The COVID Pause

Holly Zadra, RYT
May 8, 2020

Instagram, Facebook, and email marketing messages have been trying to tell me I can create on-line content and my business can thrive — even now — when the systems and cultures and institutions have all been turned ass over tea kettle by a virus the likes of which humans have never known. Interestingly, I have also been asked to teach online by several locals — more requests in one month than when I was teaching live at the studio — which is validating on the one hand and also troubling in the sense that I really dislike not delivering.

My skill set is decidedly NOT techno-boss, nor yoga mill. There is also a Luddite lurking in me.

I am processing all of this extraordinary moment — as you must be — in fits and starts. I now have four boys in my house all day and all night. I feel exceptionally lucky to have my whole family together right here with me right now — those I touch with my hands and my mouth, those to whom I devote my life. For me, this has been a time of renewal and rest, reconnection with my family, a time also accompanied by a sense of guilt and privilege as I acknowledge how others — nurses, custodians, grocery store workers, care givers of all kinds, and the always already vulnerable populations of people of color in the Bronx, in Louisiana, Rikers Island, everywhere — are feeling anything but rested.

But if there is one truth that I can hang my metaphorical hat on, it’s that this is a holy time.

As you know, Sundew Studio is closed as is the building — 487 Development — in which the studio is housed. I manage that building and had recently received a grant to build out co-working space there as one means of economic stimulus for the gig economy and remote workers. The Meeting House — another community gathering place — is likewise closed, the capital campaign for which I’ve been laying the groundwork for more than three years, ground to a halt.

We make plans based on a sense of certainty of our future. In my innermost bones, I feel the uncertainty of now.

A deep and peaceful sense of uncertainty.

Coming in contact with the movement of the breath, the pulse, the micro-adjustments needed to stand in tadasana, knowing that standing is movement, that stillness is but an illusion, that even as we breath, cells are dying and new ones are being born. Skin is shed and remade. “The stomach produces a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it would digest itself” (remember that song by Tank and the Bangas, “Human”?).

Maybe I came to the yoga because I could never be complicit in believing in static identities or an unchanging landscape — human or otherwise. Maybe you did, too.

According to each Eastern philosophy I’ve encountered, everything — everything in human life, all our stuff, and every living being, rock, tree, waterway, or mountain whether divine or hellish or mundane or exquisite — everything is always changing, living and dying and maybe even being reborn again and again (Samsara). For many of us, change and uncertainty can be a deep source of suffering. Patanjali notes in the Yoga Sutras, II.5, that “ignorance is mistaking the impure for the pure, transient for the permanent, that which is not the self for the self.”

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I want to be responsive to you, those who have supported the yoga in Pittsfield. I want to gather together. I want to uphold and honor the relationships we have built. I want to challenge our bodies, and listen to our breath, and discover meaning in shared experience. I want to do all of that in the studio, together.

Not on a screen.

The resounding message of the place in me where stillness resides is simply and solely to pause.

Though the world is pressuring me to recreate the world we knew pre-COVID-19, I’m not rushing to get back there. Though I long for our group classes and the community we’ve created together, for the unifying spirit of healing that happens when we practice together, I recognize that cannot be recreated on Zoom.

We could chat there, though.

One of the wisest women I know, Weh'na Ha'mu Kwasset Sherri Mitchell, said on a recent Zoom gathering, to “stop defining ourselves by the world we’re drowning in and instead swim toward the world we want to be in.”

Another wise woman in my life, my teacher Carla Stangenberg who lives in the epicenter of the virus here in the United States, reminded me that asana can be the postures we practice in the studio. It can be the cross-legged, seated position referred to in the ancient scriptures. Asana is also “the seat of attention.”

So I ask myself, “Where does my attention lie?”

For me, it is on the food that I cook for my family each day. It is on wood that I split and stack a little each day. My attention has turned to seeds and seedlings and compost and raised beds. To long walks. To softening my heart and my love toward my husband who cannot afford to indulge in this kind of written philosophical meandering as he works to keep 14 families employed.

A part of me wishes I was the yogababe that felt comfortable streaming classes for you. But the part of me that I honor and listen to tells me to let the streaming classes go to the folks that chose that before all of this. “Yoga with Adriene” is free. Yoga International is $14.99 a month (probably currently on COVID sale). You can get your yoga asana anywhere — online for sure, but also on a walk, on a jog, anywhere anytime you bring awareness and attention to the body. What you can’t get anywhere is what I am good at, and what I am good at happens in a room we share together. And for that, we just have to wait.

Right now, I am interested in going inward, getting quiet, and really listening instead of recreating the world we knew previously. When this is all over, I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am swimming toward the world I want to be in.

Will you join me?

Let me know if you want to be a part of any group chats with an email response and I’ll get in touch with you soon.

In the meantime,

Be well. Be quiet. Listen. And stay healthy,


Holly