Learning to Float

Six months before my sister lost her battle with cancer, she planned an amazing birthday party at the ocean. While there were many fabulous memories during that vacation, my favorite moment is one that I return to often in my imagination. Mary was floating belly up in a fluorescent pink donut tube and humming a peaceful tune with her head tipped back, eyes closed, completely absorbing and trusting the rhythmic flow of the ocean’s tide. I was floating beside her vertically in a lime green tube with my hands holding tightly to her tube and my feet propelling both of us closer to the horizon and away from the shore.

As I have revisited this memory, I have become curious about my posture, which involved control and clinging, and hers, which modeled surrender and ease. I can still hear her humming in my heart, and it ushers the peace of heaven in. Mary was close to the end, and she knew it. I didn’t want to lose her and tenaciously clung to the floatation device just as I clung to her earthly body.

Letting go is not easy; however, the path to freedom is through surrender. 

As a yoga teacher, one of the principles that has helped me is called “right effort.” Life and yoga require an even balance of strength and surrender. Most people are good with the strength piece. We show up and hustle to be seen, known, and pursued. We strive for our worthiness and for a state of unattainable perfection that can leave us burnt out and broken down on the side of the road. One of the ways I practice taking the road less traveled that leads to peace is in my prayer posture of floating. 

Lying on my mat with a block underneath my heart center and my head tipped back, just like Mary taught me, I practice floating. At first it feels scary, like I am all alone in the middle of the ocean, reaching for my big sister to cling onto, wanting desperately to see and control where I am going and propel the process along. This anxious energy that wants desperately to be in control of so many things comes to me in need of love and acceptance. Touching my heart steadies me, reminding the anxious part inside that I am safe now. Turning to my breath, I feel the spirit of life and its rhythmic flow bringing me back to the ocean. I remember that I am held and supported now. Oceans of love fill my heart, casting away the fear that causes me to tremble. I am safe here and now.

As my weary heart lifts toward heaven, I imagine the light of the sun filling it up to overflowing. Breathing into the open heart expands the light of eternity into every fiber of my being. I can feel God’s promise in my bones and in the air that is sustaining me. I cling to his words, “Eternity is hidden in the hearts of those who believe.” I believe with all that I am. I search and seek with all my heart, and I find it! It is here and now. 

Deep breath in…receive the gift! Pause and rest in this luminous stillness. Abide in this perfect love. Breathe out to release the embodied pain, tension, grief, fear, anger, confusion. Breath by breath and bit by bit, I release. 

Learning to surrender takes practice, but it is the only way to float. At the bottom of the exhale, there is a space. It is empty and feels dark. This pause at the bottom of the exhale is important. It is the place where we learn to abide in the emptiness, to wait in the dark, powerless places until the light and breath return. It feels like death, but really it is just the place where new life is waiting to be birthed in and through me…and you too!

Jean Masukevich is a trauma sensitive yoga teacher and integrative coach with over 20 years of teaching experience. Her mission is to guide others to greater mind, body, Spirit integration and connection to their authentic self. She cultivates communities of care where individuals and groups heal and share their hearts and stories through movement, writing, meditation, integrative prayer, creativity, and the sacred art of listening. Jean holds an advanced certificate in grief and trauma from the Allender Center of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and is a certified Spiritual Director through Sustainable Faith. Jean serves both children and adults and is available for in person and remote coaching. Contact her at Sowthatjean@gmail.com.