“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
There are all kinds of endings, and my life has been playing a variation of many of these themes for the past few weeks.
Some are natural endings — the end of winter, the end of waiting for JC’s travel and work authorization which means that sometime soon, the quite-possible end to his making me breakfast every morning. Some endings make me want to break out in dance: someone I’ve been working with is doing so much better that our weekly time together will become biweekly, then monthly, then hopefully shift into another kind of connection. I’ll miss the regular ritual of walking to her home, seeing the seasons unfold, and sharing in what has struck me as being the most honest work in the world — supporting someone traveling down the intense path of illness, watching her call forth the courage to focus on what matters most, and finding how healing that path can also be.
Some endings I am calling forth.
For a year, I have taught early morning yoga classes twice a week. I don’t care much for whininess, in others, or myself. So, I try to make sure that I maintain some consistent grit-building practice.
With the exception of when I was about six and it was an age-appropriate circadian rhythm, I have never been an early morning person. Should I wake up early, and you happen to be around, my heartfelt advice would be not to ask me any logistical question, unless it’s “coffee or tea?” (Case in point: My husband left town this morning. Like a good partner, I went onto the airline’s website last night to check him in online and print out his boarding pass. So, at 5:3o this morning, when the sweetest man I know is running around like a chicken without a head, asking me if I’ve seen it, I thought “your lack of organizational skills is not my problem this early in the morning.” Out loud, I said “you’re just gonna have to stand in line and get a new one” as I headed back to bed.)
Every time I woke up to teach, I cursed the clock.
I committed to quit in each pre-dawn shower.
I railed at the relatively low pay of this particular class, and asked myself why I wasn’t putting more effort into marketing my organizational development practice, which had been my bread and butter for a decade and a half.
And then I would make my tea, and walk the short distance through mist or humidity or snow or pollen-fall to a beautiful old building that faces the great oaks in Malcolm X Park, where I would teach anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen and a half yogis, some early morning risers by nature and others by a practice of building grit not unlike mine.
Always, the space between my bed and the mat my attitude shifted and I loved those classes, for the quiet of the street, save the birdsong and the lady who sweeps outside the Josephine Butler Parks Center.
The class was called “open-level vinyasa.” In the last few years, I have been drawn less and less to teach vigorous, flowing classes, and more in the slow flow/yin/therapeutic/restorative variety. At first, because it wasn’t “my” class but one I had inherited, I taught it as I thought the mainly younger students at this place wanted it: physically challenging. But because it was so early, I softened it with meditation and mudras and pranayama and added yin poses toward the end of class.
The mornings definitely bring a very different quality to the practice — you’re already sunk in, perhaps you’re still not fully awake, so there’s less struggle diving and staying inward. You might not be able to go as far in the poses because of all the fluids building up in your spine while you sleep — but moving slowly into poses feels absolutely delicious.
It takes time to build a community, but we created a lovely morning one, and as time wore on, I began to teach in a way that responded to the energy of the particular group, or the season, or the hour, or my mood. More and more people became regulars, and told me how the practice was benefiting them. Though I still cursed the clock, I would always share with my guy over breakfast how much I loved this teaching path (though not the getting up part).
Lately, I’ve been struggling with an old friend, insomnia. I’ve had bouts of bad insomnia since I was a teenager, but it’s been particularly spiteful in recent months. I got this cool little device to track my sleep, and discovered the reason why I’m so tired is because although I may be in bed for eight or nine hours, I’m only getting 3-5 on average each night — not the lovely, deeply restorative sleep we need to feel recharged.
Looking at the patterns of my sleep, I knew I needed to make some changes. I started with a new regimen of herbs and acupuncture (helps that my honey can do this at home) and homeopathy — but I knew the early morning classes wouldn’t help.
Recently, I had lunch with a sometimes student of mine who is an accomplished psychiatrist and asked what she thought might help. Girlfriend laid down her rules of “sleep architecture.” (Isn’t that a lot nicer sounding than “sleep hygiene”? It implies that you’ve got a design flaw rather than being a dirty sleeper.) Her #1 rule is get up at the same time every morning, so that your cortisol levels can stabilize. (She suggests going to bed at the same time too, but firmly believes that getting up at the same time is even more important.) She urged me to come up with a “keep it real” get-up time.
In my heart of hearts, I know that 6:15 am is not it.
After the end of April, and saying goodbye to these morning classes, I will let myself sleep until a much more reasonable and temperamentally suitable 7:30 or 8 every morning.
This morning, I found out that a community development project with a progressive faith-based organization that a dear friend is spearheading will likely come in this week. She wants me to be her partner in doing capacity building and coaching work; my part of the project will be bring in at least five times as much this year as the lost income from these classes.
I am richer for having proven that I am grit-capable — and getting to know what waking up early in the morning can add to your life. I might have listened to my body more closely early on (but we don’t always know how to listen — as these tree experts are learning to do) — but I hope to report back to you how this ending’s beginning unfolds.
Lots of fun things coming up — I’m reading poetry and workshops in yoga and writing and mudras — check out the upcoming events (and let me know if you’re interested in us forming a small Reiki 1 or 2 class as well)
And I’ll leave you with a poem, about my dear friend Insomnia, which is in the fabulous …..and…love anthology which I hope you consider purchasing for all the other marvelous poems (proceeds support community-based writing workshops)
Love Poem to Insomnia
It’s your persistence I admire. How you love
to tell tall tales around the fire, convince me
to eat just one more burnt marshmallow
evading sweet sleep. You insist on that last
kiss, make me open my eyes when the stalker
strikes in the shower, blood staining my siesta.
You turn over and on the TV, flick the switch
of spectered motors in the starlight,
an army of ghosts dancing on my mattress,
tapping my shoulders with phantom toes.
Insomnia, I love how you make me come
to my senses, leave bite marks on my bedside
journal, rack my flesh with feverish shivers.
I surrender to your fitful possession. You lecture
like a seasoned professor, learning something
from each silence. When you propose, I want
to scream yes, yes, you’re right, the whole point
is to live each moment fully awake.