April 2018

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Dreaded Hamster

I dedicate this blog entry to my yoga teachers. My first teacher, Denise, whose voice of encouragement and giggle I still hear, and my current teachers, Anna, Dawn, and Victoria, who support me in practicing yoga in my changed body.

My friend Kathy asked me how I keep the dreaded hamsters still.

Kathy is struggling with chemo and breast (or beast) cancer and sometimes her mind races like a hamster running in its wheel as she imagines all that might go wrong in her body and in her life. "How do you do still that hamster?" she asked me.

I felt like the poet Walt Whitman when a child asked him, "What is the grass?"

How could I answer my friend?. . . .I do not know how I stay calm any more than she.

It's true, though. I am calm in the midst of these tumors, their resultant disabilities, unemployment, and so forth. I don't know why I'm calm. After all, so much is hard and so much could get worse. Why is my dreaded hamster not at the wheel?

I'm guessing that lots of things contribute to my equanimity (a hard word to say and to spell): my partner Ann's an amazing support; my family and friends ground me; my faith cradles me; my church holds me dear; my doctors care for me; I take an anti-depressant that is also an anti-anxiety med.

I really am okay, though I'm different than I was, and I know that the tumors could come back. But then, I could get hit by a bus. (This comforts me.) For this moment, I am okay.

The best answer that I can pass on is that I practice yoga.

Each month at my current studio, Samarya Center (my name's even in its name: destiny), we study a niyama. This month, we're focusing on Ishvara Pranidhana, which is the dedication, devotion, and surrender of the fruits of one’s practice to a higher power.


As my yoga teacher Victoria says, not the kind of surrender with a white flag that acknowledges defeat. I think it's the kind of surrender that's like floating on the gentle waves of a warm Costa Rican sea.

The kind of surrender where I see myself as part of a larger whole, and where my primary purpose is to breathe...and allow others to breathe.

The kind of surrender in Reinhold Niebuhr's oft quoted Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Yoga teaches me to live in my body in this moment and to be at peace in this body and this moment. I thank my teachers for introducing me to this peace and this breath.

 Om. (Said with the mouth as an "o" and a slight smirk, uncomfortable that I may sound like I think I'm wise. I know I'm not, but perhaps I am growing wiser.)  


  1. Thank you Mary (shukriya in Hindi) for your wisdom, comforting words and support of my sis and sharing your journey. Bless you.

  2. Let's try again. Shukriya for your oh so thoughtful word of comfort for mybig sis. And for the gift they are to the rest of us. Bless you.


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