Thursday, September 23, 2010

(trying to) look at the bright side

Today in yoga my teacher talked about how important it is to let go of those negative thoughts that so easily take over and concentrate on positive ones. And how hard it is to do that. Almost impossible at times. I had to laugh—negativity is often lurking at my edges, waiting to drown me and how very often, it does. It was particularly topical because I shouldn't have been there. My body's not ready. Nothing like an injury to spiral one down to a place of despair and utter frustration.

So, there I was, in the back of the room, knowing there was no way in hell I would be able to turn my limitations and pain into something good to write home about.

As soon as my hand hit the floor pain shot through my palm and up to my elbow. It was worse than Monday's misguided attempt to take class. That left me unable to do down dogs, planks, updogs, arm balances . . . the entire beginning of class was a wash. Not to mention that my left leg doesn't bend all the way and I have bruising from my knee well into my shin, along with scabs and scrapes at surface level. That took out any crescent moons, hero poses, child's pose which is generally the most innocuous position you can be in. But not for me. I tried doing poses on my closed fist instead but that was too much too. Sun salutations were a no go.

The spin had me. Would I ever recover? Would I be able to practice comfortably again? Would I gain weight now that I'm so limited? Did everyone else in the room think I was so awful at yoga I couldn't do anything.

Somewhere on the edges of that I felt the crisp, cool breeze from the overhead fans.

We got to some poses I could do. Triangles. Half moons. Rotations.

My spine reveled in the movement. I was aware of how my arms moved through space, about extension, about length, about line.

I noticed the cool tones of the room, purple, green, blue, sun streaming in through the edges of silk curtains.

The all blues soundtrack lulling me into mellowness.

By the time I was lying in goddess pose, blocks under my knees when people turned themselves up side down I was nothing but delighted to be there. And shavasana - corpse pose - lying flat on my back, music washing over me, letting go of everything but that moment?


I walked out of class content. Satisfied. Happy. In spite of how limited I was.

I could have dwelled on all I couldn't do. But somehow was able to let go and appreciate what I could.

Thank you Joanne.


Anonymous said...

It's always amusing when you complain, listing all of your aches and pains and daily issues of everything for sentences and sentences and then say "but I won't complain about that." Um, you just did, and it's complaining.

Elissa Stein said...

Anonymous, hello. I wonder if you're the same nameless soul who last week told me to stop wasting my time writing and to find a good therapist. If this is you, I thought you were no longer reading.

If you are indeed an new critic, I suggest you don't read my blog anymore.

zeitguy said...

Elissa thanks for your post on pain, effort, faith and comfort.

It has inspired me to a make a few observations. I hope you don't mind if I put them as comments on your blog, since this is their source of inspiration.

Negative and positive take on a different connotation when you consider feedback loops. In dynamic systems, and life is nothing if not dynamic, "negative" feedback is absolutely critical to survival, from the simplest organism motivated by the "negative feedback" of "still hungry" to the most complex emotional and cognitive products of the human mind motivated by the "negative feedback" of "still sad", etc.

Positive is overrated in this world. Positive feedback tells the mechanism or organism to keep spinning faster, keep eating more. Greed is positive feedback. Arrogance is positive feedback. Within the convivial range of feelings, negative and positive are not competing. They dance.

In our current mileu of self-observation and reporting, there are new cliches of negativity and positivity that must be questioned. Not smashed. But gently opened, like mail from an unknown benefactor.

We must sift through the debris of old expectations. Our sieve is not our sense of loss, or humility, however. Our sieve is our sense of love and humor, which restores the dance.

Amy Oscar said...

To me, this is a beautiful essay. You did not let the pain in one part of your body stop you from experiencing what was available in the yoga class in other ways.

A meaningful allegory for overcoming other kinds of pain - physical and psychological.

Well done.

PS I didn't hear any complaining in here. The only one complaining was anonymous commenter.