Tag Archives: yoga community

Stupid, Useless, Guilty! A Tribute.

My friend died.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile as we travel in different directions most of the time. She had spent much of the last years caring for her sick mother and sister a few hours away in Birmingham.

I took a too rare trip to my yoga home a few months ago and she was there.

“It’s been too long, how are you?”

“I just found out I have stage four cancer! Can you believe it?” She waved her hand over herself. “Me!”

She didn’t whisper as people with horrific news often do. She shouted it out as if to dispel it by force. We are all friends there after all.

She was astonished by the possibility of a clean life fostering that disease. She is a calm and capable and happy woman. She teaches restorative yoga and heals students with singing bowls. She is a painter, an artist who lives an artful life. Who lived an artful life.

She had digestive issues and found there was cancer there that had metastasized. She felt so fine I think she believed she would denounce that cancer and send it running. I believed that.

She suffered through chemotherapy, lost her hair, kept going to the studio and kept teaching her own classes. Her hair grew back. She had another art show.  She had departed from her signature work to something more formed, brighter and simpler. She offered a spread of the same favorite foods she always served. Other than the show being in her yoga studio rather than the usual gallery, all seemed status quo. She was lively, resplendent.  I thought she was mending.

A month or so went by that we didn’t cross paths again.

I got the news by a group mailing. At first it seemed untrue. Surely I would have known a different way. She and I had shared yoga time and painting time and healing time together. My bookmarks are all the birthday cards she made me over the years.

She had been on my mind daily as it’s the Jewish holidays and she is an observant Jew, one of my few Jewish friends who feel what I feel right now. This is a heavy holiday as it heralds a week of reflection and forgiveness. I can’t say why I felt it portend to something heavy with her but I did. She died on the Jewish New Year.

I chanted all I could remember of Yizkor, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead. Yizkor means remember. I lit a candle beside a wool basket she had made me filled with her signature painted sculptures.

I called a friend who was her student to tell him. He already knew.

I said, I don’t know what to do. I feel stupid and useless and guilty.

Chris, always a wise guy said, hey that’s a great hook for your business card.  

I was grateful for the laugh.

And the perspective.

I have the flu. I thought I was past it but a night of grief and memories left my lungs with lead weights and a brain sodden and spongy. I will blame my self deprecation on that.

I am not stupid or useless. And maybe I’m guilty of not living a life as full of potential as she did and as she saw in me. And maybe I was guilty of believing she would live and not sending her flowers or cards as I did my last friend that died in a similar way. I had a heads up with that friend that she was not for this world. I had heard Kaaren was challenged again but I knew she was still teaching and wrongly assumed she would go on.

It’s still hot in Nashville. There’s a dry breeze in the slowly dying trees that tells us things have changed despite the temperature.

I slowly walk my dogs on fully stretched leashes. The puppy is pulling me forward. The elderly dog holding me back. This feels like limbo and I note the irony of my observation.

So much more time is behind than before me. To move directionless is wasted time. It is a prison.

What could be crueler than to be a being conscious of your own inevitable demise? We are all on death row. We know the history of death. But all of nature screams keep moving and to scorn that is to scorn life itself.

When loved ones pass they leave us the gift of gratitude for each free breath. Yizkor also upholds that the soul gains additional merit if the memory of its, of her, good deeds spur loved ones to improve their ways.

Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, you continue to inspire me as you always did. Though life ends, the legacy of you who nourished everyone you touched lives on with us.

May you rest in peace.

 

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Filed under family, Healing, meditation, nature, new age enlightenment, social commentary, yoga, yoga wisdom

Dancing Bee

My friend is raising bees. While the rest of us spend hours blathering into the blogosphere or trying to make a buck, she has honed the skill of human caring for planet earth to a graceful art.

She always urges me to be wholly myself although my self  is a square peg in a round hole who is getting tired of being whipped in the wind and wanting shelter. That round hole is not the whole that I might be but the whole of the greater planet and its magnetic field seems to shoot me away while its gravity holds me close but at a distance. I am no victim but a party to the paralysis.

I am not sure what happens with her bees but she says they dance. “How do they dance?” I ask her. She says that one vibrates on the dance floor to direct the newbies by vibration.

Me, the unlikely yogi, the no longer dancer; I see everything in yoga terms, everything as a dance and all yoga riddles as a road map though it be worn and unreadable where frankly, I can’t read maps anyway.

I am thinking of a smug bit of writing by a yoga teacher/blogger who described the virtuous and not so correct yoga teacher template in a recent post. He sniped at yoga teachers who move with the class. As a student he wants to be the center of attention, he wants to be touched and he doesn’t want distance from the teacher or the teacher to be focused elsewhere. He also doesn’t want the teacher talking too much, using too many words.

And I thought of all the ways I have tried to teach anyone anything and realize that by example and that example being a vibration strong enough to touch others till they too are vibrating from that example, from an abundance of words, has been my greatest gift and one I have not used much in many years.

My bee keeper friend knows what I mean. She has reverberated my vibration and I hers. We have shared much by being dancing bees.

There was a time when those of us who find road maps confusing could ask any stranger working at a gas station, once known as ‘service’ stations, for directions. She still mans the lone station that dots the back road journey of my less traveled yoga life. If I have forgotten how I inspired others, not by showing off, not by ignoring students, not by ignorance but by being wholly myself when I was a dancing bee, she has reminded me and I thank her for that.

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Filed under new age enlightenment, yoga