Touching the Void
By Heather Wellman
Her caldrons were stark white,
like you imagine pools of kosher salt might be, before harvesting—pure and smooth. They were made of crystal, and they radiated hues of light pink and purple, like the Olympic Mountains do as the sun sets behind them in the summer. A large gong framed her from the back, and we gathered our mats around her, disciples, wanting to soak up every drop of her Sound Bath.
We congregated at the top of the stairs, on the second floor of an old brick building, in a small, pale yellow studio to practice yoga in honor of Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun. And to pay respect to the god who represents reaping our greatest blessings from our greatest challenges. We were told the poses would be difficult tonight. And we would hold them longer than usual. Tonight was about digging deep into our centers and finding the strength within ourselves, practicing going slowly, and remembering to breathe through it all.
“Now sit back, deep in chair pose. Deeper. Raise your hands to the sky… And now bring them down to your heart, in prayer, bow your head here. Honor the challenge.”
It was difficult at times to focus on the poses and my breathing. Class felt like meditation, mixed with therapy, and a motivational speaker, all at once.
You could feel the presence of wounded children waking up in peoples’ sacrums. Feel years of fear float past you towards the gaping window on the other side of the room. And all the while the woman at the front circled the crystal bowls in the same and opposite directions, creating harmony and dissonance that mirrored what we did with our bodies.
We were gifted a full thirty minute savasana at the end of our active practice. We took various positions on our mats, comforted by blankets and bolsters. The lights were dimmed. We settled into our 4-part breath: a long, slow inhale, followed by an extended pause, before a long, slow exhale. The crystal bowls emanated a sound that can only be described as magic: ethereal. The space was damp. The smell of release hung in the air, like a room after good sex, or incredible physical exertion at the gym, or emotional catharsis where you sob until you’re sweaty and depleted. The air was thick with pheromones, and hormones, and gratitude. I felt shrouded in the lightest of cheese cloth, porous but veiled nonetheless. Warm, swaddled.
As we lie there, on our backs, her voice rose into the dark room, deep and hauntingly beautiful.
It reminded me of the sounds that would lift from my father’s Boston records as I played them backwards, as a teenager, in hopes of finding demons. I imagined ancient tribes and witches here, pressing the fleshy parts of their hands together, staining the soles of their feet with the earth below them as they communed with each other and their ancestors. It was stunning. The weeping almost instant.
Friday nights can be hard, really hard, when you’re used to being coupled. They can be lonely ends to a busy week, when you finally get to stop and look around at both familiar and unfamiliar surroundings, taking in all that is the same, and all that has changed… all that is there, and all that is now gone. It is easy to fill that space with friends, booze, dates, sleep, technology, and a myriad of other things that can occupy your mind, and your heart. We’ve all done it… Or do it.
As I was deep in my head during savasana tonight, I was reminded of the many amazing conversations I’ve had with friends these past several weeks. About the importance of the solo journeys upon which we’ve embarked.
And I honored the work of touching the void, rather than filling it.
Perhaps the smallest of nuances, it is where the real work happens. In the nuance. In the gray… The real work, the evolution, happens in the extended pause—between the inhale, and the long exhale that follows. It happens in the void… as you remember to breathe.