Sadly, no DNotS for me.
Instead, I got a new yoga move. Ho hum.
The yoga guru came to town for her annual three-day workshop. As she stood in front of us, teaching us the finer points of familiar poses, muscles and sub-muscles rippled across her upper back. A roomful of yoginis crowded around her, to get a good look. Many were teachers, recording video with their phones, so they could relay her instructions to their own students.
For twenty-five years, I’d learned a basic move: slide your shoulders down your back toward your waist. It was the foundation of every pose. Slide your shoulders down toward your waist. All my teachers, including the guru, had taught the move. Whenever I started the first sun salutation of class, my scapulas complied automatically, sliding themselves into their proper position. Even standing in line at the grocery store, I felt them sliding down toward my waist.
The guru turned her back to us, as she prepared to demonstrate Mountain Pose, otherwise known as Standing Up Straight. I jostled in for a closer look. My shoulders anticipated their slide. And the guru said, “Hunch your shoulders.”
I must have misunderstood.
“Up toward your ears,” she said.
I stopped breathing.
“Revolutionized my practice,” she said.
I felt faint.
“Makes a stronger foundation,” she said.
My brain exploded, the shrapnel raining down in a lethal cloud. For the next few seconds, I was dazed, My ears buzzed, and the guru’s voice was drowned out by two different sound tracks that began blasting simultaneously through my mind.
Track One. Holy crap. Yoga is not The Answer Everlasting. Yoga’s a Thing, with no more inherent value than any other Thing. It’s the high-carb/low-fat Thing before God revealed the Truth of paleo. Aerobics before the Truth of weightlifting. Analog before the Truth of digital. I drink the Kool-Aid. I proselytize—harangue my brother that only yoga will cure his back problems. If slide your shoulders toward your waist is no longer True, there’s nothing left to believe in.
Track II. Ahh. Yoga is Delicious. Yoga is Heaven. Nothing beats standing half naked in this crowded room, learning new stuff about rhomboids. My head loves the science. My heart loves the mystery—that my kidneys respond when the teacher says, “Twist from your kidneys.” These are my peeps. I love them, and my classes, and my teachers, and my studio. This guru is the best. I’ll be first to sign up when she comes to town again next year. I believe in her.
It only lasted ten seconds.
I felt battered until the two tracks in my mind converged into a soothing hum. While I'd spaced out, the guru had moved on to hunching her shoulders in Downward Facing Dog. I shook my head, trying to get back to reality. “Wait. I don’t get it,” I said.
She plucked me out of the flock and guided me through the new version of the pose, as the crowd gathered around to watch her re-program my shoulders. She prodded, pulled, poked. “You’ll see. Your Down Dog will be stronger.” Because I believed in her, it was.
I’ve always wanted to have a Dark Night of the Soul. Then disappear for a month, while I assimilate the new-found Truth. To have people ask, “What happened to Dawn?” “Didn’t you hear? She had a Dark Night of the Soul.” That would be so cool.
Instead, I got hunch your shoulders. A Dark Ten Seconds of the Soul.