Crammed among coronavirus statistics, images of jubilation crowded my news feed. America was open! We spilled onto beaches squealing, waving hands, running into each other’s arms.
Launched by a warm Memorial Day weekend, the summer of 2020 would bear more angst. By one dreadful turn of events that symbolized many others, we took to the streets demanding justice in the wake of George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe.”
Over the weeks that followed, the moral rebellion grew. Shielded from plague and pledged to decency, thousands risked peril, raised desperate voices and knelt with faces that didn’t match theirs. In swelling assemblies throughout Lincoln and around the globe, new friends were made; enemies of old friends were made; losses were mourned; and God’s name invoked in curse and prayer. Among the peaceful marches, too, volatile mobs emerged to exploit, pillage and plunder.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 did not go away. Those who remembered 100,000 reasons why it wasn’t “basically like the flu” continued to be scorned by those who believed it was.
The murky mess forged by a reckless disease and an outraged throng etched on our lives a myriad consequences. Had our dreams been too naive? Would the sick and tired, tempest-tossed, ever breathe free? And which of our glorified inalienable rights and freedoms were irrefutably defensible without throwing caution to the wind?
While there is risk in oversimplifying complex circumstances, a quarantine yoga routine shed curious light on our growing anxieties.
Twisted and stretched over a solitary mat, I reached over and pressed play. The instructor was a buff Native before a digital backdrop of the Grand Canyon. A voiceover spoke on his behalf as he demonstrated meticulously. “Warrior I ... Warrior II ...”
Yoga routines are designed to bring mind and body into harmony. Most poses are not difficult to achieve but require intense concentration. Within yoga, five Warrior stances embody fighting characteristics that exhibit courage, compassion and forgiveness, and seek to overcome ego and ignorance.
Having rehearsed these poses countless times, my mind drifted to a class practiced among friends, in a Lincoln gym now locked, near a mall closed down to circumstance. Easing into this daydream, I recalled our former teacher’s elegant form and wondered whether I would ever gain such grace. I evaded the wall of mirrors; and slowly, unwittingly, transitioned into a blissfully slumped Warrior.
Suddenly, in one fluid motion, the teacher swept to my side, revised my lapse and proclaimed to the class, “Like between two walls!”
Imagining oneself in a narrow space between two immovable panels is one way to achieve optimum Warrior. All around me, yogis postured — some in perfect form, some struggling. As our collective legs began to shake and our muscles burned, as we thought we could not hold another minute and feared we might collapse, the command came to release, stand, shoulders open, palms turned out.
Chance metaphors can inspire and guide us through difficult times. “Like between two walls” tumbled through my mind in a dark, dizzying drumbeat baring our world’s vulnerable state. My daydream ended.
I turned to the video; the instructor was concluding with a handstand dangerously close to the canyon precipice. I did not attempt this.
No one could have predicted just a few months ago that two disparate events — a tiny savage virus and a viral brutal murder — would polarize our world, divide it by force, unite it in cause. Pushed behind plexiglass barriers and brightly colored masks, we charged to take sides, muscles burning, fists shaking. Through tear-gassed eyes, we marched forth, as protection and corruption advanced in identical in form, both in riot gear.
Whether we deny systemic racism or a credible threat from COVID-19; whether we raze our masks into dazzling blindfolds, or hurl our judgments from a pedestal of morality — whatever color, class, caste, gang, orientation or religion, wrong, right or indifferent — we are accountable.
We can carry out perilous handstands on a cliff, or rise as warriors, restored, mindful, grounded, like between two walls. Fragile walls; mirrors reflecting fire and loss, love and light.
Ani Holdsworth is a former Journal Star community columnist and freelance graphic designer. She lives in Lincoln.
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