a big deal for me, because ever since I was a little kid I wanted to grow things, to live on lots of land, keep chickens. Since I moved to Portland in 2007 and got some dirt of my own for planting, I’ve grown things and canned things. Until last Spring. I made peace with it. We have good farmer’s markets here in Portland. And the sunflowers definitely helped.
I wrote in my first Yogathon entry that in spite of my persistent fatigue, and the many false starts in my healing / recovery process where I thought I was getting better but wasn’t quite, I had reason to believe that this time, it was going to stick. The reason for that is so obvious it’s embarrassing to say it but here goes – earlier this winter, I went on vacation.
I’ve been asked by a few students who read my first entry whether I have Chronic Fatigue. Talking to a friend a while ago I brought up this possibility and he said, “Chronic fatigue is a description, not a diagnosis,” which was funny, but only partially true. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is real, it is a diagnosis. I’ve read reams about it in the last few years. Did you know the author who wrote Seabicuit has it? She does, her name is Laura Hillenbrand, and she has become one of my bed ridden but accomplished heroes. I’m collecting them, just in case.
At this time, I have not been diagnosed with CFS. But I’ve learned a lot about what I’m going through by learning about CFS and other conditions that result in debilitating fatigue. Noatably, people who succumb to those are usually people who are active, strong, capable, passionate. I certainly was. I was always the hale and hardy type, hardly ever sick, never happier than when I was tilling the garden with a pick, or building a patio out of broken concrete pieces I collected from from the free pages on Craigslist. Or running in the woods with my dog. Or savoring a long, strong yoga practice.
But as my energy flagged more and more, and my responsibilities in the world didn’t, there just wasn’t gas in the tank for doing those things. And since my joys had always come from things that look a lot like working, I didn’t have any skills in the area of recuperative downtime. I had never heard the term “self care” until late 2011. The last few years I’ve been studying it, like an anthropologist.
And then in February I went on vacation, a proper one, the kind I couldn’t afford and would never intentionally plan for myself (long story). I went to a warm beach and did nothing but roll around in the gentle ocean and read and nap and take slow walks and eat tacos.
And when I came back I had that dream up there.
Here are some practice notes I found from a few days ago:
Insights from pulling up weeds in the garden –
first – that gardening is like painting, at least for me, in the sense that you have to just get your hands in there and start looking and working the way reveals itself. How is it I’ve lost that kind of communication with my asana practice? Me and my mat need relationship counseling.
second – that yoga practice is like gardening in that it’s slow, in that you have to be patient and you may not see results for a while, in that no one knows for sure what the results will be (“you could try it and see” is the famed answer of most gardening experts to almost any gardening question), and in that you are never, I repeat never, wasting your time when working in your garden or on your yoga mat. At the very least, you’ll feel more of yourself in that moment, and for the long term, you will have aerated the soil. A deep breath is like money in the bank.
Three things about yoga and life that have gotten really clear for me in the last couple / few years:
1 – start where you are. start in the middle (as if there is another choice)
2 – dig more than one deep well – try to learn a lot about at least one more than one thing. Learning about one thing you learn about that thing. But learning about two things, and the way those two things are similar and dissimilar, and you are learning about the universe itself.
3 – finally, yoga must be sweet. We must fight the should’s in our lives and in our practices with the tenacity of a terrier. Our practices – yoga, art-making, must grow up from deep within us like tulips, fertilized by longing and tilled by pleasure. Even our tapas, our disciplines, must sprout from the deep earth of our authentic desires and drives if they are to be alive, to thrive as the conditions of our lives allow. This I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt.
pigeon both sides
supine baby cradle, supta padanghustana forward and lateral both sides
fire log both sides
lotus with twist to both directions
ardha supta virasana with padanghustana
Here are my practice notes from today:
virasana for a long time, breathing
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