I’ve drafted and erased multiple versions of this post already, awash in a churning mixture of exhaustion, deep concern about loved ones, and self-criticism. Maybe soon I’ll be able to write about the first (thrilling! challenging!) day meeting my PhD cohort, our orientation and first workshops together; in the meantime, I’m sharing with you an example of my work I shared with them, a short passage from the “Opposites” section in what is normally a much longer yoga nidra (for full effect, have someone read it aloud to you as you sit in meditation with your eyes closed):
Yoga Nidra: Opposites
Settle into your seat, your spine relaxed and supple.
Close your eyes, if you wish.
Become conscious of your breath, its natural rhythms in, and out.
Imagine your body as brand new.
Imagine lying on your back, your nerves still unresponsive to your will.
Your will itself still unformed.
Your head is large, in proportion to the rest of your perfect body.
Perfect body, in whatever form it came.
Perfect body, in whatever form it will grow into.
Your breathing air is new—
Before, oxygen came through blood.
Your hearing through air is new—
Before, sounds were filtered by water, by muscle, by skin.
Your sight is new.
You probably kept your eyes closed, before.
In your imagination now, you blink and strain for focus.
Your digestion is new.
In and out a short journey—
From the sludge of your first days
to the yellow cottage cheese you now sustain.
The only thing you taste: sweet milk.
The only thing you know yet to fear: hunger.
Welcome an opposite of this newness.
Welcome agedness, welcome old,
a century of life.
You’re sitting in this chair.
Your head has learned—perhaps forgotten—100 years’ worth.
Your body has done exactly what it has needed to.
Your body has lived, for 100 years.
Perhaps your breath is labored now.
You breathed pollution in your favorite cities,
And thin mountain air, salt breeze at the beach.
You breathed in shock,
And overwhelming beauty.
All the edges of sound now are softened.
Sometimes you leave your hearing aids turned off.
You hear the beat of your own experienced heart.
All the edges of sight now are softened—
Especially the details of the nearby,
In physicality, in memory.
Your digestion is a well-travelled path.
All the meals you prepared, all the meals you were served.
All your favorites, whenever you could obtain them.
And now your appetite is dulled,
your metabolism slowed.
The only thing you’re hungry for: vanilla ice cream.
Imagine now your thinnest self:
Welcome contours of muscle barely concealed by skin,
The tracings of veins and arteries,
The rises and ridges of bone appearing at all the junctures,
Of jaw and shoulder, elbow and rib,
hip and knee and ankle.
All angled and sharp.
Welcome an opposite of this lightened mass,
Welcome your thickest self.
Welcome padding and outline,
Muscle and blood protected and concealed,
Skin plumped and full,
All the corners filled, all the spaces occupied.
All rounded and soft.
Welcome these opposites.
Welcome the range of possibilities.
Welcome the peace and contentment you might feel.
Welcome gratitude for all that you hold, and are.
Bring your attention back now to your present self.
Welcome the rest of your day, and a sound sleep tonight.
Open your eyes.