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Monthly Inspiration: March 2016

Meditation (and Savasana)

By Heather Hartstein

I started practicing yoga in 2000. I was twenty-five, newly married and struggling with some fairly serious health issues. I turned to yoga for help, practicing regularly for five years. Health and wellness soon followed. At the end of 2005, my first child was born and along with that reality came great unrest. I became almost agoraphobic, riddled with daily stress and inexplicable anxiety as my spiritual awakening took root. I returned to therapy, started acupuncture, and began taking anti-anxiety medication.

The next five years took me in and out of my yogic practice. By 2007, I was pregnant with my second child and resolved to be more present for the birth, as well as prepared for the spiritual changes in myself that I now knew would follow. I started group meditation classes, continued my various therapies, and was now off of the anti-anxiety medication. Success prevailed. I experienced a deeply connected birth as a direct result of the use of my breath to direct the experiences of my mind. It was magical.

I was now more of a co-pilot in the moving car of my spiritual awakening rather than being dragged behind the vehicle, if you know what I mean. My engagement in various spiritual practices was numerous. However, one theme stood strong…MEDITATION. My continued efforts to educate myself about the distortions of the mind and the truth of the heart led me preparedly to my third pregnancy in 2009.

It was again deeply spiritual, affecting my entire life experience. I felt alone and overwhelmed. Past life regressions, realizations about my current life at the time, and “communication” with my unborn baby nearly did me in. I was compelled to meet with a new type of healer while still pregnant, and basically worked through this next stage trying to keep my emotional upheaval manageable. It was challenging, but well worth it.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of my third child are FAR too long to share. To put it succinctly, he was born with Down Syndrome as well as a rare metabolic disorder that not only threatened his life, but set me on a path from which I would never turn back. For six weeks, every day could have been his last. With no recourse from western medicine for his condition, we turned to alternative therapies. After bi-weekly visits to Stony Brook geneticists for six weeks and innumerable visits to the pediatrician, we were told his blood no longer carried the disorder. Our miracle had arrived. He was going to live.

Throughout this time, I continued with my guided group meditations. It was also the premiere of my daily individual meditation practice. I would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, walk downstairs, and with three children under the age of four and a sleeping husband, I would sit and meditate to start my every day. Literally. It gave me such strength to cope. It grounded me in a world that seemed terribly out of control. It actually lifted me up amidst the possible horrifying realities that surrounded me. It was a lifeline.

At this point, my now years long meditative path was infiltrating my husband. While we lived our lives guided by Buddhist principles naturally, we now both began exploring meditation through Buddhism. We shared a beautiful and timely experience. This journey started at the end of 2010. My husband passed away unexpectedly in June of 2011. I held his hand as he moved out of this reality and into a new one. Our last meditation together was on death.

I had lost my best friend and husband combined of 17 years, I was left with a one, three, and five year old, no income, as I stayed home with the children, no savings, a house on the brink of foreclosure, and a recent bankruptcy. It is fair to say that THIS was now the most challenging part of my journey. Pain was like air, present every single second and time did nothing more than what it should-pass. To quote a line from a poem I wrote in August of 2012:

‘I hope one day time will reveal,
Just how the burning phoenix feels,
Once it has risen and taken flight,
Oh how I do await that night.’ 
  

Perhaps you are asking yourself right now, “Is this for real?” “How did she get through all of this?”  “How does anyone move on from such a tragedy?”  While I cannot answer for anyone but myself, I DO have an answer. Meditation.

Life had prepared me for this. My meditative journey led me to this point. While I will not pretend that my every step was graceful, grounded, and accepting, I can say without reservation that my strong and deeply rooted meditation practice absolutely saved me, my children, and my entire family. It provided a framework from which to move forward, a constructive place to put my pain, and a coping mechanism as I looked ahead to my future and the future of my children. Meditation, along with the support of my family and friends allowed me to move forward with strength, with hope, and with joy. And that’s exactly what I did.

Almost five years later, I am now a mother of FOUR beautiful children, with a spouse who accepts me and my journey and loves me because of it, and an attitude towards life that can be captured by
 words from another poem of mine written in 2014:

"Two families trials together, turn sadness to symphony, grief to gratitude, and effort to effervescence.”

This month at KamaDeva Yoga, as we focus on the theme of meditation, let savasana be your focus. While the practice of savasana is in my opinion, the most challenging as well as the most important pose in yoga, it is possibly the most overlooked. Challenge yourself this month to give savasana a chance to do what it was meant to. At the end of each one of your practices, as you prepare your body to move into final relaxation, place a block on the floor above your crown. Then gently lay one side of a sandbag on top of the block and the other side on your forehead. Allow your brain to softly sink to the back of your skull.

Still your body. Quiet your mind. Breathe.

KamaDeva Yoga, 15 Lumber Lane, 2nd Fl, East Hampton, NY 11937 Tel: 917.301.6919 Monthly Inspiration Archives