This morning, my yoga teacher Dawn started class with a dharma talk as she always does. In dharma talks, the Samarya Center teachers connect stories from their lives to a guide for living in the first and second limbs of yoga.
This month's concept is svadhyaya, a Sanscrit word that means study of self and of religious texts. An English major in college and a Language Arts teacher for decades, I'm pretty good with studying religious texts. but because I can be remarkably unaware of myself, I engage especially with this niyama and with my teachers' stories.
Dawn's stories often involve her teenage children. I love these stories because I taught teenagers for so many years and loved to witness their ways of learning about themselves and their world and because Dawn is so earnest in her searching and so humble about her frustrations.
In today's story, Dawn talked about wanting her son to play outside while he wanted to spend hours on the computer. She said, "I realize we are both telling ourselves stories that may have some truth in them..." and then she couldn't help but continue, "but I'm pretty sure most people would agree that my story is right."
Bless her heart. Like the rest of us, she is trying to hear her own story, but it's hard to listen without letting out egos, our insecurities...our humanness get in the way.
I love stories, my own and others'. Not because they tell me about truth in the world but because they tell of the struggle to find truth in the world--and in ourselves.
I am writing a book with the working title, Sharing Our Stories. It is a book of interviews with people who have experienced life-changing health conditions and those in our lives.
Hearing others' stories helps me understand that I am not alone in this quest to make sense of my life. My experience with a serious health condition, in my case brain tumors, is not unique, and others understand my perspective. These are my peeps.
Last fall, I interviewed a Salvadoran doctor who had experienced Guillain Barré, an auto immune disease. In this disease, one’s immune system is triggered by one of many things, such as a virus, immunizations, or bacteria. The immune system makes a mistake and starts to attack the person’s own peripheral nerves. The illness starts in the toes or fingers, usually the toes, and moves up, including muscles in the chest so the person can’t breathe. Because the nerves aren’t working, the muscles don’t work, and if it’s not treated immediately, a person’s lungs can stop working and the person can die. With treatment, a person can recover almost completely. This doctor said that after a year he was 99% cured.
In our interview, he said, “I suspect, Mary, that though you’re interviewing me, you have gained new avenues of exploration in your own life. A patient can become a victim in the face of adversity. I suppose that this whole process for you is about finding meaning in your own life.
I recently heard the story of a man going to a guru to ask what the meaning of life is. The guru replied, "Life. Life is the meaning of life." I get that.
That is what I have to say. What do I have to learn? I'm not sure, but I know it's really important.