Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

My Women Friends

Yoga has been an extraordinary journey for me. I leave every class with something new, something I did not have or know before. Mindfulness. It is such a powerful word. When I am mindful of my breath, when I focus on integrating my breath with my movement, I can always deepen my pose. Mindfulness. It is what I take out of the studio and into my life that makes me appreciate yoga even more. The physical and spiritual strength I hone in yoga is carried into my writing. Like my writing and like life, nothing moves in a straight line. Some days, my balance is better than others. Some days, I can hold one leg out straight in front and grab my toes. Other days, I feel unable to hold myself upright. It is the same with my writing… an unpredictable journey.

I had an amazing yoga class the other day. During class, my teacher stood behind me, placed her hands on either side of my head and moved them down as though she were outlining my entire body. For a moment, I couldn’t be certain if her hands were on me, or if was simply the heat of her proximity. Regardless, I felt energy radiate from her presence. Then, in the final meditation, she sat behind me, back to back, still instructing the class, as she breathed against me. I was mesmerized by the sensation of her breath against my back, and almost immediately, my breath fell in sync with hers.  I felt nurtured by her touch, and then by her breath. The Hamsa mantra asks: Who am I? Soham provides the answer: I am that. Ohm Hum So Hum. If you say it over and over, it declares I am that I am that I am that I am. It seems so simple.

Yoga nurtures me.  The touch of my teachers nurtures me. I believe this is the essence of what women give each other: touch that nurtures. In Willing Spirits and in The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, I explore the relationships between women and how these relationships define me. The women in my life sustain me as nothing else can or does. The touch of another woman nurtures me, anchors me to the present. In Willing Spirits, my protagonists, Jane and Gwen, take comfort in each other as a way to weather the disappointments of their lives. When their children are young, the two women take their toddlers to the park, watching them play. Yet, Jane and Gwen are often confused about why their lives did not work out as expected:

They had obeyed the prescribed customs. They had obeyed the prescribed customs. They had carried out the rituals, and they were still bereft of the love they had been promised.                                               They talked of witchcraft and sorcerers and speculated about the future.

I always found this an especially poignant passage. It is sort of startling when we realize that our lives do not always fulfill our expectations. At this point in my own life, I understand the value of the Hamsa mantra in a way I never could have appreciated in my thirties or perhaps even in my forties: I am that. Ohm Hum So Hum. If you say it over and over, it declares I am that I am that I am that I am. The characters in Willing Spirits transition throughout the novel, but in this particular flashback, they are in turmoil, a state eased by their friendship and the comfort their presence gives each other:            They had sat quietly, holding hands, watching their children and wondering why they couldn’t find men whom they loved as much as they loved each other.

It’s an important question… and one I believe many women ask themselves. I wish I had the answer. Perhaps Anna Quindlen offers one of the closet explanations in her essay, The Company of Women in which she describes the difference between her conversations with her husband and with her female friends: “He was oxford cloth, I embroidery. We simply weren’t in the same shirt.”

I am that I am that I am. Ohm Hum So Hum. Right now, it’s a good place to be… thanks to my women, the embroidery in my life.

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May 11, 2010 - Posted by | relationships. women, Uncategorized, women's friendship, yoga

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