The Secret of the Soul

It's almost a relief to be one of the believers, because then, on the days when we wonder if we're too small to matter, we can remember that we're actually so big that we don't even fit inside ourselves.
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But where are you now? Where are you now? -- "Where Are You Now," Mumford and Sons

It's said that our souls are too big for our bodies.

This mystical fact has its roots in many ancient religions and it's believed by many today.

It's almost a relief to be one of the believers, because then, on the days when we wonder if we're too small to matter, we can remember that we're actually so big that we don't even fit inside ourselves.

This idea helps in times of grief, and so it's helping us now because we are grieving. We're feeling so small because our questions are so big. They hardly fit inside our brains. Whereas before we used to wonder what to wear or where to go, we now ponder questions as big as our souls.

Where did he go? Why did this happen?

When I first started yoga I thought I was asking all the big questions. I thought the big questions had to do with my practice. I wanted answers so that I could exercise and get fit. So the only questions I ever thought to ask were about where to put my elbows or how to position my feet. I even took some private lessons so that I could ask some more.

But the more I learned, the more questions I had. Every time I thought I had enough information, I discovered that there was still more to learn! Every pose could be taken deeper, so there was never really an endpoint.

There was no final answer.

When questions have no answers, we're left to turn to our faith. But what if we question that, too? What if what happens also makes us question our faith?

Grief requires a lot of faith, but that doesn't mean we stop asking questions. Even if we believe there is a place where he's gone and a higher purpose to what's happened, we still want to know where he is and why he's there. We still want him back.

I didn't know the practice of yoga required any sort of faith. In fact, up until the day I first stepped into the yoga studio, I hadn't really given my faith much thought. I had been away from it for a long time.

But then as I practiced my questions grew larger than just the ones about the poses. I'm not sure why moving on the mat makes me wonder about where I am and why things happen, but that's what happens. Soon I started listening in on the conversations that take place in the nooks and crannies of the studio, the ones before and after class and sometimes on the sidewalk outside. These conversations were all about energy and our subtle bodies, about our chakras and our spirit.

My instructors tell me it's all about the energy. They say we are all made up of energy.

"I didn't even know there was such a thing as energy in me," I told them.

"Yes you did," they said. "You just didn't have the words for it."

So now I have the words. Now I know that inside all of us is something called prana, or energy. And when we practice, our prana moves through our chakras, or energy centers. The practice helps shift our energy, and when our energy is flowing well, we are okay physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is how the practice becomes about so much more than where we put our elbows or how we position our feet.

But when painful things happen to us, our chakras get blocked and our energy gets stuck. And we have to practice grieving for our energy to flow again.

The loss of a loved one reaches deep into our chakras. It impacts our sense of family (the first chakra, or root chakra); our relationships (the second chakra, or sacral chakra); our sense of self (the third chakra, or solar plexus chakra); our hearts (the fourth chakra, or heart chakra); our levels of communication (the fifth chakra, or throat chakra); our intuition (the sixth chakra, or third eye chakra), and our spirituality (the seventh chakra, or crown chakra).

I think the first step in facing grief is to simply understand that something major has happened. Loss can be like the size of our souls. It's often so big that it's impossible to grasp.

We went to a hot yoga class the other night. In our grief, we were seeking the heat. In this healing room, the instructor opened the class with a few words on energy and pain. She spoke about the Hindu gods and their energies. One of them was Shiva, the god with the energy of destruction. Another one was Brahma, the god with the energy of creation.

The instructor explained why Shiva is considered the first guru.

"Why would a god of destruction be ahead of the god of creation?" she asked.

We were poised to practice, so no one had the answer.

"Because there is more to learn from destruction than from creation," she said.

I don't think she knew that she was speaking to the confusion of our grief. It's confusing to have to learn from pain and suffering. But that's the thing about grief. It's never our choice. We would never choose what happened as the price for whatever it is we are supposed to learn.

In our grief, our energy shifts daily. These shifts are incremental, and they are taking place in the places unnoticed, in the nooks and crannies of our bodies and our minds and our spirits. Every day is a practice, and all our questions are the poses.

And it's these subtle shifts of energy that have to serve as our answers, because, as with the practice, there just are no final answers.

I guess in this way everything really is all about the energy. I am the energy inside of me. I am the part of my soul that fills my body. Our souls fill us all to capacity.

And this brings me to the biggest question yet, one so big that the answer requires every ounce of faith.

The question is: If someone is no longer here, does it really mean that he has left?

To answer this we must speak to a belief that is the only solace in our grief. For we think his energy simply made a monumental shift, one that's sent him to the place where all his soul can fit.

Anne is the author of Unfold Your Mat, Unfold Yourself. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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