I never knew the term B-Roll until I started working with Yoga International. A-Roll is content you are used to seeing and what you pay for-- classes, tutorials, courses, etc. B-Roll is all the the stuff that makes its way into promotions and marketing— pics with my dog, weird camera angles, off-script moments.
After filming a series today, we did B-Roll for promotions. In the midst of everything, I was being silly and cracking myself up. Serena, who was in charge of production and who I was meeting for the first time this week, said to the camera folks, “Make sure you get that—Christina cracking up on her mat is the best.”
Anyone who practices with me or comes to my workshops and trainings knows that I spend a lot of time laughing on my mat. As much as I love esoterica, deep mysticism, anatomy and educational theory, I love having fun. And I do make a lot of fun. I make fun of myself, the human predicament, the current culture of yoga, the world-at-large and the circumstances to which culture has delivered us individually and communally.
Tonight is February 13th. Tomorrow is February 14th. Most of you will celebrate tomorrow as Valentine’s Day. I will mark the day remembering my mother who died last year on February 14th, after 6 days in the ICU.
I miss my mother.
Weirdly, I also feel my mom constantly since she died so her absence has brought new meaning to what it means to me miss someone. How is it that missing someone sits right alongside feeling them always with me?
This question, I suppose, is the wonder of human potential.
I used to be interested in human potential as it related to yogic powers, extra-sensory perception, and utilizing 100% of our brain. Somewhere between my 45th year and now (months away from 50) I became more interested in my personal human potential to love, to care, to sacrifice intelligently, willingly and whole-heartedly. I became less interested in ESP and more interested in what it means in practical application to be who I most truly am. And, while I know the thread of “who I most truly am” is a long and winding road to something well beyond my psychology, that very same thread passes through my very human life, my very human psychological structures as well as my very deepest longings of Spirit.
I am a quiet, withdrawn, “do-not-talk-to-unless-you-have-to-before-10am” kind of person. Like, unless there is a fire. (Or, to be honest, unless if I want to talk. I know, the rules are inconsistent, but, well, I contain multitudes...) And while I am funny, charismatic, outspoken, opinionated and prone to long diatribes of story-telling and explanation in my teaching, alone at home, first thing in the morning, I want the world to shut the eff up.
Mom, on the other hand, used to wake up and start talking., She would walk with her walker and an assistant through the house commenting on all the toys Locket had chewed and were left eviscerated in the living room. Then she would talk to the cats who were waiting for her on the kitchen table. (Don’t judge— I have terrible boundaries and I know it.) Then, Mom would talk to Dad and me and Kelly and whoever else might be around. She asked questions like, “What kind of bird is that?” She made comments like, “Look at the deer!” And when we had a rare three days of cloudy weather and she could no longer see the mountains out front, she looked at me and said, “I miss my majesty. I want to see my mountains again.”
"Don’t we all, Mom?" I remember thinking… “Don’t we all?” (Miss our majesty, that is.)
Of course, as life would have it, on February 15th, the day after she died, the house was silent in the morning.
What did I miss most?
I missed her chatter, her laughter, her inane comments and her questions to which I never had very good answers. The same behaviors I was annoyed by every morning were what I missed the most the first day she was no longer with us physically.
My mom’s physical presence was B-roll. She wasn’t the one out front selling content, making a living, insisting on structure, order and common sense at all costs. Mom— especially in her later years— was the one behind the scenes, cracking up on her mat, and finding fun where she could.
Of course, that sense of joy was not always the case.
Her recovery after her second stroke was hard. I witnessed her struggle with walking, which she was never able to do again without assistance. I witnessed her struggle to find her words again and give voice to her ideas and concerns. And, later than I wish, I witnessed the way her quick-witted, highly-verbal, fast-talking and loving family members didn’t slow down long enough to make it safe for her to speak. I witnessed her withdrawal and her depression as she dug deep to make peace with her situation.
I also witnessed her emergence from that underworld.
I saw the ways she came back to life when she and Dad moved in with us a few years ago. I watcher her find joy in the dog, the cats, the mountains, her church, her PT and OT, and the women in her Bible Study group. She also liked my cooking and the homemade ice cream I made for her, but that is probably another story.
The thing is, Mom was the B-roll for our family. She didn’t just talk or ask questions or insist that everything be presented in a neat and orderly way. She cracked herself up. Sometimes she laughed about life. Sometimes she laughed about others. Sometimes she laughed about herself. She had an irrepressible joy and a smile that could light up a room.
I do not mean she was never depressed. I mean, that she never gave up and life never stopped answering her question of how to find joy. In that way, she was super-human.
At the very least, she was a super human.
On the eve of the first anniversary of her passing, after filming some content and some “B-roll” far away from home, I am writing with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart for what she taught me while she was alive and for what her living memory continues to reveal to me. Andrea Cheek Frosolono was an exemplary mother to me and my sister, a great wife to my father and a wonderful, reliable friend to many. She lives on in the sound of my own cackling laughter, my commitment to bring joy to life and to “make fun” in the ways that I can and in the numerous contributions she made to those she loved.
One of my friends from high school wrote me after he found out Mom died. He asked me how I was doing. He had lost his dad a year or two earlier. I said, “Well, I am fine. And yet, I woke up this morning and realized this was the first day of my entire life when I didn’t have my Mom.”
He told me, “Yeah. That feeling that something isn’t quite right and that you are missing something you have always had doesn’t really go away. At least it hasn’t for me. But it does get easier to live with. You will get more used to it.”
As I have gotten older, I find promises such as his more meaningful than larger notions of transcendence and “complete recovery.” I don't mind living with a tinge of sorrow remembering my mom because it keeps me tender-hearted. It’s okay that life won’t ever be the same, that I won't ever be the same because who I am growing into is being formed by the whole of life, not just the easy parts. That is the example Mom set, whether she knew she was doing it or not.
Like I said, she was a super human.
And if you have gotten this far into my entry, thank you for staying the course. I have been keeping these entires to 1000 words this last year or so and now I am watching my word count creep up to almost 1400. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "If I had more time, I could have written a shorter blog entry." Thanks for reading and taking time to share your stories with me. Mom's life was a testimony to community and the support that is possible when "two or more are gathered" and I am happy to be gathered with you.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
We are experiencing a good snow season in Colorado, which means many of us here are on the local mountains snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and making merry. As I was putting my snowboarding gear away the other day, I glanced over at my mountain bike and felt a bit of nostalgia for riding my bike on the amazing trails we have here. Snow season means no biking. Biking season generally means no snowboarding. Long story short, outdoor sports in Colorado are seasonal endeavors.
Seasonal activities are great because when the spring thaw comes and I am back on my bike, I will feel elated for the return to the trail in much the same way the opening of snow season brings with it a joyful return to the slopes. Each season is made a bit sweeter by time away involved in other pursuits.
Yoga, unlike most sports, doesn’t run by seasons. I am not only talking about the fact that since we practice mostly inside, in temperature-controlled environments, we are not dependent or deterred by weather patterns. I am talking about a stated or unstated imperative that we practice daily, no matter what, maintaining inspiration, enthusiasm, and devotion throughout the process.
Almost every other serious physical endeavor has an off-season and a on-season. Take body builders or triathletes, for instance— they have a season where they bulk up, eat more and gain weight and a season where they slim down, lean out and so on. Many yogi’s expect to exist happily all year round on green drinks and weight fluctuations indicate some loss of discipline or moral high ground. (Don’t go too far down the road on the food or the sports analogy, I am just saying poking a little bit at the unrealistic expectations that often result in shame, self-criticism, feelings of isolation.)
And the double binds are endless— practice daily, but don’t be compulsive; get better at asana, don’t be attached to the poses; make sacrifices for your practice, have a full life.
And so on.
Truth be told, my practice has had very definite seasons over the years. I have maintained a regular practice but certainly not always an inspired one. I have had cycles where the only thing I wanted to do was spend my day working on postures. I have had phases where the topic of poses seemed absurd and irrelevant. I have found joyful connection in the online platforms of social media and I have wanted to throw my phone across the room when I saw someone post a yet another yoga photo.
I have felt strong, supple, and capable. I have felt weak, stiff, and limited. I have felt inspired by the possibility of enlightened community as often as I have felt betrayed, cynical, and hopeless about what can happen when two or more are gathered in the name of yoga. I have loved by body. I have hated it. I have felt good about my practice. I have felt critical about my practice. I’ve had periods of puritanical restriction and periods of bacchanalian indulgence. To be clear, I am not talking about a night or two. I am talking about seasons of each swing on the pendulum.
As a teacher, I have showed up to my classes, workshops and trainings regardless of what my own personal seasonal weather pattern has been. I have done my best and admittedly, my best has varied over the years.
None of my teachers ever talked much about the waxing and waning of their enthusiasm for practice, so I am writing a blog entry to talk about mine in case you are on a downswing of some kind and judging yourself. No matter how you feel, you are not alone-- at least two of us in the world have struggled to accept the seasonal nature of the inner and outer lives of our practice.
There is no single way to sustain a relationship to practice over the course of one's life. My approach might make your life miserable and yours might not work well for me. None of those outer expressions matter so much to me these days. I have come to appreciate what gets built over the long haul, in the cumulative effects of sustaining some connection to practice through the different seasons of my interest and involvement. While there are pivotal moments and threshold experiences that can usher us into new depths, the gifts of the practice are not built in any one practice, class or workshop. In the same way that riding my bike in the spring is made sweeter because of a 4-month break, sometimes my appreciation for asana returns when I allow myself some time away to pursue other activities.
I am on a bit of an upswing with asana these days, finding inspiration and delight through my Asana Junkies webinar and some recent, rewarding teaching experiences. Kelly also re-did my practice space and that change has helped me settle in again. Ever since my move to Colorado, I haven’t liked the space I have had to practice very much and now I love my whole office/practice space scenario. (This is a high-class complaint, I know, but since my practice is 90% solitary and home-based, not studio-based, having a space I like is pretty important. More so than I realized, in fact.)
At any rate, I trust the process this many years in. Sometimes I see my students in the season of zeal and I miss that season. I see other students in the dark night of the yoga soul and I recognize that season from personal experience, although I would be lying to say I miss it. My point is that yoga is a relationship like any other relationship and, after the flush of new love fades, the work of intimacy begins, often marked by a period of conflict, restlessness, and/or boredom. And, as any one who has worked through any of those issues in any of their relationships knows, the seasons of difficulty where things are burning, dying, or laying fallow can become fertile soil for future growth.
And, two practical pieces of advice in closing:
1.) Occasionally, give yourself permission NOT to practice.
2.) Don’t underestimate the power of 15 or 20 minutes to keep your connection to asana alive. The short practice we actually do is way better than the long practice we don’t do.
(Yes, I know, these ideas are sort of “blinding flashes of the obvious.” However, perfectionistic types out there often find these teachings quite difficult to take to heart. You know who you are.)
Keep the faith.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."