My dad came back to life two months ago. After being in critical condition for a month, most of it in a medically induced coma and another month between a less-critical unit and rehab center, he finally seemed to be on the road to recovery. Suddenly the man whose hand I held night after night didn’t seem to need me; and I was back to the life I had left behind.
My mom would always say, “They say”:
“They say you should take probiotics.”
“They are saying coffee is good for you now.”
I never believed in the “they”, however their cult-like mantras have seeped into my consciousness…taunting my every decision. They say the family members of an ill loved one must take care of themselves, staying strong and healthy while dealing with the crisis. They say a lot of things about self-care but I don’t always know what “they” mean.
How much care is enough or even appropriate in these situations? Who is to say? Certainly not “they”.
We took walks. Some days when the sun was strong and there was nothing to do inside, we’d walk the whole circumference of the hospital. I ran. There was a short period between the bad and the worse when it was all wide open and I had time to run. I would drive over to my hometown high school track and run laps with the empty bleachers looking down at me. I can still summon up the memory of the blue skies that followed me those days and how crystal clear and happy the atmosphere appeared. I saw the scene in HD and slow motion and there were moments when I was oddly happy and a bird would fly by. I understood (though I was not at all happy about the understanding) that death gives meaning to life and each breath echoed more vibrantly in my consciousness. Or maybe I was just in denial. Sometimes the space of ultimate understanding and deep denial feels just about the same.
Many times I asked myself if denial was what I was in. I didn’t cry like my brother or need hugs like mom. I just got to work. And you’ll probably ask why I didn’t “do yoga”, meaning put myself on the mat. Well I couldn’t. I could not and did not get on the yoga mat and do poses. I couldn’t “do yoga” in that way. But, the “yoga” was always there. It was at this time that I realized once again that thing I once knew about the karma of long-term practice, similar to the way the body still metabolizes long after a weightlifter puts the weights down, I was still experiencing yoga knowledge and states of being even though I took no steps to invoke them. I saw the situation from an Observer Mind, practiced Artfulness of Action, and in general talked to angels.
I consciously concluded that the angels wanted dad and even mused on the thought that he’d be happier closer to the source, released from his physical being. And yet I did not care. I did not care for him to be happier or integrated into the Universe, one with everything.
I wanted my father to stay alive. For me. For my mom. For my brother. His sister. Our family.
I shot laser warnings through my third eye to the hungry spirits who hovered over his bed and pulled his subtler energies deep into his belly where they couldn’t escape. And there he remained. Not well. Not well. Not at all well. One day would be a little better and another would be a little worse; but there was neither rest nor comfort.
Sometime between my first phase of running around the track and the second phase of mastering the coffee cart or therapy dog hospital offerings, it got real bad and I managed to squeak out the words, “Where is the chapel?”
The chapel…the place where people experience the start of endings. At that time there was no time for running or “yoga-ing” or anything else. It was time to surrender...surrender.
Surrender...surrender…surrender…surrender…surrender…. then I surrendered. Under duress, I surrendered after I tried everything, and I mean everything…from analyzing the personalities of each of my father’s doctors, to attempting transfers, study, prayer…all of it. After all that and he was looking more toward dying than ever, I surrendered. I surrendered because I had no choice. I had no more ideas, no more options.
Spirit is an interesting thing. I looked to the chapel when there was no peace to say, “I know nothing”.
I took every holy book and laid them on my lap as I sat on the floor and screamed Hail Mary, Sweet Jesus, Allah, Hashem, and all of it until a Buddhist (I was told later) priest arrived and put a healing hand on my shoulder. He had the touch. I felt it and I knew it and I could have said it, but I didn’t care to tell him I knew. I didn’t care if I was healed. I didn’t want to feel no pain; I just wanted my dad better. And I knew I had no control. Would my prayer trump another person’s for their loved one, because I went to the chapel? Because I’m “spiritual”? A “yogi”? Clearly not. Some would go and some would stay and I would have no say in that. I came to the chapel to beg, to rage for understanding and to feel the breath of GOD on my back, which I did that day and everyday I went there. And that was it.
My dad survived. My dad is a medical miracle and was an overall shock to the lot of us and pretty much clueless about it. He is building his strength back up but basically recovered from the flu-pneumonia combo that almost killed him.
I am not. I am two months behind his recovery schedule…racing to pick up the pieces of a life I left while I was gone. Friendships would never be the same. Business would never be the same. Lara…never be the same. You leave and life goes on without you. It must. And as you try to re-integrate, you find the shavings on the corners, which makes the puzzle just undone. It’s very close, but not quite the same.
Would you want it to be?
“Two things happen,” my friend and guru Daniel said on one of my dad’s “almost dead” talks. “Either your life is completely changed, or you go full back to doing the same old thing.”
Well, I am touched forever by this experience and it manifests in many ways, from the obvious sheer joy I get at hearing his voice, to the not-as- obvious empathy that rocks my being as I walk around in heightened awareness that there are people walking too, who didn’t get their miracle.
Where is the inspiration here you may ask? Well I hope you can find the nuggets that touch you. As we allow ourselves to be touched, we are all so much the wiser. Take this story and live through me. Love them now as if they’re gone, cause one day they will be. Surrender freely. Know it all matters and nothing matters and that contradiction is the marker of a great truth. And that you are special and also not and nothing, but one thing, is forever and that thing is also never. We are a collection of shared stories and now mine is yours.
Lara Land is an L2 authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher with 18 years yoga experience. She has worked all over the world teaching yoga and mindful living and developing programs to heal and empower. In 2008-2009 spent three months in post-genocide Rwanda bringing yoga as healing to survivors, and from there went to India where she worked with HIV positive youth. In June 2011 Lara opened Land Yoga, a ground floor Yoga/Wellness Center in the heart of Harlem. Through Land she developed community programs such as Harlem Earth Day, Uptown Yoga Festival and Women Who Wow and founded her own non-profit, Three and a Half Acres Yoga. Lara has made ten trips to India to study with the Guru of the Ashtanga Yoga Method often bringing students with her there and on retreats worldwide. She is a public speaker and writer with recent contributions to the Huffington Post, Mantra Magazine, and New York Yoga + Life Magazine. Lara is a strong believer in the power of Ashtanga Yoga and a fervent follower of all eight limbs.