A friend posted this a few days back and it captured perfectly my sense of myself and the current state of affairs in January 2022 two years fully into the pandemic with no clear end in sight.
January in Southwest Pa. the nights are dark and long, the days cold and gray. The steely sky and the road blend together as I drive on the highway to a hospice patient’s home. I park my car on the street in a former coal mining little town with small narrow homes sitting alongside one another neat and compact with postage stamp yards, some with brown patches that I recognize in spring, summer and fall are likely a kitchen garden.
I carry my harp and enter the front door, mask on and hope that my patient can sense my smile under the covering. I play what I intend to be melodies that comfort, Scottish airs, modal Irish tunes, time honored pieces of music played by harpists from both sides of the great pond. Perhaps these very tunes were played at the bedside in other times of hardship and uncertainty. Perhaps then as now, they offered a small measure of grace.
I visit five-seven hospice patients a week in their homes. I have done this work since 2004. From March 2020 to April 2021, I was unable to provide this service, after being fully vaccinated in March of 2021, I resumed my therapeutic music visits.
I find to my surprise, that a mask and face shield are no match for the energetics of the heart, which can be felt and sensed beyond PPE. It allows me to be in space and time with vulnerable people and send love from my heart through my hands on the strings of my harp.
In the Palliative Care Unit, I meet the eyes of the sister of a patient. She appears tense and worried as her sister is dying. I play the harp slowly, inviting the melodies to enter into this sacred space of transition. Both her and the patient soften facial muscles and unclench their hands. The sister at the bedside, with tears in her eyes, thanks me.
The second Saturday in March of 2020 I held my first Zoom Yoga class. It was a combination of my regular students and some other folks seeking to find grounding in a world that screeched to a halt. Here we are now in the beginning of 2022, not quite in gear with the variant of the day, omicron reeking havoc in business, healthcare, and education, systems that even without a pandemic need to reorient towards equity and access.
Saturday and Tuesday mornings, we continue our Zoom Yoga classes which continue to serve as support groups as we give everyone space to check out and share. Folks are managing cancer, disabilities, deaths of loved ones, isolation and uncertainty. We have sat with each other through the murder of George Floyd, the Movement for Black Lives, political polarization and the chaos of the insurrection as well as small celebrations, humble victories and vulnerable confessions.
Some of us have even joined the community from vacation spots. This is always delightful. One student gave us a tour of her cabin in the woods by a lake in Canada.
We also know each other’s pets well by now. This is lovely.
This past Saturday, folks logged into the Zoom rooms. I asked people to share their Word for 2022, a word that they could anchor and use as an orientation in all areas of life. Practicing Kriya Yoga, the Yoga of Action, linking discipline, self awareness and surrender to Karma Yoga, offering our practice, our daily sadhanas in service of the a hurting world.
We move and breathe together in our Zoom squares in our collective Word Soup, pausing to allow the body to guide the spirit, to drop out of the thinking mind, and to make space for all of our feelings in our body.
For me, this process brings clarity and allows emotions to move through as well as holding complexity for grief and joy in the same body. I shared Swami Satchidananda’s commentary and translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in the beginning of the section on practice to recognize that in this time of no one being okay, we can learn to deepen our understanding of not okayness.
Swami Satchidananda tell us that the mind is like a wild horse tied to a chariot, he asks us to imagine the body as the chariot, the mind the reins, and the senses (feelings) are the horses. The Self (you) is the passenger. If the horses gallop without reins and charioteer, the journey will not be safe for the passenger (You/Me). So even though it seems like a helluva lot of effort, and perhaps even painful, to take up the reins, to behold at what is before us, even on an unfamiliar road (this last part from me), is a necessary practice to steady the mind in challenging circumstances.
He goes on to invite us to seek the higher truths found in sacred texts, and I would add from poets and mystics, to find the Higher Self reflected in these texts and to surrender and dedicate the fruits of our practice to God and/or in service to Humanity. Dedication. Giving. Loving.
The group checkout in our Zoom room is the practice that centers the wisdom of the community, what everyone struggles with/received/celebrates/is oriented towards. Centering the Sangha.
Ironically, the way I have always dreamed of being in yoga spaces, where we share a practice rooted in the yogic teachers and then share our experiences of integrating this practice, is what is happening now in these Zoom rooms. People can leave early without disrupting and the sharing is always optional. It has been a lifeline to me to hear the integrated wisdom that has landed in other practitioners. I have no illusion that I am the bearer of all the wisdom there is to bear.
Center the Sangha where all are welcomed.
Center the Sangha that is non performative nor competitive.
I love these people. The tenderness in my heart as I behold these blessed Beings in the Hollywood Square/Brady Bunch life that has become an essential part of my living okay/not okay/well/unwell.
I’ll leave you with the wise words from one of our participants whose word for 2022 is BOLD
“FUCKING GO FOR IT!
So, take the reins, steady the chariot, direct and guide the horses, commit to learning and expanding through inspirational texts and Beings and Surrender it all into this beautiful mess, offering your heart and the fruits of your daily sadhanas (practices) to be for the highest good of all humanity.