Sometimes the presence of another's stress steers me into calm. A student showed up this afternoon and said, "What do you do when you're stressed out?" I showed her the pose with which we began the two yoga classes I attended (six years ago) before bailing out: back on the floor, thighs at right angle to torso, calves at right angle to thighs and propped on a chair: the body a series of right angles. Flatten spine to the floor. Breathe in and steer the air down into the bottoms of the lungs, inflating the abdomen little by little. Breathe out with a little hiss through the teeth. Do this until calm comes.
(I did this pose for thirty minutes one night during my first attempt at the job market: after having worked fiendishly for hours straight, having missed at least one meal, having raced the clock to get to FedEx, I was empty and acidified and all a-quiver. My brother was visiting. We had dinner plans. We put them on hold for thirty minutes so that I could bring myself down.)
My student got into this pose on the floor of my office and stayed there for the next 45 minutes, talking to me while I searched for a paper. And while she lay there and we talked intermittently, I realized that I haven't been doing such a bang-up job of breathing calmly and deeply myself. And so we both calmed, bit by bit.
Three hours later, I happened to look up from grading just in time to see part of our ten minutes of sunsetting brilliance. I coursed through the building and alerted my colleagues who were staying late. Look out your window. Oh, look at that. On our floor we are up in the trees. Ten minutes after I returned to my desk, after trying to capture a picture for you, all reds had fled, bled away to a band of limpid yellow skirting the hilltops under a sky of massed blue. So fast: so fast an evening I have not seen for some time.