by kerry rawlinson
~for Angharad & Mighty Martha
I used to think breathing was simple.
The yoga Instructor murmurs for us to close our eyes. I’m supposed to focus on a faraway space somewhere up inside my forehead, between my eyebrows. I can’t focus on shit.
“Third-eye chakra,” he hums. “Ajna is the portal that leads to inner realms, to spaces of higher consciousness… Peace.”
I assume the class is actively focusing. In theory, you’re supposed to see a soothing blue light. And if you focus hard enough, the light will envelop you in calm. I imagine it glowing somewhat like an aqua nebula, beckoning in the vacuum of space. Except—we’ve now proven that space isn’t a vacuum at all, but inundated with random reactivity and warped by invisible matter. Chaos. I search for meaning. How can branches of humanity know so much about everything under the sun—yet collectively know so little? Unbidden from the blank vacuum of my inner eye, two tiny pink ankles pop up. These are things I know. Two tiny pink ankles determined to crawl, despite the odds stacked against them. What has the universe got to say on that?
I try to focus on the “Now.” On “The Breath,” dredging for a connection to this mythical calm. But my chakras refuse to flow. There’s a blockage in the region of my heart; dark matter. I puff in frustration. Chakra-shmakra. All I can channel is an oily black slick of misery clogging my throat which connects me to nothing uplifting. She, however, of the two pink ankles and supreme innocence, is determined to connect. She does not second-guess herself—she simply functions. Sunlight dapples her colorful play-mat as she wriggles and squirms with intense effort. She’s unwavering and focused. Then she flips—and grins! She’s finally conquered the rollover. The compulsion of evolution, and her part in it, can’t be stopped.
Oh, but it can.
Her eyes suddenly drift to the right, then turn blank. Her limbs go limp. In that instant, sickening, we know another seizure’s hit. It savages her small body, and there’s nothing, nothing at all we can do. Her arms flap up and over, eyes rolling back into her forehead. Her neurons are misfiring in a cosmic tornado that’s the size of a plastic playtime teacup. Creation began with a Big Bang, but all we can do is observe its echoes in our child. Observe this tiny life cracking apart, twitch by agonizing twitch. The echoes are colliding inside her cortex every nano-second and we can do nothing but wait….
Silent panic bombards the insides of our skulls like fragments of meteorite. We clutch our palms together at our throats, choking breath, counting seconds for the seizure to pass, each one stretching out like a light year. But all we can do is wait. We shrivel downwards into our spines, all the juice in the universe draining from us, leaving us desiccated; old. It’s the waiting that wears us away, that frays us to threads of our former selves. We forget to eat, suspended in the fabric of time. We forget how to connect with each other, with our world, our other child. We’re adrift in inner agony, floating further and further apart….
“Inhale,” says the Instructor.
How long until her space-walking brain returns to its ship? How long is a stretch of comet-tail? How long was the first spark of Creation? How often can you ask “why-me”? Questions pepper our breathlessness. What type of seizure is it this time? Could they be getting shorter? Will this one be worse than the last? Is there enough recovery medicine? Will we need to call an ambulance? Is God aware of my hatred?
We watch. We wait….
I adjust myself on the yoga mat. Scrunch my eyes tighter. My fingers. My mouth too. Every molecular part of me, trying to shift my focus from the spiral of my child to this moment of prana. The fucking blue light is nowhere in sight. I’m like an exasperated toddler who’s been shut out by the adults. I want to throw a tantrum, beat my fists at the foul injustice of the Higher Consciousness.
Ah! But suddenly—something sparks. It’s up there in the region of my supposed third-eye. I gasp. There’s a huge, momentary explosion of brilliant blues—and then it’s gone. Like a shooting star. Like a teaser. Perhaps there’s a God after all, and he’s just shown me a flash of his Krishna ass. Or perhaps life is simply a haphazard succession of synapse-blasts and accidents, on a galactic journey we’re never meant to question. Yet faced with arbitrary reality, why is the reaction to battle these seemingly unavoidable attacks almost automatic? If we’re simply supposed to accept the chaos of the cosmos as it is, without demanding any answers, why is there barely an hour goes by when we don’t exhaust ourselves, exhausting all of our alternatives?
For now, in this moment, my third eye’s gone blind. My only option is to carry on, going through the motions, damping the internal scream. To be thankful for each fragile gift of calm in this karmic collapse. Get on with getting-on—and wait….
“And…. breathe, says the Instructor.
I used to think breathing was easy.