Strengthening the Love Container

People sometimes break down in yoga class. They fall apart. They shatter.

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens regularly enough so that I have to be prepared for it.

When people shatter, it’s usually because their “container” isn’t strong enough to hold whatever emotion detonated within them. They don’t see it coming. They get blindsided.

They come to class perfectly happy, perfectly okay, all, “Let’s do some s-t-r-e-c-h-i-n-g and get this old body moving, shall we?” And then BAM, out of nowhere, they are in a fetal position on the floor, a quivering mass, not knowing what hit them.

This is certainly not what I want to happen. I want to get the dosage right. I don’t want to lead a person in a practice that is going to break their container, but it’s really hard to know sometimes.

They might be physically strong in their body, but don’t have enough endurance. Or their inner focus or self-awareness hasn’t been cultivated to a high enough degree yet. Or maybe it’s the case that they have an energy leak somewhere that I can’t see, or possibly know about.

But me? I have a very strong container. I can hold a lot of pain. I can endure. I have practiced enduring and holding and witnessing and not making a story out of it, for years. “I have been churned,” as my Pranakriya t-shirt says. I can’t believe I’m not butter.

But last month, on my birthday, I shattered into a million pieces. And what broke me, what shattered my container was not pain, but love.

Here’s what happened.

For the 19 days leading up to my birthday, I got up to find a little wrapped present on my placemat every morning.  Little things: Pick-Up Sticks, a yo-yo, a DVD of cartoons from my childhood, PopRocks. The picture below shows them. One morning I  found a Pogo Stick. Another morning, I found that PhotoShop had been installed on my laptop. It was crazy! It was amazing!

But on the morning of my birthday, there was no wrapped present, just G’s laptop with a bow on it. I opened it, she pushed “Play” and I watched, stunned, then a little tickled, a movie of my life.

She had rummaged through old, forgotten-even-by me pictures: pictures of me as a baby, as a young child, as a teenager, as a college student, as a mother, as a yoga teacher. She had learned IMovie, and scanned all these photos into her computer, arranged them, and put music under them.

At first my reaction was, “Oh God! You have got to be kidding!” I cringe-laughed at my young-self, with the ridiculous bun high atop my head, the old school pictures of me in my Catholic school uniform and clip-on bow tie, but as the movie proceeded, it slowly began to dawn on me what this was really about: this was about love. Her love for me.

It became clearer and clearer as the movie progressed that this project had taken weeks of research, and a lot of care and attention to detail. This wasn’t just a movie; it was her way of showing me how she saw me. I didn’t recognize, nor could I accept this me.  My container began to leak, then the fissures got wider and wider until by the end of the movie there was nothing I could do.

I simply broke. I completely shattered. I could not breathe through wracking sobs that seemed to have no end.

I did recover, though. We laughed, and I regained my composure.

That night, she held a little party for me at the local brewpub. There were little fondant yoga people on cupcakes, there were coasters with pictures of me in various “eras” of my life. She thought of everything.

A lot of my favorite people were there.


And I loved it, but even now, almost a month later, when I think back on that morning watching that movie, I can still feel the echo of that pain, that shatter reverbing in my bones.

I keep wondering: What does it mean that I can contain physical and emotional pain, but I can’t contain the weight of love?

I know how to design a yoga practice that will help me (and my students) strengthen the container for pain; I know how to befriend and witness discomfort. But love?

I can’t figure out for the life of me how to design a practice that will increase my capacity to accept and contain the amount of love that is offered to me on a daily basis. Most people fear pain, but it seems to me that love is so much more volatile, and scary, and enormous than pain, and I don’t know how to “train” to “contain” it.

You’d think by now, living with this wonderful and loving woman, that I could bench-press a lot of “love weight,” that I’d be in shape for this Olympic-quality love, but I crumple like a soda can under it; I almost can’t stand to look at it. I feel unworthy in its presence.

When my yoga students “lose it” on the mat, my advice is always to take a step back, to start to build from a place of established strength. Stay there for a while, and begin to approach the edge gingerly, with curiosity, with openness, with genuine interest in finding out. I suppose this is the way to strengthening for love, too. Start with a dosage I can handle and gradually “up” it over time.

This is going to take some time, but it will be time very well invested.

Another Trip Around The Sun

Yesterday was my 60th birthday, and I am here to report that after years of searching, I believe I may have finally hit upon a way of thinking about aging that doesn’t make my insides curdle, and find me staring at the ceiling in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

I think I have actually hit upon a consoling metaphor that  makes me feel happy about taking one more trip around the sun.

And it is actually that very idea of “taking another trip around the sun” that has captured my imagination.

Here is the thinking that is making me feel happy: Everyone is born on some random day on this pretty blue marble. It spins in space around the sun, with us on it, and when it gets back to that random date where we started, we have completed one year and have a birthday.

On that day we get to pause, and if we like, kind of “assess” the ride.  Like getting off a roller coaster and going, “Whew! That was, (fill in the blank): exciting, intense, exhilarating, frightening, nauseating, etc.

Every year has its particular ups and downs and ins and outs. Within each year there are times of quiet and times of turbulence. Since this roller coaster ride lasts a whole year, lots of different things can happen.

But when it slows down as it nears the “born on” day, the starting point, you get a chance to get off and think about the ride that just ended. You get a chance to look around and see who shared your ride: those who shared most of it, or only parts of it; those who made the ride more joyful and more interesting; those who made the ride easier and more comfortable, and those who made it a bit more difficult.

And this is what I have been doing for the past few days: assessing my ride, taking inventory.

So here is this year’s assessment:

I am healthy and vibrant and full of energy. My relationships are amazing. I get to do work that I not only love, but feel is the work I was put on this earth to do.

I feel loved and valued and appreciated by all the people who have shared this year’s ride with me. I cannot think of a single person who has made my life difficult in any way.

This has been a sweet, sweet ride. I feel not just happy, but ebullient. I want to get back on the ride and go again!

Can we please go again? Please??? I want to take yet another trip around the sun. If I make it, this one will be my 60th go-round. Some people don’t get to go that many times, but I’ve been lucky enough to have had lots of rides. And I want many, many more!

I want a chance to experience ups and downs and ins and outs and backwards and forwards and fast and slow and easy and hard and happy and sad. Can we please just go again?

And can all the people who have made this year’s ride so amazing and wonderful and joyous, can they all come too?

The other night I paused over my candles, took a big breath in, closed my eyes, and made my wish. As the smoke rose from the  candles, I took my seat, strapped myself in, and prepared for yet another trip around the sun.

Happy Birthday G!

It’s hard to write here everyday. It really is. That’s why it’s such a great Lenten sacrifice. And it works on a lot of levels. I have to write some sort of content here, and if you are subscribed, you have to read it. Painful all around! Blogging FTW!

Today is G’s birthday. She is 44. I love the double number birthdays, don’t you?

Forty-four is cool. I wish I were forty-four. She is a splendid specimen of 44 too: healthy, full of vitality, glowing, growing in wisdom and depth, and also in graciousness and charm and goofiness.

Grace and goofiness. Tell me that is not THE perfect combination of attributes for a forty-four year old?

This is the first time since I’ve known her that she has been home for her birthday. She is usually down south with her team, who takes her to Hooters and has buxom women shake their maracas in her face while singing Happy Birthday to a

Happy Birthday

Image via Wikipedia

lighted cupcake.

It is a hard act to follow, I must say. I did okay in the cupcake department but sadly, I do not have Hooter-style maracas.

She wanted lasagne for dinner, and I was glad to oblige. Now I need to go downstairs and light the cupcakes and help her open some gifts.

Happy Birthday G!

And to G’s mother: “Well DONE!!” Very well done!

20,810 Days Old

Today’s my birthday so I’m going to make this kinda short tonight.

This is how my day unfolded:

Got up and went to the studio at 6 AM and did ashtanga.  I was the only one there this morning, so I was more focused on my own practice and less on “keeping up.”

Came home and made a delicious juice for breakfast: I juiced carrots, kale, celery apples in the juicer, then I blended a fresh mango with some frozen blueberries and coconut water in my new Vita-Mix and added it to the juice.  It was fantastic.

As I sipped my juice, I got a present.  A FitBit!  It tracks all my activities, calories, even sleep.  It’s really small, and works on Wii technology.

Because the weather was typically Kath’s b-day craptastic, I sat in front of my SAD light for my hour of Holosync, then it was a Boomer walk and off to my massage with LauraLee, who is nothing short of brilliant at what she does.  2 hours of Amazingness.

Home to my solid meal for the day, leftover tuna stirfry over kasha, then shower and to my class: Nuts and Bolts Yoga where the emphasis was on backbends.  Sweet class, and my students “OMed me!

Home to dinner (cauliflower soup) and more presents: a homemade afghan from Zee and special tea and coffee and lifting gloves and a jigsaw from Em and Scott.

It feels weird not to have a cake, or champagne or a nice dinner out, but I am so happy.  I feel great, I love my family and friends and I think this year is going to rock.

More tomorrow.