Grieving is Both A Practice and a Journey

“Feeling light within, I walk.” – Navajo Night Chant

Hello again. I’ve missed you.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat at my keyboard to share a bit of my yoga journey with you. In some ways, it feels like a lifetime. During the last months I’ve been wandering deep in uncharted territory –grief over my brother’s sudden and shocking death in late June.

I can say with certainty that my life will evermore be divided into “before” and “after.”

“Before” was familiar, albeit stripped of much of my busy-ness thanks to the pandemic. I spent the months in quarantine doing a great deal of cleaning out and caretaking – in my home, my garden, and, more importantly, in my head and heart as I settled into a slower pace and discovered I was thriving.

Understanding life after a loss requires exploration of every bit of your life.

“After” has been characterized by constantly changing “landscapes.” The initial shock and sorrow of fresh grief felt like waking up in an alternate dimension. The places and the people around me all looked the same, but nothing (nothing!) felt right. Really, I didn’t feel right – inside or out.

My relationships with my immediate family have taken on some new dynamics – my kids taking gentle care of me as much as I am of them. The relationships with my extended family have needed careful, sometimes painful, navigating as we learn to live together with a huge hole in the fabric of us.

My mind has been scattered by the trauma and exhaustion of grief. Things don’t always get done. Those things that do get done seem to take three times as long as they did “before.” This is something I hope fades away.

In other ways, I have developed a stunning clarity about what really matters and what does not. I have discovered an ability to be ruthless in giving myself time for self-care. I have absolutely no tolerance for anything that feels like a waste of precious energy. These are changes I’d like to hold onto.

My heart feels similarly unfamiliar. My emotions remain perilously close to the surface. I find myself breathlessly reverent at the beauty of a full moon, and, in the next instant, hunched over in tears because my brother will never again see one. I am becoming fond of this newly tender heart.

My nerves still feel raw and exposed. A little scheduling snafu can throw me for an anxiety-filled loop. Having more than two things (even fun things) on my calendar in a day can leave me completely exhausted. I’m a little less fond of these changes.

And my body – my poor body. Everything hurts. I assume this is evidence of the body/mind/spirit connection and therefore embrace it as integral to this experience. That said, I wouldn’t mind waking up one day feeling awesome again.

When even the familiar feels unfamiliar, you know you’ve been fundamentally changed.

I still unroll my mat each day, but that is the only part of my practice that feels familiar. I have slowed way, way down. I still cannot focus (at all) unless I am listening to a teacher. For the first time in a decade, I have handed over the reins of my practice and take classes online. I have drifted away (for now) from the familiar oasis of my 20-year-old Ashtanga practice into a new world of restorative, gentle, yin, and vinyasa flow yoga.

In short, nothing about me feels like me.

At least not the old me. Because I have been changed.

The journey through grief is not optional, but is not without hope.

As the shock has faded and grief has become a normal part of every day, I realize that loss has catapulted me onto an unmarked path through unfamiliar terrain. It is crystal clear to me that taking this journey is not optional and that I will be deeply changed by my wandering.

Yet, within the darkness of my grief I have begun to sense some light. I feel a deep, abiding certainty that this journey will be fruitful. That this long walk through the wilderness of loss will bring me to a place where meaning and purpose will flood my life in entirely new ways.

Yoga and contemplation provide a sturdy foundation during a hard time.

My certainty is anchored in my practice. For sure it no longer looks the same as it did “before.” I now spend a little less time moving in asanas (yoga postures) so that I have more time for pranayama (breath work) and meditation. But the intention and purpose of my practice is a part of my old self that I have carried with me into “after.”

As it has for 20 years, the contemplative work of practicing yoga draws me back (again and again and again) to my center, where I connect with the light within. It is the glow of this light that is softly illuminating this dark, uncharted path so that I can walk on into my life.

It is my hope to stay connected to this community with periodic “postcards” like this one from my wanderings. My intention is to continue to share with you the life-changing and life-supporting gifts of this practice.

Until then, be well and know you are in my healing heart.

Because I am keeping my workload lighter than it has been in years, I am not currently teaching in-person or virtual yoga classes. I do have a library of recorded classes – if you are interested, please let me know. I am still offering individual and group spiritual direction. I am also happy to meet with you once or regularly to discuss strategies for beginning or maintaining your personal yoga practice, perhaps even ways to expand it to include more than asana.