Two days after her diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer, to two weeks before her death, I had my hands on my mother every day but one. It was a beautiful experience doing Embodyment® Yoga Therapy for her. What a marvelous karmic dance. Therapy made her feel better. Eat better. Sleep better. Three weeks before she died she felt so good, she announced "I don't think I'm sick anymore." The aggressive cancer was growing inside her and would soon prevent her from standing at all. No matter. The important thing was how she felt, her sense of well-being, how much she was able to enjoy her family.
We took turns, my sister Melissa, an O.R nurse took the helm. She orchestrated medical care, hospice care, medications, schedules. We were all on the schedule so that mom would never be alone. She loved that. I think we all loved being with mom during this time. Melissa and I even wrestled her recliner out into the sunshine where she basked in the sun, feeling the breeze, enjoying the first of the flowers. Rachel brought her outside to paint "The Funeral" which she insisted we leave slightly unfinished. These times were rich with experience though sometimes very difficult. I had wednesday nights. I may have been the only one who slept with her, often holding her hand as my father did, sometimes giggling like school girls over something absurd. Like I said these were rich experiences, while my mother was dying.
Yogi's practice Ahimsa (non`harming) and there would be an opportunity for me to practice Ahimsa in a most personal and complicated way. There came a point in the dying process that I decided to stop Embodyment® Therapy. It was time to allow her natural process including all the stages of dying described to us by hospice. This decision was a peaceful surrender for me. I had tools to keep her in her body, prolong the process, but that would have been selfish and unkind. That would not be Ahimsa.
When she died there was still a lot to do. Things to clean up. Sort through. Loose ends.
At the funeral I played Nearer My God to Thee on the piano, as my mother had been instructing me to do upon her demise since I was 16 years old. She would yell to me from the kitchen "Play Faster!" and I would call back to her "My hand is cramping!" and she'd say..."just play". And I played a very tough piece, out of practice, in front of everyone my mother held in any regard, and not caring. And not a bit nervous. Because as my mother always told me, when playing a difficult piece (and, I haven't missed the metaphor) "JUST PLAY".
After that, I came to a very strange place. My hands were empty. My "Embodyment" hands were empty. I felt...unteathered. I had nothing to do. Oh, I mourned. I mourned. Alone. A lot.
During the care of my mother, I took little yoga breaks whenever I could. I did Ujjayi while laying with my mother, or sitting with a family member taking it all to rough. I kept up with my meditation. All of this was important not only for my well-being, but to keep up that yoga energy that my would help fortify my family.
As a yogi I practice Satya. It means telling the truth and being present with things the way they really are, even when things are ugly. So I am going to be honest with you. The months following the loss I did whatever I needed I slept, ate, drank however I wanted. I watched TV for comfort. I hung out in Hookah lounges, drank wine. Cried, screamed, cried, and I did a lot and I mean a lot of JP, Jathara Parivrtanasana. At the end of every Svaroopa® Yoga class I have taught, while my students are in JP, I say "this is a great pose to do whenever you're feeling emotional or overwhelmed in any way". And in the days, weeks and months of grieving, I would literally STOP, DROP and JP! Sometimes on the kitchen floor or even the laundry room. JP was my emergency pose. It calmed me. All the emotional stuff that had to come up, was easier to go through while lying in JP.
Beyond grieving. I was having an identity crisis!
I remember sitting in meditation and sensing something heavy within my body. It was gut level. It felt like a dark sticky mass, gathering and shifting within me. It came from the left, and moved toward my spine (the central energy channel) I perceived "getting up close" to it with my awareness. Oh, I did NOT want to go there. This was really yucky stuff. It was all balled up in my childhood. It was a sense of abandonment. And then questions arose within me that were later looked at fully and transformed in Vichara®. "Who am I if not a caregiver?" "Who am I if not a daughter?" These were really tough questions to ponder! I had been a caregiver to my mother, then my father, then both, then my mother again. I had been a daughter my whole life. It was revealed to me that so much of my constructed self, was wrapped up in my parents and especially my mother. Asana (and Embodyment®) was a good practice to deal with my physical body through this crisis. Meditation was more difficult, because when I was quiet, the stuff would come up and then I would sit there in it. I would sit in sadness. I would sit in anger. Whatever came up, I sat in it. As a yogi, that's the deal. As a human being, that's the deal. You are here in this body to experience this stuff fully. This is the human experience, there is no use running.....it'll find ya. Death comes to us all. Big deaths and little deaths.
One of best of my yoga tools at this time was Vichara®. Oh, Vichara® therapy would show me the depths of my stuff. Incorporating my mind in the yogic process of self-inquiry. This is where memory would surface, long held feelings and beliefs arose. With the help of my distant Vichara® therapist friends, I got into IDENTITY. Looking at all the connections between me and them and all these experiences. Vichara® dissolved that block that came up in my meditation. After several sessions over the course of a few months, I was able to experience clarity and a deeper sense of Self. Not that little s self we create with the help of our family and such, but the big S Self. The Self, unshakable, peaceful, always present, and knowing. Oh, that was some juicy stuff!
So, I was fully immersed in the Grace of this yoga practice while being fully immersed in grief.
I do wish everyone could lean into such sweetness while passing through grief. There are many kinds of loss, all of them heavy and real. To heal after any loss I recommend the following.
First, be practical. Reach out for help. Accept a lot of casseroles because food equals love and everybody's got to eat. Grieving is hard work, you're going to need your strength. And it's OK to sleep a lot. If you have been at the ready for months or even just days while your loved one was in need of care, then you have stored up a lot of fatigue and sleep is very healing.
Second, accept the services of the hospice team. These people including clergy are absolutely masterful at guiding you through all sorts of changes, and connecting you with all manner of support. Many hospice programs have free year long support groups and bereavement counseling. If you have never tried therapy before, this would be a good time to try.
Of course, do try Hatha Yoga in the Svaroopa® Style and especially Yoga Therapy offered at Chalfont Yoga and Meditation Center. Some choices that would help you heal faster and easier in a supportive environment include:
- 60-90 minute Svaroopa® Yoga classe~ help fortify your body and quiet your mind.
- Yoga Therapy~addresses your pain with the deep compassion and skill of a Yoga Therapist
- Vichara®--Yogic Self Inquiry~to guide you through the stages of healing and transformation.
- Embodyment®~ Gentle hands on therapy providing a deep sense of peace and well-being.
- Ujjayi pranayama~Breathing practice is profoundly healing, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Having completed and additional 40 hours of intensive training, including:
- Listening clearly
- Facilitating the inner inquiry
- Genuine acceptance and support
- The mind's circuitous process
- The Reality beyond the mind
- Uncovering limiting beliefs
- Dissolving the kleshas (bindings)
- The stages of healing and transformation
- questioning without imposing a personal agenda
There were times I did not feel like doing more yoga! So, I did Japa, the silent repetition of mantra. For really the first time in my yoga practice I relied on mantra so heavily to give me deep inner opening. Mantra, I believe changed me from the inside out. When everything else was hard, when I didnt feel like I should have to do dishes, "I'm a single mom grieving alone for God's sake!" I applied mantra to everything I did. Everything changed. Everything was easier. Everything was yoga when mantra was applied. Walk the dog...mantra. Take a bath...mantra. Wash the dishes...mantra. Every moment of awareness...mantra. This was BIG. This was transformational! Through that year of grieving, after everything....I was closer to my SELF. Applying your mind to mantra takes you to your SELF. Try it now...SLOWLY. Aloud or silently.
Om Namah Shivaya...
Om Namah Shivaya...
Om Namah Shivaya...
Om Namah Shivaya...
Om Namah Shivaya....
Notice how you feel. What are you aware of?
Perhaps more ease in your body or calmness of your mind. This is a powerful practice.
"Om....I bow....to my....divinity."
"I bow to myself....as consciousness itself"
For a deeper and clearer experience of this, we inviter you to one of the LEARN TO MEDITATE series classes with Meditation Teacher Pooja Erica Andersen STARTS February 2nd. More to follow.
For a lovely introduction to our studio this month. Experience the unique support of Svaroopa Yoga teacher Padma Linda Bliss with this Upcoming Heart Opener...Supported Fish~My Lover, my Friend COUPLES YOGA. This isn't the time to go it alone....bring someone you LOVE to yoga.
February 8th 3-5. Connect to your friend or partner in a heart-centered way. Relax into the support of the props, and your partner with guided awareness and contemplations on love.
So, Dear Ones, the journey continues......reach out to the support of the Svaroopa Yoga, and Chalfont Yoga and Meditation Center, Kula (community). Find out what true support is really like. Visit our beautiful website, become a member, register for a class, stop in, or call Padma for a FREE consultation or Ujjayi coaching by phone. I would be happy to talk to you and listen. 610-597-2015.
Pain brought me to yoga. Svaroopa Yoga helped me through pain, so much loss. Svaroopa Yoga gave me Grace through Grief and inner Bliss. If you or someone you know is in pain, grief, or in need of healing. It would be my honor to help you through your journey as well.
Om Namah Shivaya. Namaste.
~Padma Linda Bliss