Saturday, February 21, 2009


There are few things better than a quiet room.

In Cambodia I feared it. I hated being alone with my thoughts, because I never knew where they'd lead me. I should go throw up. I'm a horrible teacher. My kids hate me. I'm a wimp. I hate myself. Would anyone miss me if I weren't around?

I'd never hated solitude as much as I did last year. I couldn't still my mind long enough to read a book, meditate, do yoga, or pray. I couldn't understand the people there and was exhausted being around them too. So I was left, torn between the discomfort of my environment and discomfort with being by myself.

Now I am gaining solitude, peace, spirituality, and calm I've never completely felt before.

Last week Valentine's day, I spent mostly alone in my dorm room, stretching, reading, playing guitar, thinking. It wasn't terrifying or frightening. I don't mind being alone, when I have love and support near by. When I know I am taken care of, loved, understood.

This morning I went to the hot yoga class at my gym. To begin the room is heated to 90 degrees. Led through poses and movements, being conscious of my body, my breath, my mind. After awhile the room is up to 102 degrees and rising. Liz, the teacher, said something I'd never heard in yoga class before. "As you hold this pose, imagine how your body would change if you fell asleep right here." I'm thinking, Are you crazy? My face is contorted, I'm holding my breath, I'm balancing on my left foot, right arm holding my right leg up in the air behind me, teetering to hold my balance without falling on my face and she says, "Relax"?

Sure enough, when I became conscious of the tightness in my shoulders, I relaxed them. Once I realized there was no reason to flex the muscles in my back, I let them go. Only after she encouraged what it would feel like if I relaxed completely did I sense the tightness of my fingers, the scrunching of my forehead, the uncomfortable position of my neck.

She went on, "Acknowledging that yes, this is a difficult pose, but you can still be calm in it, is a fundamental goal behind doing yoga. Confronting stress, tension, or pain does not have to be the end of you. Learning how to be calm and see the stress, tension, or pain for what it is will change your life."

I feel more authentically myself than I did in high school.
I feel more balanced than I did freshman year of college.
I feel more forgiving and graceful than I did in Cambodia.
I am much less bitter and angry than I was when my plane landed 7 months ago.

Learning peace and contentment amidst the chaos is an ideal worth pursuing.

In 1st grade I wanted to be in 2nd grade.
In 5th grade I wanted to wear make-up and shave my legs.
In 8th grade I wanted to be in high school, then get my driver's license, then make the Varsity basketball team, then graduate.
In college I wanted to travel.
In Cambodia I wanted to be home.
Back home I want to back with my kids, I want to get out of college, and on...and on.

Where does it end? Is the pain or the situations in my life so unbearable that I can't just sit with the pain long enough for it to pass? Because it does, it always does.

Just being where I am, what I am, who I am.

This morning I came to Ben and Ashley's, possibly my favorite quiet place. My whole self sinks into calm as soon as I enter the door. As I sit in my pajamas they help remind me where I've been, how I've come, where I'm headed.

I can breathe.