Several weeks ago, I returned to yoga class. The teacher said, “Set an intention for your practice”. It’s a common instruction, but my reaction was neither meditative nor appreciative. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Nearly a year ago, my mother told me she was recovering from pneumonia. I didn’t know it, but that phone call initiated her last six weeks on Earth. Hindsight can be heavy.
I had another struggle. For the first time in almost 30 years, I didn’t want to go to my family’s summer gathering location. It is a place of great and timeless beauty, but it is also where I cared for my mother and realized she was far more ill than we initially thought. Yet my siblings found comfort in our summer place and felt closer to our loved ones there. This contrast in our feelings led me to a realization: Even great and timeless beauty can repel.
This aversion concerned me. Was I crazy? Was I overreacting? Then I got a phone call with the distressing news of an impending divorce in my family. Shock and anger ensued. Allegiances became unsteady. The smaller waves of grief lapping around my ankles quickly turned into a tidal wave.
I rode the wave into the yoga studio, but instead of serenity, I got annoyance and frustration. How was I supposed to find an intention in the chaos I carried? I would’ve left the class if I had been near the door. However, I was on the other side of the room and couldn’t leave without disturbing others. I grit my teeth and pushed through. When it was time for final relaxation, I flopped down on my mat, relieved the ordeal was almost over. I closed my eyes, but I didn’t see black.
I saw a beautiful, warm, mesmerizing blue. I held it there. Chaos diminished. Calmness grew. I focused on holding the color. However, as the other people in class rustled out of relaxation, the blue slowly ebbed away. Black returned, along with the amusing irony that my very imperfect practice had led to a perfect Shavasana.
I’ve set many intentions in countless yoga classes, but I’ve never had this experience. So why did it happen at that time in that class? After pondering the question for quite a while, I realized something very significant: I’ve never once set an intention for myself. All of the previous ones were for other people. Why would I set intentions for others and not myself? There are several explanations, but I think the main point is this: By not setting an intention at all, I made the experience all about me. If I’m right, then I’m onto something. If I spark of calmness can exist in chaos, then maybe healing can too.