March 20, 2013

This Too Shall Pass. ~ Lisa M. Ash

photo: lifesheimagined.tumblr

Yesterday, my Ashtanga Primary Series practice was cathartic—truly healing and restoring.

Sure, my butt is sore and my shoulders are tight today, but they are no longer holding the residual tension which has been inhabiting my muscles these past few weeks.

I’ve reached a critical point in my experience here in Zambia. Each day used to announce itself with excited newness, but being here is no longer an adventure. With the volume turned down, my ears now hear irritation skulking around the edges of my property. Some days it is louder than others, and the reverberation shakes my foundation.

Yesterday, was such a day.

The monotony of the Primary Series sometimes turns me away—these are the times I’m searching for four safe walls to let whatever I’m feeling express itself through the creative movement of a flow series. But this time I needed a residence of stability. The day was a crazy, African mess of chaos. I awoke to the aggravating rumble of a truck barreling its way over potholes that swallow cars and was greeted by a morning without water and electricity.

After a hurried breakfast and a cold bath, I wove my way through a maze of women selling bananas, and men selling nothing but trouble to little foreign white girls, diving into the safety of a mini-bus only to find I would share my seat with an oil can and a bag full of squawking chickens. I arrived at school to be welcomed by three chaotic classes of little brown faces stuffed into a church sanctuary perfect for the acoustics of an African church choir—not for the shrill voices of sixty children with volumes on high.

I was disheartened to see the failing of a school mission statement—dedicated to peaceful communities—as two scraggly boys rolled over my feet punching and grabbing each other, expending their alphabet-learning energy into balled up fists of anger. Even my kids’ yoga lesson, under the sparse shade of one lonely tree, ended in chaos—tough little Mulinda began pushing and shoving children out of the way—thwarting my efforts to have each child hold their own peaceful space to ensure safety and serenity.

The class ended, not with five minutes of meditative bliss, but instead with many of us in tears, myself included. Exhausted, overwhelmed and besieged with commotion, each tear on my sun-screened cheek announced: this chaos will never end. But the day continued, as it would, with or without my pessimism, optimism, tears or smiles.

Time continued, even without my permission.

I did discover some beautiful moments tucked in the nooks and crannies of the day: the baby fresh smell of Abigail’s precious little girl, as she snuggled up to my neck, the surprise prism painted on the rolling clouds as the afternoon rain dissipated, the small, slight smile on Little Stanley’s face during our emotional support group, as he posed his body like a statue saying, Victory!

Hidden amongst the chaos were fleeting moments of serenity in which I could rest. All I had to do was fling open the door and invite them in for a visit. Without my invitation, however, they were still there; even without my appreciation, they existed.

At home that afternoon, I stepped onto my yoga mat searching for stability, safety and a break from this foreign place and my foreign feelings of desperation. I started my Ashtanga Primary Series. The rhythm was immensely comforting.

Five breaths…and only five breaths.




Be Still.

With or without my judgment of the asana, it lasted only five breaths. Whether I loved the feeling of expansion found in the forward fold, or hated the constriction of a twist—I knew it would only last five breaths. I could treasure it or I could ignore it. I found, despite the thoughts I attached to the pose, positive or negative, it lasted the same amount of time as the pose before it, and after it.

With or without me, the sequence continued. I could fully inhabit it, or dispassionately sever myself from it. It didn’t matter; nothing lasted, good or bad. During the practice, this rhythm soothed the pain I stuffed down inside, ignored and swallowed up over the past week.

My mantra became: this, too, shall pass.

My take-away from all this was: Breathe into the expansion as well as the constriction. Inhabit the fleeting moments of desperation just as you inhabit the fleeting moments of wonder. Appreciate that the good and the bad are working in tandem to invent a cadence to life. Settle into the truth that order will order chaos, and chaos will never be the deepest possibility of Truth. Stay for five breaths wherever I am, and then move on. Stay. Then Change. Time keeps moving despite my opinion of it.

The day will continue even without me, because this too shall pass.

Lisa Ash is a yoga instructor and Community of Christ minister from Kansas City, Missouri. She currently works as an educational consultant for HealthEd Connect, a non-profit organization committed to empowering women and children through evidence-based health, education and advocacy programs. She serves as a Teacher Mentor Program Specialist for community school educators in Zambia. When she’s not adventuring around sub-Saharan Africa, she’s at home in Kansas City teaching yoga to babies, kiddos, mommies, grandmas and everyone in-between. You may contact her at: [email protected]  

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Asst.Ed. Jennifer Spesia
Ed: Brianna Bemel

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