You know, besides the fact that I’m alive and well and my beloved family and friends and students and spiritual community are alive and well….
On Thursday mornings, I arise early to do my weekly grocery shopping and then do an online yoga class starting at 9:30. The yoga class is now sponsored by the Town of Cary, which hasn’t been charging for online classes during this pandemic (THANK YOU). However, during these pandemic times, before it was a Town of Cary class, my yoga teacher of many years offered it for free to her former students (THANK YOU).
The first class I attended was done via Zoom and she could only do it for 40 minutes because she was using the free account, although in the past she had taught 50 minute classes. I had a paid account with Zoom that I was using to teach my literature students, so I offered to host the classes so that there wouldn’t be a time limit. She agreed, and so that is what we did through the winter of 2021.
I think that is a great example of how we all navigated the pandemic times. She had something she was willing to offer; I had paid for a vehicle through which she could offer her uplifting services; it was a total win-win. I believe that is just one of so many small stories of how people worked together to move forward through these difficult times of COVID 19.
I do my weekly grocery shopping early Thursday morning, and was unloading my car before class. Yet another thing to be grateful for today is that it has been sunny and beautiful, but with temperatures only in the 70s or low 80s and ONLY 50% HUMIDITY! THAT is a blessing in North Carolina in mid June! It was so nice that I hated to go inside.
And then I had a revolutionary thought: I didn’t have to go inside. I could do my yoga class outside on my patio! I could bring my computer outside and do it in this lovely weather. What a mind-blowing concept!
That is partially due to another thing for which I am grateful. This Christmas, my husband gave me a GREAT gift. He usually asks me for suggestions, so I told him that since I had been doing my online yoga classes inside in our Great Hall (a combined living and dining room), which has a polished brick floor that has ZERO give, I would like another yoga mat to give me more cushion.
However, do you know what he gave me? It was a ten-foot long, two inches thick professional gymnastics floor mat like they have in actual gyms (it has four sections that fold up into a four foot by two and a half foot package for storing when not in use). It’s GREAT! Now I have plenty of cushion no matter what yoga position I try. It makes me happy that he went so far beyond what I asked for to give me what I actually needed but never even thought of asking for. However, it is sturdy enough to handle a class outside on our brick patio.
So that’s exactly what I did. I told the class I was especially excited for this class because I was doing it outside in the beautiful weather. And my dear yoga teacher said she would start the class sitting on the mat instead of standing because she knows that is my preference. So that helped to make it a perfect yoga class for me.
This yoga teacher teacher stresses staying in the moment while we are doing yoga, instead of letting our attention stray to what we need to do later or other thoughts of the past or the present. I try to do that, and am pretty good about it, but always appreciate her gentle reminders to just listen to my body and truly experience the yoga experience. After the class was over, I lay down on my mat to continue the lovely feeling of being outside while I contemplated things.
The main thing I was thinking about is WHY did it take me so long to try this? We had a beautiful dry spring, so there were many other lovely days when I could have been doing yoga outside. I really liked it because yoga is spiritual as well as physical for me, and I felt so much more connected with the spiritual energy of the world doing it outside. I was kind of mentally kicking myself for having wasted so many opportunities to have been doing this outside before today.
As I considered this, I felt something on my arm. When I investigated it, I realized a classic inch worm was inching itself along my arm.
Now, an inch worm isn’t a worm; it is actually a caterpillar for one of the many varieties of geometer moths. It doesn’t just move that way to be different. An inch worm differs from most caterpillars in that it doesn’t have legs all along its bottom surface like most caterpillars do; it is lacking legs in its middle section. So instead of just slinking along on its multiple legs, it needs to operate differently. It grounds on its front section and pulls up its bottom section. Then it grounds on its bottom section and pushes forward its front part. Repeat repeat repeat until it reaches its desired location.
I don’t know for sure about caterpillar anatomy, but that sure sounds like a lot of core work to me. And at least in all my yoga classes, we are ALWAYS working on strengthening our core. So isn’t the inch worm a perfect symbol for doing yoga?
However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought the inch worm was the perfect metaphor for how I got through the pandemic. I purposefully narrowed my world view to what the health experts said was safe. Out in the world, people were pushing for opening the bars or the bowling alleys or the beaches or whatever. I didn’t really pay attention to that. For the most part, I stayed home and taught classes or took my own classes via Zoom. I cooked and I wrote and I worked on my classes and I read and I watched art or entertainment on Zoom or other technologies. I pretty much stayed home all the time except for going to the grocery store(s) once a week(ish), going to my Spiritual Center but only when I had a role in the service (we restricted access to only the handful of people necessary to put on our online services), got take out from a restaurant maybe once a month or so, and occasionally had an outdoor lunch or other social event with friends. I cut my own hair and healed my own illnesses (which, fortunately, were mild). Besides my Spiritual Center, my main social outlet was the Cary Downtown Farmers Market. Not only did it provide me with the best, freshest, and most trustworthy food (at least at the beginning of the pandemic, when people were so afraid of germs clinging to food, farmers market food is pretty much just from the farmer to you with no middle men), but it was held every Saturday year round, outdoors, and drew many of my friends as well as our dedicated Farmers Market community. I would shop for 15-20 minutes and then spend another hour or so outside, wearing masks, standing at least six feet away from everyone, but catching up in person and sharing our victories, our concerns, and our thoughts and feelings as we navigated these difficult pandemic times.
For me, since my family and I had the luxury, resources, and technology to all stay at home, it wasn’t a bad time. As a homeschooler, I was used to being with my son all the time (although we spent a LOT more time outside of the home when we were homeschooling). I loved getting a bonus year of being with him full-time now that he is a college student and spends most of the year living somewhere else. I had plenty of things to keep me busy and accomplished some goals that had been on my “to-do” list for FAR too long.
So I realized that the inch worm represented my pandemic mindset. My operating mode was to stretch out as far as my limited life would allow me, then retract to allow my backside to catch up to my frontside, then repeat. It’s what I did to keep myself and my family and my community and my world safe, and it worked. Our family and our friends and most of my immediate community made it through these times without getting sick or suffering too many negative consequences. Like the inch worm, I kept my nose to the grindstone. I did what I had to do to move forward, even if it seems strange compared to the way I might think things “ought to be.”
I realized that of course I hadn’t thought of doing yoga outside before because my viewpoint was so narrowly focused on living within COVID constraintsC. I realized the gift of the inch worm was for me to see that I’ve now expanded beyond that limited thinking. I’m now imagining new possibilities. That, I feel, is a signal of my healing from this experience that has affected us all so much, probably beyond what we know consciously. Knowing that is really something to be grateful for.
I also acknowledge that being an inch worm is only one phase of its life. Eventually, the inch worm turns into a creature that can fly.
And so can I (and you, too)!
Note: This actually happened yesterday, Thursday, June 17, but my afternoon and evening were so packed that I didn’t complete writing the entire article. However, I continued to write it in the present because those were the thoughts and feelings I had at the time, not things I realized afterwards. Time is just a concept, right?