A few weekends ago Jay gave me the wonderful gift of wrangling the kids while I did a daylong yoga retreat. It was unbelievably nice to have 8 hours at Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin, doing yoga and walking in nature.

Besides being forced to exercise, which is awesome by itself, the yoga teachers I’m drawn to bring a spiritual or psychological approach.. Practicing yoga with them is a way of tuning into all the noise in my head, my brain’s comments about how I’m doing and what I’m doing.

So there’s the yoga pose I’m in, and these are generally impossible—there’s always a further place to go. You just cannot “do yoga right,” and that’s part of the gift. But the inner commentary can be worse than impossible. I like to think that years of loving kindness meditation and various self improvement have softened my vile little self criticisms over the years. And they have, but look deep enough and there’s still plenty of shocking self talk that I’d never tolerate from another human being.

With that as context, I’ve been trying to watch my inner judgments, keep a gentle eye on the burbling witches’ cauldron that can lurk deep my psyche. Today I caught myself at my worst, being reminded how easy it is to go off track, to spiral into doubts about the value of my contributions and the point of it all. It was a temporary crash into blue, but strong. Something terribly wrong, some project or relationship having trouble? Nope. Things have been smooth sailing, the kids are happy (if a handful), and I was actually ahead of schedule on several projects. Maybe that was it, a spare moment to think! Today, in a quiet lull, I was suddenly sure everything I’ve worked for is pointless, that the suffering we go through as part of our time on the planet can’t be outweighed by the good stuff.

It was like out of a clear blue sky came this yucky ooze. Are things that bad? Have I forgotten to worry about some major thing that’s suddenly erupting to the surface? Again, no. I just caught a clearer than usual view of my shadow, doubts and fears. Surprise! I suspect these dark eddies are familiar to most people. My bouts with them are blessedly infrequent these days.

To recover, I fixed something on a website, which is always a joy. Just one small success brought me back to center. Phew! What was that? Thankful to shake it off, I realize how precious and fragile my peace of mind is. Something worth fighting for.

Then I looked at the photos from Green Gulch. What beauty! What a gift! Thought you might enjoy the photos as well: