Upright July 16, 2017

I remember Michael Stone saying that when the end came, he hoped he would be sitting upright, perhaps even in the traditional posture of meditation, which he had spent so many hours upholding, leading by example, sitting with his tall spine, waiting for the end to come.

He was always such a perfect physical specimen. The yoga teacher of yoga teachers. How could he have fallen into coma, and die in his early 40s?

He liked to work on koans, fathomless word puzzles that invited its listeners to drop whatever they imagined they knew for sure.

An image he often returned to: beads on a tray. The tray’s movements were the ups and downs of our living together. How to construct a personality – no not a personality – but a response mechanism that would be as flexible as those beads rolling across a surface?

Adam Phillips: Instead of a fate, a repertoire.

He sat at the front of the room so often. I didn’t realize until later, when I saw him awkwardly sidelined at parties, just how much at home he felt there. Leading the way. Believing in silence.

What if we lived for questions, instead of answers?

For three years he talked about the end of the exhale. The moment in the breath cycle that was like dying. During yoga, he taught us to use it like a scraper, and touch our pelvic floor, scooping up everything that was unwanted and disgusting about our own life, and inhale it through our heart, and release it. Let it go.

He always seemed like a loner, there was some essential geek part of him that felt like the family silver, stored away for special occasions that never really arrived. Except of course he was part of deep family, always kids and partner and people swirling round him. Alone and not alone at all.

I remember a pal of his saying that he was a consummate Buddhist librarian. He could take those old texts, written centuries ago, and breathe into them as if they were today’s headlines.

We had a major falling out. There were so many endings. Sometimes you die so many times before you die. My father died a month ago, but he only died once, graciously and without pain, even offering us time to say good-bye. Something in his personality made it easier for him. Is it too cruel or too obvious to say that he was born to die? I hope Michael’s passage was not fearful. The last trip.

His parting words to me. “But how will we practice together?”