Watering the tree of life

I swam today after many months. The water was just right and the evening sky was a sight for thirsty eyes. Treetops fading into twilight even as the birds slowly fell silent and the bats started whizzing around. A few of them skimmed the pool waters and I watched them as I swam or floated on my back. There was a dead dragonfly being taken apart by industrious ants and I watched them keep at it in between laps. Life and living, death and dying. And in the middle the waves of all duality.

Floating on my back, I felt alive like I haven’t felt in a long time. Just the open skies, water and life around me was enough to pump some energy into this tired container. After I came home, something prodded me to pick out a book blind and it turned out to be The Tree of Yoga. The page opened to the chapter titled Old Age. It used the analogy of swimming in one of the paragraphs and I was struck once again by the resonance of thoughts. Uncanny how they are amplified in every day living.

Another book led to exploring the element of water and it led to a rumination on the rupa of water within and without. Eventually it comes to the breath of life, inspiration and expiration. In waves, always moving else it stagnates and dies. How many vritti waves happen in the mind between that first inhalation and final exhalation?


I broke down in class yesterday. I suppose it was inevitable, the dam had to burst some day. 10-15 minutes and a couple of asanas later, I just couldn’t stop the tears and wanted to leave. A kind question was the final straw and I was just an uncontrollable wreck. My teacher just stood patiently until I was able to string a couple of words together.

Some of the things that stayed through the gentle words were to drop the fortresses in my life, let go of guilt no matter what and Guruji’s words of becoming friends with the body before it turns on you extended to include the mind and intelligence.

Afterwards, I was helped into a few supported backbends and by the end of it, I could breathe. The music of the wind chimes came in waves when I couldn’t breathe with a stuffy nose. Somehow, that sound is always associated with Geetaji for me and from where I lay, I saw the sky and tree tops. An interesting observation was how my stuffed nose which didn’t allow me to breathe in Urdhva Dhanurasana and Vipareeta Dandasana sort of dissolved in Setuband Sarvangasana. Backbends have always been an experience of light and brilliance, I hadn’t experienced their ability to embrace grief until yesterday.

The last one year has been a difficult one and some days harder than others but I still managed to put one foot in front of the other and a smile on my face. Everything I held on to crumbled and fell apart. I didn’t expect to have a sob fest in a hall full of people but it happened. And every time I remember the incident, I grieve for a woman who was hurting. A woman who was present for everyone in her life but herself. It’s easy to feel compassion for others but so hard to extend it to oneself.

The tears still strain even as I type. The ones filling my eyes are not as hard as the ones pounding in my throat. In some vague corner of my heart, I feel this is a transformation process happening and the pain is but a necessary rite of passage. Rational decisions don’t exempt one from emotional consequences.

Through all this, the legacy of Guruji’s sadhana did for me what I couldn’t for myself. I remain deeply grateful to my teachers, past and present who have given and continue to give so generously.