Sunday, March 30, 2008

You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This

It's the tenth of April and snowing. Sitting with Alice's youngest son, Spencer, as he watches cartoons. Alice still in the hospital; no happy end in sight. Doing all I can to be supportive, which looks a lot like what I'm doing now. Shuffling between classes, yoga studio, work, Isabelle and Audrey and this. Tired, bleary eyed, pale. Only time for a few yoga classes this week.

Heidi gave me some incredible adjustments in the last hot class I took with her. During fixed firm, she literally just climbed on top of me and it was glorious. During Trikonasana she pulled my hips and--actually I don't even know what she did, but it made me want to cry and laugh at the same time. I could feel my hips opening up and sort of shaking against her(as a result of her pulling me down and my muscles resisting). Triangle is slowly coming together. Learning how to shift my weight, how to 'float' up and down with my arms. Also learning not to judge myself so harshly. Or at least becoming aware of how I do judge myself. Trying to find a place in my practice/life that is free of resentment, regret, fear, noise. Whispering little phrases to myself in the mirror, like tomorrow I'll find freckles on my nose again and don't let me be lonely.

I started writing this on march 31--endless revision, deletion. Finding I have too much to say, or not enough. Teacher training on my mind a lot, beside a few other things, mostly unimportant, silly things: boys, swimsuits on sale, how I know almost nothing about quantum physics. Am I ready for teacher training? I still hate triangle, I still feel silly during chants, oms, prayanama breathing. Jamie tells me, unsolicited, I'd be a great yoga teacher; tells me my touch is warm, my hugs get better each time he sees me. I don't know, I don't know. Fear, fear, fear. And then the excitement, anticipation, knowing I'll get stronger. I wish for certain things, and can't express them here. Somewhere between this month and the last I got quiet. What is it, define it. Next month will be louder, I tell myself. Next month I'll know more.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yes, it is true

"Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar is a contemporary yoga master and, like yoga itself, a multifaceted jewel."

From the forward to The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar.

It helps if you say it out loud.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Empty Space and Points of Light

“Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?

I’m not looking for God, only for myself, and that is far more complicated. God has a great deal written about Him; nothing has been written about me. God is bigger, like my mother easier to find, even in the dark. I could be anywhere, and since I can’t describe myself I can’t ask for help... Some of them have told me that the very point of searching for God is to forget about oneself, to lose oneself for ever. But it is not difficult to lose oneself, or is it the ego they are talking about, the hollow, screaming cadaver that has no spirit within it?
I think that cadaver is only the ideal self run mad, and if the other life, the secret life, could be found and brought home, then a person might live in peace and have no need for God. After all, He has no need for us, being complete.”
--Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry

What else needs to be said?

The yoga blog is over. Jeanette has verbalized everything we’re wanting to say only better.

To find oneself, to lose oneself. Atman, Brahman. “Empty space and points of light.” (Jeanette)

It seems that truth is anything that is not steadfast. Truth is the force of mystery created by contradiction.

I’ve been thinking about why the yoga blog can be so intense. Why aren’t we writing just about the physical challenges of the postures, or how blissful we feel afterwards, or whatever? Instead we write about the big mysteries it brings up for us late at night. Uschi said that when she first started practicing yoga seriously all these new feelings came up and after yoga she’d get in fights with her boyfriend. Maybe that’s why sometimes lately I can’t sleep. Because yoga (thank god) makes me conscious of how so many areas of my life are putting the squeeze on me to figure myself out, to be authentic, to make wise decisions based on self-understanding, aaahh!

It’s so easy to write about negatives. In a writing class once I had to write about the food I hated the most in the world. Those fennel seeds you can grab on your way out the door of some Indian restaurants—ew. I almost broke up with someone over fennel breath once. Writing about my passionate hatred of those seeds was natural, satisfying, and fun.

But writing about (or talking about) positives is much harder. Even with food, let alone emotions. It’s easy to sound fake. (melts in your mouth, tastes like heaven) I’m never as inspired to write a yoga blog as in the middle of the night in the midst of some emotional storm.

Sometimes in my quest to be truthful, open, and honest, I forget to be mindful. I’m wondering if truth isn’t a little more complicated than saying whatever the hell is on my mind at any cost in any situation. I confuse my thoughts with my truth. Instead maybe truth is the careful expression of those thoughts after they’ve been weighed against an intuitive sense of what is true.

Recently I’ve discovered an enjoyable column in the Yoga Journal called “Wisdom” by Sally Kempton. In the May issue her topic is honesty. She says, “Truth is a genuine teacher. When you decide to follow where it leads—constantly asking questions such as, What is my motive for speaking? Is it kind and necessary to say this? If not now, how will I know that it’s right to say this?—the power of truth will show its subtleties as well as teach its wisdom.” I liked that. It seems more loving, more artful, than just naked, unexamined honesty. And I’ve been surprised at how often my motivation to speak is nothing more than to get attention rather than because I really have something to say.

And since French Toast always keeps us focused by asking "what does this have to do with yoga?" I will say that I think yoga gives me a chance to practice being connected with the inner voice that tells me what is true and what is not.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Land of Enchantment

I was planning on yoga at eight tonight. But its one minute past and I’m drinking a beer with a white furry puppy biting my toes, still wearing the dress I put on this morning. The family I sit for has gone to Mexico for spring break, and as we’ve done for the past three and half years, I’m holed up in their beautiful home while they are away: watering their plants, eating their produce, waking up to the New York Times in the driveway.

Sunday night I arrived back in Boulder after a weekend in Santa Fe. No yoga, and I haven’t really done much since then—but that is not going to stop me from writing more than ever before. This morning I did a few sweet poses, ones that make me feel good, like happy baby and pigeon, toe stand and side staff pose, but I ended up in child’s pose for a long time, listening to Sufjan Stevens. I don’t know why I didn’t go to class tonight; I was planning on it all day, but when it came time to leave I found myself physically resistant to leaving the house. I think I’m feeling a little blue, or maybe I’m just tired. I couldn’t fall asleep last night, tossed and turned and threw pillows on the floor in frustration.

Santa Fe was a weekend full of unexpected pleasure, doubt, desire. We (kate, rob, john, myself) stayed in a hotel Friday night, and Saturday was spent at Upaya Zen Center, a place bathed in beautiful golden light and filled with warm, welcoming spirit. Of course I sound romantic about it; I was only there for one day and one night. No time to fully comprehend, no time to feel any differently. It was my first serious mediation experience, and I don’t even know how to describe it. I don’t think I want to. It was hard to stop thinking. It was hard to shake the voices in my head, the neurotic thoughts, and doubts. My mind wandered a few times, toward something it probably should never think about again, but wants to, and undoubtedly will. The same thing happens in yoga class most of the time; I’m in the middle of standing bow pose and thinking about who I’m meeting after class, what work needs to be finished, who I need to call back, etc etc etc.

Even worse than thinking about tasks and crushes is when I think about how I look in the mirror, or how I can’t get my left leg up over my head like I can with my right. I’m starting to notice my muscles playing favorites, my right shoulder higher than the left, my left leg tighter than the right. Frustration. I know I shouldn’t, but I am always judging my experiences. I look for ways to explain it away, making excuses, offering stupid qualifications for my poses, postures, behaviors. I don’t know how to get over this. John says this a lot: “it is something I need to get over”. Knowing there is something imperfect or flawed and judging it before someone else can. Maybe that’s not what he means. I don’t really know. But I do that. I’m looking for sincerity in my yoga practice, sincerity in my interactions. Do and say things I mean, with meaning. John and I talked a lot this weekend, about yoga, ourselves, peeing in the ocean when we were children. Okay, that was just me. I wish I could find better language to describe all this, instead of sitting here with a dog in my lap, searching, smiling.

I’ve said goodbye to a lot of friends in the past year, most departing for graduate schools in other cities, some moved on to international programs, others scattered various places doing various things. And me, I’m here, trying to find closure with them, looking for ritual. I've been noticing words are harder and harder to get together. Coming back this weekend I thought of many sentences that never come out, things like i wouldn’t have liked your teeth on anyone else and when i hear myself talk it's like hearing chickens cluck. These, or others like them, run through my head all day without anything to attach to, and I write hundreds of letters a day, addressed and unsent.

What does this have to do with yoga? I don't know. My body is learning and relearning movements in every class, muscles are being trained to articulate certain strengths. My brain is trying to train my pulse to say I want you in morse code whenever someone might touch my hand. I can't get the words right, I can't say these things. Like I am standing at the periphery of desire.

What is my point? I am learning, learning, learning. Settling into the sensations of needing, desiring, becoming. In yoga classes and even in my ‘regular’ life I am making myself more available, freer. God, it’s so hard to write about all this without sounding like a punchy-face. Thinking about something else Ashley said, her question of how much weirder can a girl from Iowa get. Well, probably pretty weird. What is liberating? As a woman I am hardly permitted to exist on my own terms, and as a yoga student I don't even know what my terms are. It's like this, it's not like this. Three years ago in a yoga class I had very firm boundaries, low tolerance for spirituality, zero tolerance for chakra talk. I had a boyfriend, who upon reading this blog would probably laugh at me, not recognize me. Sometimes I don’t. There is anxiety that crops up with new, untested freedoms. Like I have opened a door to a dimly lit room.

I felt, then, free because nothing was important. Secretly loved my arrogance and underwhelming world. I'm shaky at best tonight when I shape my strength of feeling. How weird am I going to get? Going to California to train with Ashley, carving out our sacred yoga sister space. How weird, how weird are we already? On the phone with John a few nights ago, I mentioned feeling nervous about the yoga training. He asked why; I didn't respond in any coherent way. This is why, all this is my response. I am letting go of options, like Kira; trying to shed the leanness of meaning I’ve relied on for so long and walk away empty handed, toward something else, empty handed. (that’s for you, cardamon) Does this make sense?

Funny I'm sitting here writing about New Mexico and listening to Dar William's song about Iowa. So much to love about this song. My favorite line is the end: tonight I woke up from a nightmare I could not stand to see/you were out wandering out on the hills of Iowa/and you were not thinking of me.

I am excited, light, exhausted. Amazed that in the gathering speed of my own momentum I would ever stop.

Friday, March 14, 2008

“how I long to fall just a little bit, to dance out of the lines and stray from the lights”

Tonight instead of sinking into bed I felt magnetically repelled away from it. I exercised today, for once not to burn calories but as insurance against insomnia. It didn’t work and now here I am once again completely awake in the middle of the night. I never used to be this way. I could always count on sleep no matter what turmoil was happening in my life—illness, death, breakups—sleep always came.

I went to Yoga Basics with Kira on Wednesday evening. I ended up practicing in between two tuned in yoginis who helped me feel comfortable doing my own thing a bit. I hate doing my own thing while surrounded by a bunch of other people who are following the instructions. I dread the thought of being in some exuberant, exposed standing pose while everyone’s on the floor. Doing something different also means other people might notice you more which I don’t like. I don’t want to be seen in yoga.

We did this nice thing with “om.” Kira talked about how the sound is made up of 4 parts: ah, oh, mmmm, and silence. Each sound comes from a different place (belly, upper chest, head, and air above head, respectively). Then we brought our hands down from over our heads as we…forget it.

Why do I sometimes feel fake writing about this stuff? As our plans for doing the teacher training look more and more definite, I get more and more doubtful about whether I’m ready. I still constantly feel like such a beginner, and more importantly, I’m this ball of skepticism and anxiety. I still can’t say chakra without giggling. I don’t know if I believe that prana/chi/energy is real or just a figment of my imagination. I don’t even do yoga at home! Or meditate. I’m messy. I’m a sugar addict. I’m from Iowa, for god’s sake. I’ve already gotten about as weird as an Iowan can get. I’m stretched to my Midwestern limits and terrified of going over the deep end.

But yet I want to. I want to feel these beautiful-sounding things. I love the idea of possessing powerful femininity and (here’s a scary new agey word) goddess-like grace. I’m drawn to powerful female yoga teachers; I’m never as inspired by the men. (except cardamon/m of course, whose classes I frequented often) I’m pulled but I hold back because I’m afraid of being fake and I need to go at my own pace. I’m still figuring out what it means to be a female.

I am a person who is enticed by the pleasure of sadness and I think I’m afraid to give up the piece of my personality that’s still got some angst, melancholy, romanticism. The sturm und drang. My office sent me to this seminar called “Insight” where I shared this fact about myself and I didn’t feel widely understood. But I stick to it. I enjoy the shadow side of life and I will never enjoy a yoga practice that’s all about becoming a shiny happy (religious?) person at the cost of giving up a true, sensitive experience of the world. “A little evil lurks inside happiness” according to this NYT Article-

I always love my first yoga class after a week or so away from the mat because it’s the working through of the physical and emotional stiffness that feels so good. I love the in-between moment of release more than the bland before and the bland after. It’s easy to find sweet spots, as French Toast calls them, when you have a lot of tight spots.

Sis, we should start a list of songs that are good to listen to while doing yoga. Like that one you told me about, You Are Never Alone by Socalled for pigeon, to get things started. And of course the song that is the title of this entry, IOWA by Dar Williams.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Super fit, super hot

The title of this post refers to a comment Nathan made about me a few nights ago, in reference to why he and other males would come to my yoga classes. Hee.

Last night Nathan (et al) came over for dinner and we cooked a most tasty meal of coconut curry with baked tofu, cous-cous with dates, and a vegan quinoa black bean salad with mangos. Also in the mix: vegan carrot cake cupcakes with vegan cream cheese frosting. Oh, yes. I'm in to vegan cooking and baking these days, and finding it is into me. This is called the Yogery, after all: I'm allowed to discuss meals, right, Loweball?

I managed to get on the Friday night cleaning shift at CorePower, so now I get free, unlimited yoga. This news came right after I bought a second pass to the studio. They won't give me my money back, but I do get a credit to the studio for 75 dollars. Time to buy a fancy sport bra, I guess.

The entire morning and early afternoon surrerendered to Nathan's presence. Aside from walking Jo-Jo a few times in the early morning, we didn't even leave the house until 1:30. Nothing was accomplished, and after he left I felt a bit scattered.

I was totally off in yoga tonight. Didn't even remember to bring my clothes; a kind woman in the locker room lent me a pair of pants and a sports bra after I realized I was stranded with jeans and a sweater. It was Heidi's hot class, a class I'm liking more and more. It doesn't seem as dire when she teaches. I've been admitedly anxious lately. I don't really know how to talk about it here. Anyway, all that being said or not said, yoga class was an excercise in focus. Heidi asked us to make an intention before class, let it in with our breath and let it out. I had no intent, no dedication. Most of the poses felt like hell, the borrowed pants were too big and it was hard not to pull them up. However, I did find some sweet spots.

I've always liked Hands-to-Feet pose, but find myself a little shaky when I come up from the bend with my elbows behind my calves. I think I'm a little afraid of rolling my weight forward wth my head that relaxed. Anyway in class tonight I pulled up with my hands, which were palm-up under my feet with all fingers facing forward, and used my arm strength to pull. Doing this helped my legs straighten out, and my head just sort of fell down below my knees. This created an awesome lightness in my upper back--I can't even describe it, but it was really addicting and awesome feeling. Like a heavy sack of flour sifted. I just wanted to hang there all night. Bikram's book says this pose is good for concentration--after I settled into the pose, it was hard to remember to keep my quads and legs engaged. I feel strange about having just used the word "quad", as if I'm the kind of person who casually references muscles in their abbreviated forms, as if I know anything about it.

The light sensation I felt in my shoulders, neck and head was a reconnecting moment for me. Kind of like in a literature class when for no other reason but instinct a sentance in a story or poem just stands out. You just kind of get it. I do know how to talk about my anxiety; when I wrote earlier I didn't, I was lying. I've always thought of myself a certain way, thought of the people I spent my time with as being a certain way. Of course I'm not objective about my own life; most of the time I'm downright defiant about it. Ashley sends me articles to read about letting go of options; she is referring to boys, I need to let go of boys, but think of it this way: the person you are will be replaced. Both reading and yoga have similar affects on my emotional life. The same way reading a poem can remind you of something, someone, who's memory has been stored somewhere hidden inside your brain or introduce vivid new self-narrative , a yoga posture can undo any identity you've assumed. What's left of you is what you've always been. I am not the isthmus of vigilance I think I am. These things, yoga, reading, writing, teach me how to articulate. How to be a beveled pane of refraction. This is why I love yoga. This is why I love reading. Think of it this way: a friend wrote to me recently of summer coming; it's never stable, but always happy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Yoga Sandbox

This Sunday was one of those lucky Sundays when I manage to become alert enough at 7:50 to make the mad dash over to Uschi’s 8:00 class. There were only 3 students so I got lots of attention and fantastic adjustments. Mmm.

Uschi gave us one of her unique, funky sequences again. Does she make this stuff up, I wonder? I often come away from her classes with some new trick worthy of showing off. Today I learned to go from lunging twist directly to side plank in one movement.

I also learned side crow. I can’t balance for very long, but more importantly I learned to enjoy the effort. I learned that to find the balance point, I have to let myself tip past it and even fall. Only then can I come back and find the center. I found that falling is really safe in both side and normal crow; you kind of land softly on your head and it’s actually fun. This is how I got the scissor legs eventually, by hanging out on my forehead, scissoring my legs out, then tipping back up and balancing on my forearms. And if you fall in normal crow, you end up in headstand!! Awesome. These are yoga poses worth showing off.

Sometimes I wonder why I do all these weird poses. Poses like warrior, triangle, and forward fold at least make sense because they stretch and soothe tight muscles. But why would anyone’s life be made better by balancing on their forearms? The nice thing about Uschi’s class was that I forgot about those questions and just felt like a kid playing around. She told us that, in Sanskrit, the words for play and bliss are etymologically related. Why do forearm balances? Because they’re fun!