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Today, Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement. Creator of my favorite movie–Howl’s Moving Castle–and many more well-loved cinematic marvels, we fans mourned his exit…perhaps all hoping he will break out with some unforeseen brilliance for us someday?

From Howl’s Moving Castle, I have learned and internalized so much about love and friendship and relationship: that we all have monsters inside us, that facing them without fear is transformative, that we can save each other, that hearts change, that most people are complex mixtures of good/evil. And, tonight, I realized another truth.

The last few days have been full of sadness, weeping leaking out without warning, missingmissingmissing my mom. Even as it’s been a stellar week–first jazz gig in over a year! Winning the CASA contest to drive a racecar next Saturday! Movement and ideas and even writing finally beginning to flow again!–a pendulum inside my heart has swung unpredictably from joy to cringing, yearningtorunawayandhideinacave. I’m doing all I can to heal, to address my body’s grief, even as I don’t feel like eating and want to sleep all the time. Amidst that slow process, this afternoon, almost too late, my body insisted I go to the Vinyasa/Yin yoga class at Cambio Studios.

I have been meaning and planning to go to this particular class from the first moment I saw it on the schedule, two or three years ago. I knew I needed it, in the last year even more so. Emotion and pain embed deeply in this body then pop up in disfunction. I knew I needed it. But I avoided it, knew if I went that I would weep through the whole thing. And however much I love sharing music, speaking, and acting from a stage, I hatehatehate being a “spectacle.”

So I have not gone to the one class I most needed. Why this class? Vinyasa is movement via breath, and I have been holding my breath, breathing in uneven gulps for months. And Yin yoga is meditative, postures held long enough for emotion to exit muscles and tissue. It’s like an hour-long, full-body tension/pain flush. And after a year full of my mom’s cancer and all its attendant issues and then her death and then my sister-in-law’s sudden death and my brother’s injuries in a wreck a week later, I knew this body needed that class.

So tonight, that’s where I ended up, five minutes late, rushing, but present. And cry, I did. When one of the instructors pushed my hips and back deeper into a posture, my heart just cracked open, shuddered, and the tears started flowing. And as I moved, the moment came when I realized what I’d been doing. I already knew I had taken on my mother’s pain early last year, in that hospital room, when the doctors released her from their care; when, almost exactly a year ago, my sister-in-law told me they’d given Mom weeks to live; through her struggle to simply let go of life. My body just embedded it all. I still feel like I didn’t do enough for her last year, that I was in too much pain and smothered in fear, that I wish I had done more. I knew this and had “dealt with” it in my mind.

But as I laid there on the wooden floor of a yoga studio, I heard, “It’s not going to hurt you to let go of her. You won’t lose her if you lose her pain.” And a bright light made of a thousand butterflies burst out of my body, flying up to the sky, even as the tears flowed harder.

And “It’s not going to hurt you to let go of her” and “Let go, let go” rolled through me the rest of the class, right along with waves of tears. I realized I could lose her pain and not lose her sweetness, her goodness. That I am myself and it is good, and that she saw me for who I was and thought the same. I remembered Mom saying, when I was very young, after being teased as “four-eyes,” back when glasses weren’t cool, “Jene’, you have a big, tender heart, and though it may hurt more, it’s good.” I remembered her telling me so again, in October, before she died in December. And remembering, I thought of Calcifer in Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle.

Calcifer is the fire demon whom Howl–when he’s a young boy–swallows. Calcifer integrates Howl’s heart into his own fire, and they are bound together forever in a curse. At the end, when Sophie separates them and Howl takes back his heart, Calcifer exclaims, “I’m free! I’m free!” as he bursts out and up and away into the sky. He comes back later, because he misses his friends. But he and Howl are each still present, still real, still integrated, even moreso when they are separate.

And as I moved in tonight’s class and then laid there on the floor, still weeping, I felt my mother’s pain begin to leave my body just as Calcifer left Howl. She’s free now. Her pain is gone. And if her pain is gone, then even as I still roll through feeling it, I’m free of the weight of her pain…because it doesn’t exist any more. And I won’t lose her if I let it go. She is still with me, beautifully, essentially, her true self–even the one I never knew and the one I never understood and the one I yearned to know and the one no one knew–her true self is here, in me and with me, forever.

Thank you, Cambio, for being a catalytic place.

Thank you, Hayao Miyazaki. I owe you my life.

Thank you, MotherDear, for giving me one. I love you.

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5 thoughts on “Miyazaki and Yoga

  1. My mom died 4 years ago, of Alzheimers. On the morning she died, the feeling that came over me, which I believe came directly from her, was one of jubilation — like your mom, she was free at last. When the sadness comes, as it still does, I go back to that one moment and know peace. Thank you for this moving piece of writing.

    1. It is so very difficult, the hardest thing I’ve done. Even childbirth seems–yeah, lol, in retrospect–easier, because you get this lovely human being in your arms at the end!
      In this modern life, we are not taught to sit with pain, to feel it, but to relieve it, asap, to get busy, to move on, to get over it. For me–and many I know–my mother’s death defies the customary methods of avoidance. The most important thing has been to not judge myself or actions. To sit/sleep/stand/walk/dance when that movement comes. To cry when it comes. To refuse to block it. And, slowly, yoga has helped/will be helping with that part, especially. Love and hugs to you. Jene’

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