yoga

Being A Body On A Floor Flirting With Death.

Savasana: Life As Asana (Part Two).
Read Part One.

Kate and Geertje are yogis, writers and friends on different continents. They correspond and talk about life as if it were a Yoga pose — requiring flexibility and strength, discipline and surrender, regular check-ins with reality, humor and kindness.

***

Darling Kate,

There’s something disturbing about finding yourself on a floor without having a reasonable excuse to be there — like doing Yoga or having spontaneous sex or dusting or other floor raisons d’être.

No. Being on a floor in the middle of the night, praying, like you said you did, to basically anything or anybody, can only mean one thing: you’ve officially fallen into God’s gravitational field. I usually end up on floors when, literally, there isn’t any place else to go. No one else to be.

It almost sounds zen if it wasn’t so terrible. I lie on floors when I’ve run out of all the other options. Like walking or lying or sleeping or eating or calling a friend or wanting to live or look at your phone or the sky.

I feel so sorry to hear that you’ve been doing the nocturnal floor-mamba, darling friend. God knows I’ve been there. I’ve lain next to beds and under them. I’ve lain in hotel hallways. I’ve lain on several kitchen floors — somehow kitchens just beg for breakdown. I’m a floorer-pro.

So when you told me that a darkness filled you, the left side of your body to be exact (tell me more about that, by the way) I think I know. At least I hope I do, so you wouldn’t have to be the only one to have that fear-terror-despair animal fricking floor you.

You said you didn’t think suicide. You say you’ve been fascinated with death. You said it felt like dying. You say I appreciate my life more. I get that. It’s what dying does.

It was about three years into my Yoga practice that a teacher explained Savasana to me in a way that worked for me. In Savasana, she said, we practice our dying.

I don’t remember her adding anything to that, no guided relaxation or New Age music to smooth over the uncomfortable reality of us, lying on our backs on a rubber mat on a wooden floor in the middle of a city in the middle of our lives, practicing our inevitable death.

It made total and immediate sense to me.

Savasana is where appropriate reasons to be on the floor meet the gut-wrenching ones. It’s such a skillful, shocking, relevant, underestimated Yoga pose, don’t you think? The most regulated way of being a body on a floor flirting with death.

I guess I love Savasana because it’s such an anti-pose. Because really, I’m not that interested in talking about Yoga postures anymore. Especially with you. I know you feel the same way, that Yoga for you is something juicier than getting your heels on the floor in down dog.

I know life is your ultimate asana. Your way into the body-life. Like a prompt is in writing.

At least that’s how I feel. I can feel the energy at the base of my spine move just talking about them, my two lovers. Weirdly I feel the same about Yoga as I do with writing. Both provide entrance. Both make me feel more alive. Body mind being blown open. It’s not about postures. It’s not about words.

It’s about how, when I let them move through me deeply, they open a gate where intimacy — unending, terrifying, delightful intimacy — becomes possible.

I’m pretty sure you and I met at that gate. We laid down two Yoga mats on a floor of a farm in France during a writing retreat because we were losing our bodies to our minds. Two bodies grown on different soil — one dry, high and hot, the other in wet, low mud. Continents shifted apart.

You must have told me what you were afraid of because during one breakfast, you slipped me a note saying “I’m not afraid of butter and jam.” Do you remember that? I thought it was cute as hell.

So now write me into a Yoga pose, darling. Or talk about not being afraid of butter and jam. Anything from you I already love. Meanwhile, how about if I join you on the floor? Do Savasana with you. For you. For my own dying body. For our dear teacher’s body. For my dad’s body.

For all the bodies we loved and lost. For the ones we burned, despised. The ones we miss.

Would that make any sense?

Love, Geertje

***

G-sparkle-dog!

That’s your gangster name. You can name me. Then we need a name for our gang. And of course, we’ll need a handshake, and either satin or leather jackets embroidered with our name and logo too. So, we also need a logo. And a mascot. Okay?

Did I ever tell you that my father was in a greaser gang? Think the movie Grease. Dear old dad had a pompadour and smoked filter-less Lucky Strikes that he kept rolled up in the sleeve of his white t-shirt. There’s more, of course, but I wanna talk about me on the floor.

I learned to pray on my knees when I was a little girl. I had friends, Sherry and Sheila, they were fraternal twins, I called them Sherishela.

And when I would spend the night at their house, before bedtime, they would kneel by their beds, little hands in anjali mudra, and recite the words, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.”

And then came the listing of loved ones, “God bless mommy and daddy and grandma and grandpa…” So, I took to doing the same, even though I was Jewish, and Jesus was, to me, like Santa Claus, or the Easter bunny. You know, made up.

Still, I remember how natural it was for me to say these words to God, because God wasn’t made up. I felt God. Even though I never talked about it, there was no doubt in my being that God was real. God wasn’t made up, at least not the one I prayed to.

I said that prayer every night before bed for a very long time. My mother never told me not to, she was pro-Jesus, and she always made it a point to say only that, “He was a great teacher.” My mother was a professional psychic, a phone sex operator, and a very reformed Jew. She never told me my prayer was wrong.

So, when I found myself shrouded in darkness this summer after the break-up, my head full of scary thoughts, thoughts that beat me out of a deep sleep, mean as hell and at full throttle, “You should just kill yourself, no one loves you. You’re all alone. You don’t matter…” I’d just roll out of bed and onto the floor, because it seemed like the only life-preserving thing to do.

Thank God there is a well-developed wise and kind self to direct the darkness. Thank God it’s natural for some part of me to bring myself down to the floor into a whole body begging.

Surrenderasana takes many shapes. Sometimes it’s my body curled up like a potato bug, hands covering my face to stifle the screaming. I don’t want to scare the dogs, so I scream into my hands, sometimes my pillow. Screamasana.

Sometimes it’s just a supine, stare-at-the-ceiling, hot tears dripping down my face, variation. And sometimes I’m graced with an immediate response. Stillness. Peace. Sometimes I don’t get a response for days.

I suppose I’ve learned through many years of practice how to stay with the vibration of terror. I’ve learned through practice that these sensations and dark days pass.

Yes, they may come back, and they may not be any less vicious, but I hope I am more kind and welcoming to the swarms of stinging bees that live in the left side of my body. Ouch!

Savasana as anti-pose? Yes! This reminds me of a class I took in West Seattle at a great studio called Eight Limbs. They had a dry sauna in the ladies’ room where I used to sit for 10 minutes before class. Sweet Jesus, the memory of this alone makes me achy for those days.

Anyhow, I can’t tell you a thing about the teacher who led this particular class, except that he was a he, and the practice was deep, because when we went onto our backs for Savasana, I died.

It helped that prior to my death he led us through a visualization where I saw myself on a mountain meditating, and then rainstorms and wind and hail and snow began to break me down, vultures feasted on my flesh, and eventually I was just a pile of bones discarded on the sand. I was so dropped into this experience that I was breathing two breaths a minute.

Today in Savasana, I will visualize the two of us on top of a mountain and I shall watch us both decompose, how’s that?

P.S. In France, they fed us bread and butter and jam at every meal. I ate it with gusto, without fear. I’m afraid of getting fat. I’m American. I was amazed that I didn’t gain an ounce! I decided, “When in France…” and let myself go for it! I was actually thinner when I got home to Arizona.

I think if one eats bread and butter and jam with joy and without fear of fat, it becomes soul-food. I suppose anything can.

Much love to you!

Kate, who is less herself and more herself at the same time!

P.P.S. What’s my gangster name?

***

wp-content-uploads-2015-05-kategotsis02Reading anything Kate wrote is great. And no, this is not her writing her own bio in third person, it’s me talking, Geertje. Kate says she has biography anxiety. I think it’s cool of her to refuse to be distilled into a tiny bio-box. It won’t work anyway, not with a woman-writer-phenomenon like Kate. Writing a bio about her is like fingers pointing at the moon, to make it sound Zen. Like the song goes, to know, know, know her is to love, love, love her (and I do) and you will too once you dip into her magical world.

 

wp-content-uploads-2015-05-geertjecouwenberghWriting Geertje’s bio is a fool’s game, but way more relaxing than writing my own, because, who am I? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m a fool, so here goes. Geertje is sugar dipped in flames, fierce-hearted sage draped in ginger-scented supermodel flesh. A mirror that is angled just right, reflecting sparkly disco-ball light. Read more from her zany and just sharpened shank mind here.

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Read More: Age-asana: Life As Asana (Part Three).
Anjaneyasana: Life As Asana (Part Four).
Life As Asana (Part Five).

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