There was a yoga class in my living room this morning. There is one there every morning. Ever since the beginning of pandemic life, six to twenty yoga students fill the screen in front of my husband in the living room. I took the class on mute from my office all the way downstairs.
The theme of the class was Only This. Breathe in ‘only,’ breathe out, ‘this.’ We did sun breaths which basically look like a cormorant drying its wings in the sunshine: inhale open, wings up; exhale wings to your side. As I stood there breathing in, raising my hands on the inhale ‘Only,’ I took it all in. The enormity overwhelmed me. On the exhale ‘This,’ as I opened my arms palms out, I felt like Vanna White hand modeling the universe. Spin the Wheel of Fortune and all of this can be yours.
It was too much. Only-This is just too much. The parakeet in his cage on the standing desk, the fidgety pellet stove whirring, the dust bunnies under it, the debris waiting to be sorted on my desk, the fountain pen collection, the to-do list, the birds at the feeder outside the window, the squirrel chewing through the wooden barn doors to take up winter residence in the shed, the dirty laundry in the basket out of view of Zoom’s prying eye, what I’m going to make for dinner, whether or not we have enough olive oil, the full catastrophe as Zorba the Greek would say, is just a little bit too much.
I changed the trajectory of my arm flapping to get a new perspective. ‘Only,’ I inhaled my arms wide and to the sides until I touched my fingertips above my head. ‘This,’ I pressed my palms together and exhaled them into prayer position in front of my heart. Hmm… now we’re getting somewhere. Inside. Ain’t nobody here but us chickens. I tried to ignore the 1946 jazz reference
There ain’t nobody here at all
So calm yourself and stop that fuss
There ain’t nobody here but us
and stay focused on the meditation. Inhale, ‘only,’ exhale, ‘this.’
Torn, or maybe stuck, between the universe and the chickens, I closed my eyes. If I don’t see the dust bunnies and the to-do list, maybe I can calm the mind and have an actual yogic experience?
The Only-This meditation has a Sanskrit name, Om Tat Sat which refers to absolute and unmanifested reality or truth. And I’m right back to Only-This is just too much.
I breathe and flap and try to calm the mind. Only. This. Until I let go of the words altogether and stick with just the breath and the movement. Once we move beyond the cormorant-dries-its-wings deal into Sun Salutations and lunges and warriors, the breath takes over. Each inhale partners with a motion of expansion, the exhale meets with a contraction. I become a human bellows. Without birds or jazz or anything, I dance and breathe. I am just air, just the movement. Now we’re talkin’. Only-This is long forgotten, and I am dancing with myself. Breathe in, expand, breathe out, contract. It’s beautiful, calming, peaceful even transcendent until I realize that I am dancing with myself and suddenly I’m Billy Idol.
Dancing with myself, oh-oh
Ah, oh, oh-oh