YOGA AND GRIEF
19TH AUGUST 2016
Yoga and Grief by SOSA Graduate, Sophie Falkner
21ST NOVEMBER 2015
That morning I squealed with delight at a butterfly, pointing, jabbering “look! look!” friends glanced politely, and amused at my enthusing. But it really felt like I had never seen that before. That specific butterfly, right there. I turned around and there was something else new, a tree, a friends face, my breakfast, a slab of cracked pavement… another seemingly mundane thing I had never seen, never exactly as it was at that moment. Everything was thrilling and my senses were wide open as if pure adrenaline was gushing through me.
I’d felt something similar to it before. Two days after my father passed away I went out with my mum for a walk down into the valley. To see what the air felt like. To see if the world was still there and if it had even noticed. The cold air cut into my lungs, and I sighed out a cloud of mist, glad for the feeling and for being able to see the evidence. Walk. Breathe. Walk. Breathe. The whole valley pulsated in colour around me, and I felt so acutely involved with any and all movement. The ripples coursing across the vividly milkily turquoise lake like razor blades, the bark dripping birch trees bowing and wrestling with the January wind.
And it seems like it was around eleven months later I allowed myself to really feel something again. It was after a yoga class in which the teacher had teased wild dance out of lithe bodies, and we had repeated monosyllabic elemental sounds into brackets of stillness. I fell into meditation, comfortably unravelling, drifting somewhere in the slipstreams of consciousness. Effortlessly trying to let go of my awareness of letting go, if that is even possible. Somewhere, sometime after my eyelids stopped flickering, and I had stopped trying to lay a name or recognisable outline to thought or image, I felt a plummeting fear. A real prolonged physical sensation of falling, dropping, of my stomach being left behind and of being entirely out of control. The sensation seemed to stretch itself out timelessly until I could jolt my eyes open. And in that moment of being brusquely hurtled back into the startling daylight it felt as if I was puncturing a breathing hole in cling film, or punching fist first through the tape at a finishing line.
For the following day I felt everything viscerally, intentionally, wholly. I felt my short life in the greater pattern of it all. Wrapt with the most entire joy and wonder, and also the sharpest most heart shredding pain. I understood the complete relief of tears, how brilliant they are when they flow, and how they actually can take small pieces of felt emotion and let them evaporate back into the ether.
I decided I didn’t want to hold onto my story of pain any more. That love and grief are two different things. Love has no story. Memories can shuffle and change with each retelling and photograph. Some feelings don’t change. The ones we felt before we rubbed flint together and shaped our alphabet. Those feelings don’t have a story, they couldn’t. They don’t need it. These precious spirits come and go entirely as they please, sometimes encouraged with a smell or sound or taste. Or a stream of sunlight catching dust and kicking up nostalgia like autumn leaves.
Grief however has a weighty story, one that you are constantly trying to stitch back together to find where the middle became the end. Each previously unnoticeable loose thread becoming so visible in retrospect. With many conversations like unposted letters, envelopes left resting on the hallway mantlepiece. In grief, death must be told and told until you yourself can hear it, in ears stuffed with fistfuls of cotton wool you hear muffled responses. Often seeking the reactions of others to interpret something unfathomable. Much like how a child learns to express surprise at peekaboo, you have to learn a new face. An accepting and gracious one.
It was in studying yoga and my teacher training that I found one of the only communities that doesn’t shy away from ideas of death and pain. Here it is placed as a beautiful balance to life and pleasure.
Amongst my peers on the course, I saw people from all across the world, some who had worked hard to be there, some who I imagine were gifted this opportunity, all fortunate people who could afford the time to be there, wilting in the voracious humidity. Some, myself perhaps included, birds trapped in gilt cages of our own making, living in systems and cities, identifying with the ideas and finances of what we supposedly should be. With Simone one of our lead teachers, who consistently exudes a warmth akin to laying your cheek to the ground at dusk on a summers day, gracefully tiptoeing around our discussions. Gently nudging reminders of natures sprouting life forces beyond the greed of humankind.
There was a space to each share our individual wisdoms in Satsang, in movement, in music, in dance, in the studio, and sometimes with a few particular amigos hashing out the borders of existence or howling along to 90’s tunes at the bar after. I discovered other peoples opinions and life experiences that guided me find the parameters of my own, and also bust them wide open, tapping into the immense power of the collective. Something that going forward I will never underestimate.
I still have a deep sadness and sense of loss, but at least now I know how to recognise its presence, experience it, and be grateful for it in a way.
with big love and thanks to the sosa family x
This post was originally published at yogisoph