One of my resolutions this year was to complete 108 consecutive sun salutations. For those not into yoga, my husband says these are like "squat thrusts", which means absolutely nothing to me. Why 108? Well, there's some debate about that, but let's just leave it at 108 is a karmically sound yogic number. And it's a really big number, and that makes it feel really powerful to me.
For a couple of weeks leading up to two Saturdays ago, just about any time I could fit it into a conversation, I would tell friends that I was going to attempt this feat. I asked a friend who has done this exercise many times to join me, and he did. I also asked a yoga teacher and friend of mine to join me, and she showed up as well. She also gave me the advice that "child's pose is always waiting for you", which was comforting. And, the evening of the event, a third friend showed up that I didn't even know went to this yoga studio. We stood in a line, among a roomful of others, and the energy was absolutely uplifting.
I believe in the power of yoga. I believe in the power of sending positive energy out into the world. At every practice I have ever participated in, I have given thought to my intention, and always, spending an hour or more thinking about that intention has improved my disposition, or provided clarity. I also believe it has helped provide peace and comfort to others who have been in my intention.
The most profound yogic experience I have ever had with respect to intention setting, is a time I set my intention for a friend with metastatic breast cancer. There she was, fighting like hell through massive amounts of pain on a daily basis, and at the end of class, my yoga teacher read the following passage.
"A woman was being chased by tigers. They were gaining on her and she was exhausted, drained. She came to the edge of a cliff that had a vine growing down it. The woman decided to climb down in hopes of escape. When she was half-way down, she heard a noise and looked up—the tigers had arrived. She looked below to her escape only to see tigers there, too! In a panic, she looked up again and saw not only the tiger, but also a mouse chewing on the vine! She looked about in fear and noticed a beautiful strawberry plant with one ripe strawberry. The woman looked at her predicament from all directions—tigers above, tigers below, and a mouse eating her lifeline! Then she did the only reasonable thing: she reached out and plucked the strawberry, popped it into her mouth and enjoyed it thoroughly. "
A Buddhist Story, as told by Pema Chodron
This coincidence still seems impossible. When I told my friend about it she commented "I keep wishing I could hook the mouse up with the berry and distract him, jumping to an here-to-fore unseen tunnel to escape. But I'm not very good at yoga. Thank you, so, so much."
It would be two months to the day that Susan would leave this dimension and head to the next. And I do think she tasted that strawberry. I think about that particular practice, with its near grueling hip work - the focus of her pain at the time - almost every time I take to my mat.
And Saturday night was no exception. For nearly two hours, I moved my body in rhythm with about 40 other people. Up, down, back, balance, stretch, keep moving. For nearly two hours, I thought about that previous practice and about how unfair life can seem. For two hours, I questioned the universe and then, at the end, for fifteen minutes, when my body was spent, when I had almost nothing left to give, we went into shavasana. And during that time, one of the people leading the practice knelt beside me, and placed the most soothing pad imaginable on my resting eyes. She moved my body to improve my own comfort. She made me recall the moment my midwife arrived when I was a few hours from giving birth to Connor and placed her confident hands on my legs as I lay sprawled on the cool floor, letting me know that everything was going to be fine. Touch is so powerful.
I am so lucky to be able to serve as healing hands for two incredible children. I am so lucky to live in a body that, by all signs, will be in this dimension for a long time. I've known that all along, but it was a profound and important reminder for me.
Completing the series of sun salutations was a huge deal to me. I think I needed it to move forward. I've felt so powerful since that Saturday night. And I've also been full of so much internal peace.