Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slipping into the Gap

When I turned thirty-one and realized I might never grow younger, I decided to get in shape. However, I hated to exercise.
My mother, who loved things cultural but not physical, bequeathed me that attitude. "Look at her legs," she cried as the ballerina floated across the TV screen. "Aren't they ugly? All those bulging muscles."
A speeding volleyball that struck me in the face during recess reinforced my dislike. That the accident was my faultI had been daydreaming when the ball arriveddid not stop me from hating to exercise.
I also despised sweating. 
Nevertheless, now thirty-one, I combed through bookstore shelves, determined to find some exercise book  to help me regain my fleeting youth. I chose a small unimposing paperback entitled, Yoga for Physical Fitness by a Richard Hittleman.
Hittleman's book worked just fine. I taught myself any number of yoga postures, and I never sweat. So I was startled at the vehemence of my recently acquired boyfriend, Jon, who declared, "Oh, you don't want to learn yoga from that guy. He doesn't know a thing about it."
And here I thought I was doing so well.
Never mind. Jon, a decade younger than I, had just turned twenty-one, while I was in that horrid 1960's category of "over thirty." We were both hippies, but Jon came by hipness honestly while I slummed. So when he came home and announced that he had discovered a "real" yoga teacher, I tossed Mr. Hittleman and followed Jon into Boston. There a housewifely woman, Mrs. Lind, held a small class every week.  
Mrs. Lind taught us slow, fluid stretches; I seemed to move under water. Her sweet melodious voice modulated our activities. After we stretched every muscle in our bodies, we hit the floor. Corpse pose. Flat on our backs as Mrs. Lind lit a candle and switched off the electric lights.
"Don't think of anything," she said. "Just rest."
In the near total darkness, we placed our attention on our toes, our ankles, our calves, etc. until we reached the tops of our heads. Then all fell silent. After we rested a while, Mrs. Lind's gentle voice called us back into our bodies.
I loved these classes, especially the way I disappeared in that final pose. I did not know where I went, but I knew I was not sleeping or thinking or daydreaming. I felt as though I had shot right out of the top of my head into a thick black luscious embracing space.
However, I took Mrs. Lind's classes for granted. This is how a yoga class is supposed to be, I assumed, until Jon and I moved to New York and I began to shop for another Mrs. Lind. I never found her equal, although years later in Charlotte I came close. On the Hindu temple grounds, doing yoga with Pradip, I watched the sun inflame my eyelids as I melted into stretches the way I once melted with Mrs. Lind.
Only recently did I discover a name for what I experienced in the restful darkness of Mrs. Lind's class: Deepak Chopra calls it "slipping into the gap," that moment sometimes experienced in meditation when you forget your monkey mind and you forget your mantra and you slip into the welcoming arms of Old Mother Universe. Ahhhh!

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