This is Why I Sing
The following piece is about the time when I was doing my Yoga Teacher Training back in 2001 at a retreat centre somewhere among green fields and the beautiful countryside of England. We were in nature, in peace, happily without television or radio, deeply involved in practice from morning to night. The Twin Towers horror of 9/11 came in the middle of that time, and the whispers of it hit us initially as though a dream, or a movie, as something like that surely couldn’t be real, could it? It was only when we heard the tears of loved ones that we knew it was, and we turned on a television for a few hours so we could witness the tragic events. Yet despite this, or maybe because of it, nobody decided to leave the retreat, not the American students, nor our American teacher, who, they said, knew people who were quietly going about their business that morning in New York. It was as though we all knew the importance of what we were doing – or learning to do – that perhaps it was what we were meant to do.
I have been a teacher of yoga ever since, and whether this event contributed to my decision to teach, (I was not so sure when embarking on the training) I cannot say, but Yoga has been my rock, my pillow, my constant – every morning bringing light to the darkness, washing away my yesterday, and every practice leaving me feeling grateful for this life’s journey whatever it brings.
September Twelve. Not yet six in the morning.
We assemble in the meditation hall, eyes sleepy and minds yet free of night-dreams, if we ever slept at all, that is.
No one speaks. All that needs to be said is shared without words, in the bowing of heads, the glanced meeting of eyes, in the ached creases of a smile.
Did yesterday really happen?
Last night they switched on the television for one hour to show us that it did. I didn’t want to believe.
I telephoned home, then I believed.
Those among us from America we held close, washed their tears with ours.
We sit, a blanket on the floor, our legs crossed. I hear a hum in the silence: a low rumble, a thrumming interrupted by throat-clearing coughs, the shuffled pages of notebooks, the scratching of skin and scalp and mind.
Our teacher kneels. In front of her is a low altar draped in sea-green silk that shimmers the last of the moonlight. She lights white candles, then a stick of incense that she waves in a circle around the elephant-god statue. A delicate essence teases as the hovering plume dissolves.
We’ve arranged ourselves into a crescent shape that faces east and, as it is the coldest hour of the day, I wrap a yellow, cotton cloth around my shoulders, tuck it over knees. The fabric is thin, but feeling enveloped in something golden eases me to calm.
A single chime from a tingsha cymbal floats across the air. We close our eyes, and sit with our breath in, and our breath out. My back aches, so I tilt my hips forwards and backwards. I shrug and roll my shoulders, turn my head, trying to lose the tightness, but my body still aches.
Our teacher begins to sing a chant of adoration, the words of which I do not understand; words that have no meaning to me with sounds that somehow do. I sing because I don’t know who I am, because I don’t know what we are, or what we have become.
All of our voices join the chant, one by one, two by two. The ocean of sound builds, the waves ebbing and flowing with peaks and troughs and thirds and fifths, until, as if by magic, it fades to a natural end.
And now we are back to silence, a different silence from before, a quieter silence.
Lee Hamblin lives in Greece. He is a yoga practitioner and teacher. He also writes very short stories that have been published in various places on the internet. He tweets @kali_thea, and links to his stories can be found here: https://hamblin1.wordpress.com
Written for the From Darkness to Light event. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Lee know what you think about his words, and be sure to visit him over at Lee Hamblin, Stories I Have Written when you’re done.