In the wee hours of the night last night, I reached for my water glass and knocked an antique cut-glass dish off of my nightstand. Although it was dark, I knew from the sound exactly what had broken. It had belonged to my grandparents and might have even graced the home of grandmother’s parents. And it had been beautiful, composed of deep swirls and finely etched cuts that caught and reflected the light.
It reminded me of an evening a few years ago, when I dropped a nearly-full bottle of my favorite perfume, Gardenia, by Chanel. This particular scent, sensuous and feminine, is hard to find these days. I have worn it for years and have watched it go out of production and come back in again. And so, I had horded my special bottle of perfume, only dabbing it (as my Grandmother had instructed me when I was a little girl) on my wrists, neck and behind my knees on special occasions. When it shattered on the bathroom floor, the heady scent filling the steamy air, I instantly realized how foolish I had been not to allow myself to wear it every day.
So, when the antique dish shattered on the hardwood floor, I was sad, but I also had the thought that I was glad that I had not left it tucked in a cupboard somewhere, but, rather, had enjoyed its beauty for many years. It made me remember visiting the Waterford crystal factory in Ireland. The master craftsmen there train for years before being able to produce a piece worthy of the Waterford name. And even amongst the masters, eighty percent of the pieces they create are intentionally smashed, re-melted, and re-worked before a final product is produced. Non-attachment to the piece-in-process is essential.
Impermanence is something we all struggle with. Being a woman in today’s society, I see how often we are judged by our outward appearance. But the truth is, we are all in a state of flux from the moment we are born. I recently came across an old Yoga CD (yes, this was from the days of CDs) of Vas, that used to be one of my favorites to practice with. Listening to the familiar thrum of the drums and the ethereal voice of the lead singer brought me back to what it felt like to be in my 20s and to be able to bend and bind and twist into pretty much every pose without much difficulty. I would flow through a practice with such intensity and passion while wrapped in these almost-ethereal, and yet grounded by the beat, passages of music. Nowadays, although I am still fairly bendy, I am not as flexible or as indestructible as I was back then. And yet, I do not enjoy the practice any less. It is just a different practice now. Hopefully, I have learned a little more about the functional anatomy and biomechanics of the āsanas over the years, and have a different understanding of how to teach and practice. But, sometimes, I can still close my eyes and feel it, what it felt like back then….
We may not turn as many heads when we are middle-aged as we did when we were smooth-skinned, lithe-limbed twenty-somethings. But, we are still beautiful, and hopefully we still turn the heads of those who matter to us. I hope that today’s young women enjoy, as they should, their youthfulness and sexiness. But, I also hope that they know they will still be beautiful when they are older — and that sensuality only gets better as you age.
I remember reading a story once in Buddha Dharma magazine discussing the nature of a standing wave. The author spoke of such a wave in a river in Germany that surfers were drawn to because they could stay upright on it for a minute to so. But, after that minute, there was the inevitable tumble back into the water because although the wave looked as if it was almost solid, stable, permanent, it really was not. Life is like that. We coast along on the crest of the wave for a while, and then tumble into the abyss, and then climb back out.
And this is the struggle…holding onto the familiar so tightly that we forget to appreciate the now. And the reality is, that “this” now rides on the crest of all of the waves that brought us here. Life is a cumulative process of learning and letting go, and laughing and crying. It is never static. We get wrinkles around our eyes and fight the eternal fight against that extra padding around the middle. But, those wrinkles are born from the joys of sharing love and laughter, and also pain. And, that extra pudge that creeps up on us may be the result of sharing an extra glass of wine or a bit of bread and cheese while engrossed in conversation with our lover, or with our friends. And these moments are truly the ones that matter… as well as the moments that tug at our hearts. I know that my face bears a trace of sadness from the day that my kitten, Raja, died, and from when my father suffered a too early death. But, I gladly bear those wrinkles and the trace of sadness in exchange for those precious moments that I had with them.
And this is the beauty of this precious life — the transformation. If things stayed the same, we would not really be conscious of anything. We need the transitions. We need the contrast to be able to actually “see.” Change is painful sometimes. And yet, it is inevitable. And so, we keep riding that wave….
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