I have a daughter, Hazel, and everyone thinks she looks exactly like me. My family, strangers at the grocery store, people at the YMCA say things like, “Well, you can sure tell that she’s yours!” To me, she has always looked like Hazel, though I do have to admit, our baby pictures could be swapped out and none be the wiser.
The other day, I was sitting by the pool, watching Hazel jump in and out of the water. She and her sister were playing a game and in that game Hazel is some famous movie star walking along the shores of a toxic waste dump or swamp and Nora plays the role of her lesser assistant or maybe a news reporter. They are hamming it up when assistant gives movie star an “accidental” nudge and with great theatrical flair, the movie star loses her balance and falls into the water, horrified and throwing a fit about her makeup an hairdo and outfit getting ruined. The three of us crack up every time. Then Hazel climbs out of the pool and they do it again.
There was a moment during all these shenanigans, when Hazel pushed herself out of the water and as I watched her move, I could feel and remember myself in that kind of body—my 8 year old body. My cells seemed to remember that time in my life and as they sloshed around inside my adult self, they ached to be doing that again- to feel like they did when I was 8. My cells ached. My heart ached. I ached. It was almost like time traveling back to 1984, watching a moment of my own childhood unfold and I was seeing myself. It was so surreal and I didn’t want it to end.
There was something else going on in that moment, too. I could feel myself as Hazel, but also, I could feel myself now, as her mother, and I felt an overwhelming desire to do what’s right to help to nurture and grow this child. I want her to be able to remember this very goodness that she has in her strong and healthy body, by the pool, in the sun and with her sister. I know that just remembering this can get her through some tough times. I was able to draw on those feelings and memories of goodness during some of my difficult days which, no doubt, has something to do with my mom watching me move when I was a child, loving and hoping and trying to do her very best for me. As has happened many times since I became a mom, I sat there and deeply appreciated the love that my mom gave me. So there I was, by the pool, staring at perfection, feeling 8, feeling mom, feeling daughter all at the same time. It was a lot to be feeling all in one moment.
There are times like this. Times when we are so connected in an experience that the magnitude of our connectedness is felt, down to the cells. It doesn’t happen very often for me, but when it does, it is significant and it feels good. It can happen spontaneously, in a moment like mine, when I was so engaged, so focused, that I felt Hazel, bodies, and relationships deeply, but just waiting for it to strike is different from cultivating it. This experience of connectedness, or Samadhi, is what yoga has to offer and the practice of yoga is how you arrive. Samadhi is the last of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. T. K. V. Desikachar describes samadhi in his wonderful book, The Heart of Yoga:
The Sanskrit word prajna transates as “very clear understanding”. The old texts say that in samadhi, rta prajna prevails—that is, what is seen is the truth. This means that in Samadhi we arrive at a real understanding of the object. […] We can see where it comes from, how it has arisen, and what effects it has. […] Whether we are experiencing Samadhi or not is not shown by sitting cross-legged with closed eyes and a meaningful expression on our face. We know we are experiencing Samadhi if we can see and understand things that we could not see or understand before.
There haven’t been all that many times when I’ve experienced samadhi but I felt it there by the pool. I felt so connected to Hazel and to myself and in that moment I understood and felt childhood in the past and present. I recalled my own movement and feelings at the age of 8 and saw them playing out in Hazel. I also felt the beautiful dharma of being a mother to another perfect person. I felt the love that was offered to me from my parents and that they must have received from theirs to be able to have passed onto me the possibility of this moment. It was all there. It was so huge and yet it was so perfectly contained in that moment in the sun.