Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 11/8/20 6:39 AM

Guest column: You Are The Sky

When an attempt to imbibe serenity brings about more confusion.

This is a Covid-19 quarantine story. It dates back to early April, a fortnight or so after we were first initiated into the art of hunkering down at home. This was a time when everyone was sending out helpful and useless tips to each other, on how to wfh, how to be productive, how to stay calm.

To that last end, I received a lovely video on the practice of the Deep Relaxation Technique  from the lovely people at SwaSwara, Gokarna. All I needed was the floor and twenty minutes to hand.

And so I started out on a regular diet of DRT thrice every week. I`d stretch out on a yoga mat with my legs and arms touching the cold floor tile, since the yoga mat could not contain my extremities.

No matter, because the DRT was really a calm-inducing exercise and one I grew to really like.

Photo: Sheila Kumar.

All of it, except the last part. Uptil the instructor came to the part where, after the body is totally and completely relaxed (his words, not mine), we start to look beyond the corporeal self (my words, not his).

Move your mind away from your body lying on the floor, the man intoned,  and that was easy to do. I could float my mind above the body lying gracefully (or so I hoped) on the floor, observing it dispassionately but a trifle fondly. Dashitall, it is my body, innit?

Now observe the vast blue sky, the voice instructed. And that was where my troubles began. The deep blue sky, the voice continued,   but I had already gone through the portals of my first sky-related dilemma.

The deep blue sky? That isn’t correct. Sometimes the sky glimpsed from my window was a lovely royal  blue, sometimes a washed-out bleached blue. On stormy evenings,  it actually turned deep pink, then deep purple, verily the shade the rock band would have liked to patent.

Photo: Sheila Kumar.

Then there were days aplenty when the sky was dotted, speckled, clouded with clouds, when it became an admittedly vast palette of blue and white.

The point is, the sky is never just a deep blue one. Not my sky, in any case.

While I’m at it, let me confess I had a problem visualising the vastness of the sky, too. Eyes closed,  I imagined a vast sky covering my area, covering the north south and west of my city, then covering the road to the Nilgiris. Covering Ooty and Coonoor. That`s where my sky came to an end. For the life of me,  I couldn’t visualise this same sky stretching over distant London, Milan, Prague. No siree,  that was a different sky.

This was  also when the barrage of questions began in my head. Was it one smooth sky, all across the world? You mean it didn’t tear where Everest thrust maybe a small hole in it? Was it an even sky? What about the depleted ozone layer areas… did the sky thin out there? Be honest, was  it really a limitless sky or just extending to the limits of one`s  imagination?

The instructor then intoned: expand your awareness as vast as the blue sky. And I comprehended that my imagination was just not going beyond Lamb`s Rock in Coonoor — don’t ask,  because I don’t know why. Since I had a limited awareness, perhaps I could never relax to the fullest of my capability. Which meant I wasn`t doing DRT right.

The next injunction was even more baffling: Merge yourself with the blue sky (lots of emphasis on the colour of the sky here…was I to abstain from sky-merging activities on the days when the sky was some other colour?). Was I to rise vertically (in my imagination) and enter the sky? Or was I to float like the ghosts you see in films, serenely horizontal till I touch the sky? Was I to keep my eyes open all the time? Was I to momentarily close my eyes at the time of the merger, just in case a passing cloud got into my eye? After the merger, did I keep ascending? At which point did I stop, knowing the (blue) sky   and I were now one?

Questions, questions.

Photo: Sheila Kumar.

You are becoming the blue sky, you are the blue sky, I’m told next. This is where my individualism rebelled. I am this tepid blue sky? I don’t want to be the sky. Can the sky read? Can the sky write? Can the sky drool over Lucas Bravo?

Enjoy the infinite bliss, the blissful state of silence, came the next stern instruction. My point is, if I’m now   merged with a drifting sky, what happens when I’m drifting over the (vast blue?) ocean? I’m not much of a swimmer and I dread to think of what would happen if I fall into the water. What if a high snow -clad peak should suddenly emerge from a bank of clouds and poke me where it hurts? What if I’m passing over the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans and urgently want to de-merge from the sky and join in the parade?

Slowly come back to body consciousness, is the final instruction. And I do so, in a troubled manner. When it comes to the (deep blue) sky, it just isn’t my relaxation station.

Photo: Sheila Kumar.

The epiphany, it came two days ago. The only way to do DRT right was to go with the flow, give up all conflicted perceptions, follow instructions implicitly.

See the parallel with personal Covid management? Well, I did tell you this was a Covid-19 story.

This appeared in TNIE`S  Sunday Express magazine of 8 Nov 2020. 

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guest columnhumoursky-gazingSunday Express magazineTNIE

Sheila Kumar • November 8, 2020

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