In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines asana, or posture, as both steady and easeful. The third step on the eightfold path towards Self-realization, sutra 2.46 originally described the seat for meditation—that it should provide a structure to support the practice, but also be comfortable so as not to contribute to the mind’s penchant for distraction. Within the context of modern yoga, sthira sukham asanam applies to the full spectrum of postures and invites the practitioner to find a balance between effort and ease.
In my own life, I expand the idea of asana, or seat, to include a metaphorical seat in the present moment. I imagine myself pulling up a chair in the heart of my experience and sitting with whatever arises. For the record, my earnest attempts to live this sutra are fraught with resistance. Nevertheless, I keep trying. As a practice, it has cultivated an awareness of my conditioned reactions; it seems I’d much rather run away from or fix my experience than to simply allow it to be what it is. I’ve found truth in sutra 2.46. Presence necessitates both sthira—containment, support, discipline—and sukha—surrender, softness, vulnerability. To me, sthira and sukha are not separate qualities, but rather two interdependent forces; without one, you can’t fully experience the other.
The decision to step away from my blog and social media communities in the wake of Ellie’s death was difficult to make. Ironically, I would’ve felt more comfortable under the weight of my own expectations—to deliver, to give, to feel better. That I reached out for help, despite my reluctance, is a testament to my practice. I asked a dear friend for permission to take care of myself and honor my broken heart—permission I couldn’t seem to give myself. Her support gave me the courage to honor my needs. Honestly, I’m a little shocked that I followed through with her advice. I’m so glad I did. The containment I created for my grief allowed me to surrender to the depth of my loss. This interconnection between strength and vulnerability invited me to be at h(om)e in my pain.
You, my dear friends and readers, were also a huge source of support. I can’t thank you enough for meeting me in my sadness and holding the space for me to grieve. Your cards, flowers, texts, emails, hugs, and gestures of loving kindness have fortified the space in which I can soften. Billy and I have spent a lot of time looking at photos of our little girl, telling stories and laughing over our favorite memories. I’ve cried a lot. Taking care of myself in the face of Ellie’s death has epitomized the gift Ellie gave me in every waking moment of her life: unconditional love.
It’s okay to let go. It might be scary—you might think the world will fall apart around you if you stop and sit in the present moment, but life will always rise to meet you. I’m grateful for giving myself the freedom to grieve without expectation—for the space to feel. More than anything else, I trust that this inherent relationship between strength and vulnerability will help me face whatever life brings with honesty, courage, and grace.
Photo credit: Meditation Studio App