My mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and my whole family feels the tragedy of that all the time. She had more to do, not the least of which was doting on and getting to know her grandchildren. I know many of you out there know this same pain.
The miracle within the tragedy is that she is happy -- smiling, laughing, hugging. That is a blessing because it could be otherwise.
She doesn't speak coherently anymore, except for a few words here and there that we know are meaningful, "Baby," "Love," "Thank you." We are so grateful for each of these glimpses into her reality. I feel strongly that she still knows who I am, but it has been awhile since she's said my name. Her mind is mostly a mystery to us.
Over Thanksgiving, I enjoyed simple time with her, just holding her hand. We didn't exchange anything of the mind, but we communicated heart to heart. I felt it. Her heart is as it always was -- open, compassionate, and even ecstatic.
As I watch my mother continue to exude joy despite her declining brain function, I'm reminded of one of the most important lessons of yoga: the Self is not just a mind. Our identities are not just a collection of ideas, memories, and beliefs. That sense of self is in fact what we endeavor to deconstruct and dissolve when we're on the mat. Who we are is so much more than just a body and a brain.
As yogis we work on it all -- mind, body, spirit, heart.
Heart. The heart center. The heart chakra -- an invisible concentration of energy that can flow freely within and radiate love or can be clogged, shut down, and dim in its projection.
I believe that, for some, open-heartedness comes naturally. My mother is one of these people. She doesn't need to think about radiating love, happiness, and generosity of spirit; she just does. She doesn't need to meditate and direct prana to her heart center. Her heart is engaged and enlivened without effort. Others of us need to actively nourish our hearts.
One of the most "nutrient dense" practices I know is Meditation for a Calm Heart. This is perhaps the meditation I talk (even proselytize) about the most. With consistent practice, it soothes even the stormiest of hearts. Try it -- every day for 40 days to get the full effect.
May we all nourish our hearts, so that -- come what may -- we can offer smiles and hugs. Sat Nam.
Blog by Cate Baily
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. Click here for more complete bio.