23 February, 2013
First class tomorrow morning at 4:30am, aside from the mad-as-shad start time, I’m excited to roll out my mat, hear Sharath do the opening chant and step into he flow of the breath, knowing I’m not alone. My heart thirsts for this time to just be a student, and to connect (and reconnect) with other students – to just drink it all in.
Today was food and rest day: I’m nursing an icky sinus-throat thing that’s been looming since the rainy-day (although lovely) wedding I went to on Saturday. Breakfast at Anohki Garden, a great chat with friends from MLC, and a cooking class with Anu.
OK, so to be of any use to myself tomorrow, I’m off! If you’re wondering “but it’s the middle of the morning!”, remember to add 10 1/2 hours to Jamaica time.
22 February, 2013
After almost two days of travel, I’m back in Mysore – watch this space- I’ll try to share something new each day, if only a picture or quote. Second time around confirms it’s no fluke – I’m in this
for the journey and this one is more internal than the first. My needs are different, as is my ability to address them.
So stick around, I’ll do my best not to be boring.
27 October, 2012
I was stumbling my way through the interwebs some weeks ago (before my recent vacation) and found this funny, yet insightful quote:
“I don’t like to write, but I love to have written.” Michael Kanin
That quote made me chuckle to myself, partly because it’s a good giggle, but mostly because it reminded me of something I struggle with. A weakness. After all, we ARE human, right? Rare is the person who loves the long process of creation or change MORE than the positive results that we hope for. All too often, what we love is that dark chocolate fudge brownie (*fooooooood*, focus, Shakira, focus) , but we don’t enjoy the precise and sometimes complex steps it takes to bake something so yummy. We don’t enjoy the process. All around us, our instant-gratification culture reiterates and reinforces the message “You can have what you want, right now, why wait?”.
When I first drafted this post, I was in a deep place of sadness and struggle, on the mat and off. I love my Ashtanga practice, but I had become demotivated and resentful of it, particularly with Kapotasana A, a deep backbending posture, said to be one of the great Gateway postures of the Intermediate Series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. I would try to apply my “Mind of the Meditator” play-script like my teacher said to do, listen to my breath, calm my thoughts, and still I couldn’t get my elbows to the ground and it felt as though my shoulders were being ripped out of their sockets. I would panic. I would run. Truth. I knew this was a posture that would challenge me, but I simply had no idea how much and that terrified me. So, I would rush the process. I wouldn’t give my body or mind the time it needed to work through the deep opening and strength (not just flexibility, as I discovered recently) that this advanced posture requires. I didn’t want to go through the process. I simply wanted to be on the other side of the gateway, where I could say “I did it! Next!”
The truth is that my mantra had become “I just want to get past this”, I wanted that instant gratification. Faced with that realisation, I decided to change my approach. I had the priceless opportunity to spend four days of Mysore-style practice with Kino and Tim. I said to myself “No matter what it takes, I won’t run from Kapotasana, or anything my teachers have to say”. On the first two days, Tim helped me get into the posture. He was amazing, so calm in the face of my obvious sadness (which he sensed) and panic and almost-tearful protests. He saw (as Kino did) that my body was ready for the posture, but that my mind didn’t want to trust the process. He talked me through the alignment cues that I knew and would previously try to dash through. In the midst of my mind-fogging fear, I suddenly felt my hands on my heels and things got REALLY clear. Tim had given me a new playscript, both for alignment and for my attitude.
Even after that, on the second day, Kino asked me just before we did my backbends “How’s Kapotasana feeling?” , and I told her about my fear and sadness. She kindly said “You just stay here for a while, let it integrate, you’ll be fine”, I simply said “Thank you”, and did my dropbacks and Chakra Bandhasana, touched my heels a second time (yay! it wasn’t a fluke)
On Day 3, I worked on Kapotasana again, breaking the movements down slowly, then Kino came over and worked with me. In her calm, almost-mesmerizing voice, she guided me past my fear and helped my grab my ankles from the air this time. I was like “whoa, I can feel it, just as it is” And THAT is when I remembered to just be, and the results of the process flowed over me. I could hear my breath and heartbeat louder than ever, and then, just like that, the moment was over. I was back to kneeling and Kino said “Ok, here’s the next posture…”. I was stunned.
That day, she gave me 5 additional postures to work on, and split my practice. I now work on the Primary Series to Navasana and Intemediate Series to Eka Pada Sirsasana. (Sorry for the Ashtanga geekery)
The biggest lesson I learned over those four days was surrender. I told myself “I will stay here, stay to learn the lessons I need to learn, and actually try to understand and apply them on and off the mat, long before I am even ready to pass them on”
There’s a reason that Kino thought I was ready for Kapotasana and I know that now, and no matter how I struggle sometimes, I have complete faith in her ability to see the things I cannot, to sense the breakthrough where I have often felt frustration and despair. Most importantly, I’m learning to trust, myself, my body and also in others.
The greatest gateways are the ones we create in our minds, we cannot breach them with force, only with stillness, deep trust and faith in the journey. In the process. And I’m still there
15 August, 2012
For a man not known for his speaking talents, the actor Charlie Chaplin gives an amazing turn in this clip from the movie “The Dictator”. The message is powerful, and needs no annotation from me. So listen, don’t just hear the words, really listen!
30 July, 2012
I’m so happy to tell this story. Meet Meena, she’s a very cool chic from Melbourne, Australia, a dancehall DJ (or “selector”) who spent a few weeks here to delve deeply into the present and future of Jamaican urban music…AND she happens to be an Ashtangi! Hooray!! She found me on Twitter (I KNEW it had its uses ) and wrote me, and a few days later we were able to do our Mysore-style practice together.
Now that might not seem like much, but for me it was amazing. Even though the practice is essentially an independent one, there is definitely something to be said for having someone share the breath and the experience of moving through the postures with you. And she came along at a moment when I definitely wasn’t feeling as motivated as I normally do on the mat (my wise yoga friends say it’s normal to feel that way, and I try to just remain present and practise and give my all). I’m so grateful for her!
We met up again last Thursday (she returned home on Saturday) and had a yummy lunch and lyme. I was reminded that no matter what, or how lonely practice can feel, that staying with it (practising for “….a long time” – Sutra 1.14 for you yoga philosophers – is the way to reap the true and lasting benefits of the practice of yoga). To boot, I made a new friend in such a cool and unusual (see what I did there? ;)) way; reminding me that even in this life, though we are all different in so many ways, that our pursuits and passions can really bring us together. And that you’re never really alone. And THAT is really cool.
25 July, 2012
No special post today (but I have a nice one coming!), but a thought (or rather a quote) I felt inspired to share.
One of my close sistrens is an amazing and talented photographer named Sabriya Simon (she of the beautiful photos just above and below this post, and pretty much any photo of me hitherto this point in this blog) and she posted this photo of the Sadhu (I’m loving his smile and his mudra), along with words that elicited a great Facebook discussion about the presence of African DNA in India (looking at the human genome map is quite frankly fascinating for me, I’m such an unapologetically geeky girl )
Anyway, it made me think of how new things are discovered each day as we uncover the secrets and myths of human history (in search of inalienable truth, maybe?) and learn that, in some cases, solidly-held beliefs may have to be held up to the light of scientific and anthropological discovery. Cognitive dissonance for some, but enlightenment for others, and it made me think “Always be respectful, but never stop questioning”. And I remember this amazing quote from Gautama Siddhartha (the man who would later become the Buddha “the enlightened one”) and so, here it is!
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
Gautama Siddhartha (563-483 BC)
Just a little loose thread that stuck out in my mind, to remind me to continue to question myself, on and off the mat. Gratitude to Sabriya, who planted that little seed. I will always remember to…
18 July, 2012
Even when there is doubt
Take it to the Mat
Pray to whomever (or whatever) you do
Take your dreams, wishes, fear and wrath
And leave them there with equal breath
And when you do, you will begin
To see, with more than your earthly eyes
The soul, atma, purusha within you, within me, within all
ALL is coming
She Who Weaves Words
3 June, 2012
I’m just testing my sharing capability – New post up tomorrow
25 May, 2012
(inspired by recent conversations and quiet musings)
It is so surreal
this space between things that I
must now fill with “home”
Which do we fear more,
the day we each must die, or
death, not having lived?
Dristi is focus
Breath searches for peace