Tag Archives: yoga & meditation

theological commitment to romance

dating-coachSo, the love stories. I’ve been stalling. Yeah, I’ve been busy. So what. Who isn’t? You don’t care. But I was also stuck in an awful rut. It finally shifted last week, around the 5th, when the sun came out. I hit pretty low ground in the days before, and happily it slammed me awake.

Then I read a good book. This helped, too. I’ve been wavering in my yoga practice since I came back from the UK. I’ve been sitting (seated mediation) and my 6am ashtanga practice has been ignored for a more gentle home practice. I feel guilty about that, but it also feels like what I need. Maybe. (Ashtangis will chalk it up to resistance.)

When I am uncertain about where I am, I try to do a meditation retreat. A week or two is best, but a weekend is better than nothing. It connects me to the part of myself that isn’t so much fear or ego and clarifies my situation. This is, at its core, what meditation is for me. It’s not about blissing out or enlightenment, it’s about knowing the difference between the bullshit stories that whirl around my head, the patterns I like to trap myself in, and my truth. I looked for something this weekend, but nothing really seemed appropriate and hell, I have a lot of work to do.

Then, out of the blue, Z asked me if I wanted to do some meditation this weekend. In our eight years, we’ve never meditated together, so I took it as a must-do (you know, a sign). I suggested a talk I’d come across by Judith Simmer-Brown at the Shambhala Center.

We went. The talk was excellent, funny, and validated everything I believe about modern love, and what can pass for it. It validated my take on my love affairs of the last few years (love being a loosely used term, as we know) and grounded me in where I am, and what I need now. Simmer-Brown also gave words and a framework to the point of all this, these love stories I want to tell. It was inchoate before, but now they’re screaming, ready to be told. Love Notes, the post title, was inspired by the few notes I scribbled down when I wanted to remember JSBs words.

It’s about going past the fantasy of romantic love. Blind addiction to imagined love is nothing less than the true religion of America (or pseudo-religion, as Simmer-Brown says. Semantics depend on how much you believe religion has to offer). Americans seek romantic love the way humans have traditionally sought God. It’s not just a distraction, it’s a deluded myth that romantic love with “the one” will solve all one’s problems. “There is such a theological commitment to romance that we will dump someone in a second if they challenge our fantasy,” says Simmer-Brown.

Indeed we will. With internet sirens beckoning, as soon as the facade cracks and the person you projected perfection upon turns out to be human, why face your own pain and that of your ersatz beloved when some guy or gal advertising (a) huge ____________ (insert your fancy) comes poking? My gawd, s/he knows the word for your genitals in your mother tongue, and will impress you with it before you even meet. Mmm, titillating. Now this? This will be easy.

Not refined, not subtle, no. Not even attractive, really. But that isn’t part of this game. We can ignore the obvious for now and focus on ease and fantasy. Why face pain and humanity when cranked-up delusion comes calorie-free?

Why? (If you’re really asking, you aren’t going to hear me anyway.) Because as per usual, you get what you pay for.

And so it goes. Another one bites the dust. Next time, some thoughts on real love, and some gorgeous stories for illustration.

 

spectrum of light

NewYork_2011-07-13_CellSnapsLast Wednesday, on the train to yoga at 6-something a.m., there was a guy standing in the doorway wearing a colorful tie-dye shirt. I thought it was an old school Lithuanian basketball shirt, but I haven’t seen one in years. I squinted to read the lettering, and indeed, it said, “LITHUANIA.

I smiled. Very auspicious. My word, those shirts are about twenty years old now. When I got off, I said to the guy, “I like your shirt.”

He said, “What?” then, “Thanks,” with a smile. His accent was francophone West African, which made me smile back.

George told me the other day that Z is Nadia’s (his niece) favorite basketball player. Or was when she was two, and still lived in Cleveland. “She would say on the phone, ‘I am sad because Z is sad. The Cavs lost.’ Where is he from, anyway?” George asked.

Žydrūnas Ilgauskas? Georgie!! He’s Lithuanian!” George has listened to my mother telling him how closely related Lithuanian and Hindi are since we were 10.

“Ohhhh. Well, I don’t think I even knew his whole name. I just knew Z.”

I see. Still, that Nadia has good taste in ball players.

That night, walking across 17th Street, we ducked into the Rubin to avoid a crazy storm. When it passed, we headed on toward Curry Hill for dosa. By the time we reached Sixth Ave, a gorgeous rainbow spread across the sky.

So many colors, morning til night. What a lovely town.

i will kick your ass at yoga. namaste

i will kick your ass at yoga. namaste.The best card ever. I saw this (and stole it off) insideowl’s flickr photostream earlier in the week when I was sick-miserable and needed a laugh. Yes, she’s an ashtangi, but anyone who does yoga knows this phenom inside and out.

Thank you for all the birthday love and wishes yesterday, especially those who braved my germs and came by. I had a wonderful day, and am feeling much better, finally. One thing I can say for facebook, it turns once-birthday-well-wishing-delinquents into merry makers. I see the magic every day and it brings me cheer.

I noticed, on walking to the store for some supplies yesterday, that the grin was still on. Not from the snow, and certainly not from the ten-foot puddles on every street corner. It was the birthday grin. Yes, I might be sick as a dog but still I love my birthday. And yours. It’s, for me, fundamentally a love of life, and age, and wisdom.

Happy birthday cousin Tony. And, of course, LeBron.

And do not forget: I will kick your ass at yoga. Namaste.

(If anyone knows where one might purchase this card, let me know and I’ll happily link there. I’d love a few myself.)

useful gadgets

This morning on the train from yoga to work, I sat down next to a co-worker with whom I chat quite a bit. We half talked and half did our own thing (note to the confused: this is semi-acceptable with an acquaintance on your 8am commute. It is not acceptable on dates, at dinner, &c.). I read an article I’d printed out for train reading and he played with his blackberry. “What is that,” I asked, looking at a fleshy bit with groping hands on his blackberry. It looked quite a bit like male porn.

“No, God no, he said, as he showed it to me. Now it looked kind of like a pregnant woman’s belly. Oh no, no, it was a woman’s ass with a guy’s hands squeezing it, next to some text about a Friday night party. I see. He then proceeded to write a text message and send it to a Ms. Green. Then he erased Ms. Green’s name and wrote, “Ms. Perry.” He did this same-text-name-replacement send more than ten times. I laughed at him. Oh my word. We (women) know they (some men) do this (the, “hey! what’s up?” and the “hey, how are you?” are the most obvious, though anything remotely generic is suspect), but it was hilarious to see in action, especially at 8:20am. I won’t share his dismal explanation. It’s too embarrassing.

no decoration

This post gets no decoration. Plain text (on blogs) is seldom read, and because this bit is a blurb on a yoga moment, and people’s yoga moments tend to annoy me, it’s only right you not read it. I am posting it, though.

Yesterday morning, in Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana—perhaps my worst pose, because I suck in both standing balance and hamstring flexibility—the teach came over to lift my leg and support me, as he almost always does. When I lifted my leg, my standing leg wobbled. Ordinarily I’d stop and rebalance, but because I knew he was there, I kept lifting. I knew I’d recover balance because he was there.

“Oh. This is what it’s like,” I thought, “to be supported. To keep going even though you’re wobbly. To have the confidence you won’t fall flat, or have to be perfect before going up.”

One might argue, as I would because I’m like that, that I shouldn’t go up if I don’t have balance yet, or how will I find it on my own if he always helps? To that I reply: the body remembers and learns, and does so more gracefully without struggle.

It was a big moment, because it’s such an issue and theme in my life. The one I’ve been promising myself to write about, starting with that day back in Kazakhstan in 2004. I feel lucky to have had it yesterday, that little epiphany. The daily discipline of going there early and doing it every damn day, and coming to trust the teacher day after day, is part of what made it happen.

Last week a friend was talking about climbing a fence and stealing fruit off of trees when he was small. “We didn’t do it because we needed it. We just wanted to do it. It was fun. Nothing ever happened to us even if we got caught. You know, the poor kids didn’t do it though. They never did.”

His point was that they didn’t do it because they needed it, they did it because it was fun. But I heard something else, and replied, “Yeah, because if the poor kids were caught, that’d be the end.”

“Yeah, it’s true. We were just given over to our parents, but for them it’s another story.”

All this is what I mean by the psychology of having and not having, and the risk taking you can do when you feel the world is a safe (enough) place.

wet friday

If you’ve seen any pics/news of the 1/2/3 train’s suspended service from 5:30-7:20am, you will imagine my commute to yoga. I left at 5:30a, was totally drenched even with umbrella, got on a train and froze in the a/c, then got stuck there. Service was suspended while we poor souls were all on it. And it’s not the rich folk commuting at 5:30am—though, interestingly, a lot of construction workers did have blackberries. They told us they were trying to “overcome the water obstacle” at 72nd Street. Fifteen minutes later the conductor announced that it could not be overcome, and we were going back to the last station. After waiting, of course, for the five trains that had piled in behind us to do so. Cold. A/C. Misery.

You might imagine another train was running, but we were told to take a bus. No way. There were hundreds of people on the street waiting for bus or cab. About 3 cabs out at that hour, and they were occupied. So, I walked the next 31 blocks to the studio. When I got there I realized I grabbed the wrong bag and had to practice in yesterday’s clothes, which were damp (from day-old sweat, not rain) and rank. But we bonded, sharing our horror commute stories, and sweated it out.

 

the kindness of new yorkers

Last Monday morning at 5:43am, I had a few minutes spare before leaving for yoga. I didn’t intend to read the email that had arrived the night before. I’d planned to wait until I was fully awake, in the bright of day, and perfectly able to take in whatever came next. I would not chance any of the sorrows that so easily take over in the quiet hours of the day. But the sun was up, and I rashly decided I was being silly. Why not? So I read.

Previous caution aside, I didn’t fully expect what I read or the affect it would have on me. I teared. I looked at the time. I collected my stuff and myself and I left.

A friend of mine once said, after her father died, that you can’t schedule grief. You can’t plan it, you just have to take it when it comes. This has been my experience precisely. While anger is fairly accessible to me, sadness tends to hide itself, even when I know it should be there, and feel that it is, somewhere, there. Because it is difficult for me to reach, I try to respect it when it comes.

In the elevator down, the tears started rolling. I walked out of my building and up the street, feeling bittersweet memories and the sheer sadness of an ending, and crying harder. I’ve learned in the past that silent tears often go unnoticed, and New York is mostly asleep before six in the morning, so I didn’t care too much about my public display. When I was midway down the steps to the subway, an MTA guy headed up them looked at me with concern. I recognized him as a night-shift elevator operator, and remembered saying ‘Hi’ to him when I came home the night before, just after 10. He said something. I pulled out an earbud.

“What?”

He asked, again, with kind eyes, “Are you okay? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, oh yes,” I answered, and he nodded. We kept going. The tears came a little harder, marveling at the beauty of New Yorkers. Marveling that someone who’d spent the last eight graveyard hours in an underground MTA elevator still has the capacity to be genuinely concerned about a stranger passing by.

A few nights before, I talked to a guy at in a club who claimed that Londoners are much more open and kind then New Yorkers. He complained that New Yorkers are entirely self-absorbed and unhelpful.

“Really? You think so?” I answered, amazed. I understand this might be true as far as superficial concerns go, but never have I found a New Yorker to turn on someone in real pain or need. Yes, there is a certain amount of numbing oneself to others’ pain that goes on here, to get through the daily realities of so many in such a small space. But if someone is truly out or ill or in need, someone steps up. No, not everyone, but someone. You know when it’s your turn. That’s how we work.

Last year, just after Andrea moved back to Australia, I was headed downtown on the train during rush hour to meet a friend for dinner. It was packed, and I was standing by a pole between the end seat and the doors. A particular song came on my player and all of the sudden I burst into tears. I’d kept sunglasses on, so I didn’t think it was terribly noticeable. I was silent. My eyes closed in search of privacy, pretending that anyone I could not see could not see me. Because rush hour on the train is so in-your-face, and I respect the right of New Yorkers to have as much space as possible on our confined and difficult commutes (i.e. no one needs extra drama two inches away after a long day’s work), I tried to dam the tears. Just when I thought I’d stifled them, someone tugged on my arm.

“Sit, sit, please sit,” said the man sitting in front of me.

Oh no.

Stubborn, I refused. “No. No thank you.” I shook my head, as accepting meant I acknowledged he was there. That anyone was there. That I was making a scene. His kindness toppled the dam and I cried harder, gulping for air as I tried to regain composure. The train stopped. The man got up. He looked and sounded Middle Eastern. “Sit!” he cried, as he grabbed my arm and forced me down in his seat, seemingly anguished by my pain, and then bolted from the car. The blond woman next to me turned and asked if I was okay.

“Yes, yes,” I answered, humbled by their kindness and totally unable to stop the flow of tears. I refused to make eye contact with anyone else in the crowded car, and refused to acknowledge how many might be taking me in. Finally, by 14th Street, I pulled it together, wiped my face, and prepared to get off the train. It was done. By the time I reached the restaurant, no one suspected a thing.

A friend of mine recently said that NYC is a refugee camp. It takes in everyone who, for whatever reason, can’t or doesn’t want to be where he began (and if not him, it took in his mother or grandmother, and he knows what that means). Given the number of cultural strangers here, it’s a miracle that so little violence takes place, especially considering the behavior and antics of many space-rich middle Americans.

In our own way, we take care of each other. No, we aren’t bubbly or disingenuous. We also know how to stay out of each other’s way, which can be seen by outsiders as rudeness. But on this tiny island of millions, that, too, is an act of kindness.

at long last

Oi! I’ve finally done it. I’ve switched my blog over to a true blog format, which lists posts backwards and allows comments. This is the first post in this format. Those below were on the old blog and I switched them over. I’ll probably change the url and design soon, but it’s nice to have the blog up and working. So much to do. Still stories and photos to edit from Sri Lanka, so I’ll pick up there.

fullmoon
fullmoon at ashtangalanka

As I mentioned in the last post, the characters and vibe at AshtangaLanka had me thinking about the culture around ashtanga, with which I don’t have much experience. In my research for my yoga blog, I came across more ashtanga blogs than any other. Some were very theoretical, like the insideowl, who has an interesting post on ashtanga and imperialism (mentioned to Amanda in the comments of the last post). She referred me to an aussie academic who’s done anthro research on ashtanga as a daily practice, as well as others’ work on yoga. My foray into exploring the world through anthropological eyes put me in a place of too much separation: me observing them. Me experiencing them (and vice verse), and the argument that me/them was too a false a dichotomy to work from, was unacceptable in academia at the time. After years on the road,  it felt fake. In the end, though I’m great with theory, it put me way up in my head and way cut off from the world around me—even the world in me, as my own senses freeze up when my analytical mind takes over. So I opted for a different way. Nevertheless, I do love to flirt with these things from time to time.

Someone asked me about a posting from years back. 2006. I reread it last week and realized that when I have more time to myself, to rest and relax and just be, as I did then, I’m much softer. My writing was much softer. I imagine my teaching was much softer, my being was much softer. I miss that. In Sri Lanka I realized that I feel good, but not connected to my life. Something needs to shift.

Sri Lanka. There are about 400 photos to edit. A few highlights to share of the travels. Oh, to write as I travel, when it’s fresh, rather than four months later! To carry a laptop? Okay, the next post will be stories. xoA.

For ashtanga fans, Sharath is on flickr (thanks elephantbeans).