Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Past, Revisited

For the past few weeks, my husband has been transferring our old VCR tapes to DVDs in an effort to preserve them for posterity (though most likely he’ll have to do it all over again in a few years when the next technological advance makes them obsolete). In any case, each time I’ve passed by the TV screen while he’s been playing the tapes, I’ve been mesmerized.
            I’ve watched snippets of my children (now grown men) throwing water at each other in the bath tub, clips of me nursing my babies, pictures of my now-deceased parents, photos of various friends and family members who looked—twenty years ago—stunningly gorgeous and young.  I could only, actually, watch so much before I began to feel anxious and sad. After all, we seemed so happy then! My mother was alive, my kids were little and sweet (though feisty as hell), and I didn’t have a single gray hair! Times were certainly happier then.           
            Or were they? The films show only one side of the story, don’t they? The birthdays, the anniversaries, the first joyful baby steps. Obviously no one was taking pictures when the boys were hurling objects at one another, or when my husband and I were quarreling. Yes, pictures tell the story they want to tell.
            I was thinking about these family photos this week when the newspapers were inundated with photos of 911. I understand that as a collective we need to commemorate this horrific event (just as many need to reenact the crucifixion of Christ by watching a Passion play every year), but I wonder, is it really good for us? Is it really necessary?
            One of the tenets of yoga is a practice called vairagya. It’s about letting go. It’s about letting go of the pain, grief and memories of the past, letting go of suffering and attachment to pain (as well as attachment to pleasure). I’ve been working hard at this for the past ten years, and so at this point in my life, I wonder how much value there is in looking backwards. Some towns are even blasting sirens for a minute in remembrance of the 9ll victims. For some of us, those sirens will be a release of some sort, and a tribute. But for others it will be a revisiting of unrelenting fear and torment.
            At the conclusion of my Kundalini yoga exercises, which are sometimes incredibly difficult, my teacher often says, “Let it go. It’s over.” As I recline on my back in resting pose (Savasana) recuperating from the amazing feat I’ve just accomplished (or tried fruitlessly to accomplish), I’m grateful that the pose is in the past, and that I’m in the present.
            Though I know this may be controversial, especially on this day of national mourning, I for one would like to use this time to be here now. Yes, respect the lessons of the past, learn from them, celebrate the beauty and bravery of the lives of loved ones who have passed on. And then let go. Vairagya.

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