Storytelling Kathleen Reynolds, 3/1/2014
Tonight I was on bedtime duty. My son and I were both very tired but managed to keep each other stumbling down the path of our bedtime routine. Teeth were brushed. Stuffed animals were tucked in with him. And we were both too tired to have any strong opinions about which bedtime books to read. So, I did what I’ve done before in times like that and picked up Where the Sidewalk Ends from the bookshelf.
We snuggled in next to each other, book on my lap. And my son looked down at the cover showing the two children hanging over the edge of the crumbling pathway, past the sign that warns “Edge, Keep Off,” their eyes wide, taking in whatever is below. And, seeming to really notice the picture for the first time, though we know by now many of the poems by heart, he traced the crumbling pathway with his finger, and asked, “What is this?” And I said, “Well, let’s read.” And I turned to page 64.
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Earlier in the day, I taught the 9:00am class at Allay. My theme was intention, and I introduced this theme by sharing my experience when I first heard the directive to “set an intention for your practice” in a yoga class. I didn’t know what the teacher meant. I had some idea of what she didn’t mean by intention. It didn’t mean goal-setting — I did that enough in the job I had at the time — and I knew enough to realize that I was coming to yoga for something different from that. Kind and gracious as she was, this teacher offered some suggestions for setting intentions. Be aware of your breath. Notice the effects of your practice today in your body. Dedicate your practice to someone in your life.
Being that there wasn’t some huge thunderbolt of intention striking as I sat crossed-legged on my mat, I was happy enough to take her suggestions. I would repeat one of those intentions to myself at the start of class. And during the classes, I began to become aware of my breath as we moved through poses. I started to notice what was taking place in my body as I practiced. And on occasion, I dedicated my practice to the first person who came to mind as I sat, hands at heart center.
And time went by, and I loved the magic that was created on my yoga mat. And one day after class, still wearing that hazy yoga “all is right with the world” after-glow, I got in my car. And then someone cut me off as I got on the on-ramp to the highway. First, I got mad at the driver. Then, I said some things that blew that hazy yoga after-glow right out the window. And finally, I felt sad that the magic from my mat hadn’t stay with me longer.
Life went on, as it does. I continued to burn myself out setting goals that I thought I should set, all the while stirring with some vague feeling that something needed to shift in my life. And not knowing what that was, I just started to do more yoga. I tried different types of classes. I experienced different teachers. And I decided to return to a specific type of practice I had been introduced to a couple of years prior. This decision led me to a silent meditation retreat over a long weekend.
There, a thunderbolt did strike on my mat. Like many times before, I sat crossed-legged, closed my eyes, and simply focused on doing what the teacher instructed. I inhaled and exhaled when he cued the breath. I directed my breath to the places in my body where he said to direct the breath to. I noticed the space that existed at the end of the inhale and before the exhale began. I noticed that the exhale seemed to go on and on. And in a moment, a shock ran up my spine from my tailbone to the crown of my head. I was aware I sitting more upright than I had ever sat in my life. And then I was being held in the hand of God. And it was so beautiful that I wanted to hold on to that moment forever. I wanted to rip that page from the book, hold it close to my heart and have it be the only story I ever had to read or tell again. And then the moment was gone.
And on the third and final day of the retreat, I sat on my mat again. And I tried really hard to get that thing to happen again. And it didn’t. Still, it felt really nice to sit and be silent. And at the end of that day, I started the long drive home from the retreat center, filled with that beautiful silence. And I drove for awhile in silence. And then I turned on the radio.
What happened next is this. I changed careers. I did a lot more yoga. My husband and I moved to Maryland. I did a lot less yoga. I gave birth to my son. It was a very long and difficult labor. In those early months with him at home, sometimes I listened to guided meditations while he nursed or napped. But most of the time, I napped with him when I could. He was not a good sleeper at night. I didn’t set foot in a yoga studio again until he was 10 months old. Yes, there are a lot of gaps in this part of my story. Gaps tell their own story.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends
And the story continued, as all stories do. There will be many more chapters to write. But the ending is the same as the beginning. This is true for all stories. My practice tonight has been to write this chapter of my story. And I dedicate this practice to my son.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
$For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.