Tag Archives: yoga

That Space Between Breaths

I wrote the following for another site — Red Room — where I occasionally blog. But why not share it here, too. Wishing those who will be fasting a meaningful time of insight and reflection and may all of us be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of health, loving relationships, and worthy challenges.

I read once that the time of transition — moving from one physical place to another — is prime time for misplacing things. Last night’s homework goes a-missing between one class and another. Belts, cell phones, boarding passes are left behind in those distracted moments in airport security lines.

Metaphorically, transitions make for losing a piece of ourselves. We shift from one life stage to another: frazzled mother of high schoolers to bereft mom of one in high school and one in college faraway; happily working to panicked and unemployed; anchored and married to widowed and moorless.

If we are fortunate, what is eventually found on transition’s other side sustains us: we bask in the newly unfolding relationship with the child left behind and revel in the missing one’s new vistas. We make it through security belted, cell-phoned and ready to board. We find new work, new strengths, possibly a new partner to share life’s transitions with.

My yoga teacher frequently talks about the seconds-long pause between breaths, that moment between exhaling and inhaling when all is still, lungs fully satiated with oxygen or pleasantly emptied and awaiting the next inhalation. She urges us to notice that moment and appreciate it, to stay present and explore it, experience the fullness of being perfectly balanced if only for a second or two. I experience that gap between breaths as velvety blackness, a momentary slip of time when I am so focussed on the now that nothing else fills consciousness, even though what fills it is indefinable. A teacher once commented that God resides in that place.

On my mat, I recall her words. Teetering between breath and no breath I realize it is a micro-moment of death twinned with rebirth’s infinite possibilities. Perhaps in transition we lose nothing but instead embody, if only for a moment, everything.

Funny that I am writing this on the eve of Yom Kippur. The sages teach us that this twenty-five hour period is a mini-death. We are to wear white, the color of burial shrouds. We do not eat or drink, are forbidden from engaging in physical pleasures or adorning ourselves. We enter a space of time suspended between life and death, praying, atoning, hoping that our names will be inscribed for another year of life. We (hopefully) let go of old patterns and fill ourselves with the promising breath of new ones. We are everything and nothing.

At first glance the word “transition” brings to mind movement from one state of being to another. But perhaps pared to its essence, transition is its complete opposite: a moment of supreme stillness embedded with the promise of infinite movement.

Books of the People

It’s been a banner summer for my writer friends and family. Last month I mentioned my sister, Lisa Thaler’s book Look Up: The life and art of Sacha Kolin, which just got a terrific review in the Chicago Tribune, putting Lisa in Francine Prose’s company for her tenacity in uncovering the lives of forgotten women artists. Way to go, Sis!

And now I have four more offerings to whet your appetite — literally, intellectually, spiritually, physically.

Max and Eli Sussman’s Freshman in the Kitchen: from Clueless Cook to Creative Chef will do for neophyte cooks what Julia Childs did for French cooking in the 70’s: demystify, clarify, and simplify the art of making a good meal. These twenty-something brothers — seasoned cooks both — take the hungry and clueless through the basics and then build on skills learned in earlier chapters to create multi-course feasts. The book is a beginner’s bible and a terrific resource for those of us who remember when “iceberg lettuce” was a redundant phrase. If you’re local, Book Beat in Oak Park is having a signing party this Sunday, August 24, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. And if you’re not, order the book by clicking on the link above. Stock up now for those grad presents, moving-into-a new-place presents, and get one for yourself, too.

Who’s Jim Hines? is a beautiful and thought-provoking coming of age story about life in Detroit in the 1930’s. The book (for middle grade readers) draws its plot from the family stories Alicia Elster heard during summer visits with her grandparents. Douglas Ford Jr., a twelve-year-old African American, cannot find the answer to the question he asks throughout the book — who’s the Jim Hines his father keeps mentioning? The man without whom Ford Sr.’s wood company could not exist? When Hines’ identity is finally revealed, young Douglas not only learns about the realities of racism in Depression-era Detroit but about the strength of family and the lessons of determination and courage woven through the generations.

The title of Rabbi Dov Elkins’ just-released book — Jewish Stories from Heaven and Earth: Inspiring Tales to Nourish the Heart and Soul says it all. Full disclousure: a story I wrote appears in the book and I am thrilled to have been included in the collection. Rabbi Elkins is an insightful teacher whose influence reaches far and wide. The cover of this beautiful book is sure to be matched, and likely surpassed, by its contents.

Yoga at the Wall is the first of its kind — a handbook and guide for practicing yoga asanas (postures) using a wall as support. If you are a newcomer to yoga the book offers practical techniques and accessible information about this ancient practice. And if you’re used to coming to the mat, Yoga at the Wall reveals an entirely new dimension to add to your practice. As of this posting the best way to reach Nancy for copies is to click here . Updates to follow.