Entries Tagged as 'yoga'

Dear One

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dear One

“Chop that wood, carry water.

What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

Enlightenment, don’t know what it is.

Every minute, every second,

things keep changing to something different.

Enlightenment, don’t know what it is.”

Van Morrison

I drove to work this morning blaring Van Morrison’s song Enlightenment on repeat in my car. My first day back to the office after a week away, and I felt expansive, ready for anything. “How to hang onto this feeling, this energy?” I wondered. “Easy,” I thought.

By 5pm, I couldn’t tell up from down. I’d lost it completely. The day was packed with emergency walk-ins and phone calls. I forgot to eat lunch or drink water. I certainly didn’t feel like an artist, or even like that smiling, open-hearted woman from the morning with her hot coffee, home-made lunch, and inspiring music. Who was this exhausted person dragging to her car? Which version was me?

I maneuvered through traffic to the wonderful new Searchlight yoga studio, owned and operated by my favorite yoga teachers in town. I rolled out my mat and started moving.

Chop wood, carry water.

An hour later, I left a different person again.

I’m scared for the fall semester. I love the bustle, the rich diversity of clients that come through the counseling center where I work, and the myriad ways I learn and grow through all that intense connection. Yet I want to hang onto what I’ve been learning this summer–that prioritizing my own well-being really does make a difference.

Dance, yoga, painting, and cooking are all ways I care for myself. They’re forms of play and nourishment and joy. This summer, I committed to these things. Imperfectly, but enough to see and feel real results. But when I get stressed out and overwhelmed, I stop doing these things.

I’d like to change this.

When I got home from yoga class tonight, I both wanted and didn’t want to paint. I was no longer a zombie, but I was hardly a spiritual Van Morrison song either.

But I’m learning that, at least when it comes to the choices that really feed me, the energy doesn’t have to be “right” to get started. The truth is, my art only ever asks me to show up as I am. Same with yoga. And my life itself. Show up. Encounter reality, my body as it is, my breath as it is, me as I am, in this moment, and never the same in the next. Things keep changing.

I thought I knew what I was going to paint tonight, but something totally different came out.

This girl, well, let’s be honest. She’s weird. Possibly a little stressed out, and maybe slightly bloated. She’s worried, and has some posture problems, and is primitively executed.

But also, as a testament to the day, she’s somehow quite dear to me, too.

Message from Rosemary

Friday, July 10, 2015

I was trying to decide if I should send the check for the trip to Cuba. Traveling has never been my thing. I think of it as a luxury reserved for those with means, and I grew up in a family that lacked such means. A simple day-trip to the beach could and often did end in financial and emotional disaster. To this day, I get heart palpitations when I think about spontaneously going to the springs or the coast, despite the distance that now separates me from my childhood and the relative accessibility of those watery destinations. I’ve only been overseas once ten years ago, and I still feel terrified when I click the “Purchase Now” button on airline tickets to visit dear friends in domestic cities I love. What if the apocalypse strikes just after I purchase the flight?

But I’m working on this. Breathing helps, and relaxing does, too. And perhaps even, a kind of fledgling trust, a willingness to just experience what comes up. If I’m willing to make myself uncomfortable, perhaps my fears and doubts and discomforts will gradually lose their power to inhibit a more expansive relationship with life.

To this end, this summer I have a list on my refrigerator that contains the following items: Do yoga, dance, paint, write, cook, travel.  These are, of course, all things that are good for me. To varying degrees, these activities make me uncomfortable and are easy to avoid.  But I’ve been implementing the list, and in the next two months, provided calamity doesn’t strike, I’m going to the Tennessee mountains, to San Francisco, and to…Cuba.

The Cuban Tropics, to be exact.

But this isn’t really about Cuba.  It’s about Rosemary.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a yoga class at the gym. The practice room was large and smelled of dirty feet and sweat. The sandy floor quickly filled with members, each angling to get their ideal spot in the room, not too close to other people but not so far from the neighboring mats that latecomers could scoot in and take away those extra inches of space.

I’d found a spot by the window, coveted not only for its natural light source in the fading dusk but for its sense of privacy–people surrounded me on only three sides instead of four. Class started, and I settled in for the opening postures, noting the window on my left and the slightly risky open space to my right. It’s too small for another mat, I thought reassuringly, as the door opened several times to admit latecomers who inserted themselves awkwardly in several remaining spaces. Not my space, I thought, and relaxed a little more.

And then I heard it. On my back with my eyes closed: little feet gently walking. Sound coming closer. Closer. Yoga mat unfurling. No! But yes, a presence. Someone on my right. The open space was gone. Damn.

The teacher called us out of our meditation, and we rose to our feet. I looked at my intruder, and she looked up at me. A slight, hunched woman, older than anyone I’d personally seen practicing yoga,  smiled at me with bright, mischievous eyes and whispered “Sorry” with a little shrug of her frail shoulders. I smiled back. I couldn’t help myself. I adored her immediately.

Over the next hour and a half, she moved through difficult postures with the studied grace of a professional dancer, her hands and feet moving like bird wings in slow, intentional flight. I was deeply moved. A number of times the instructor called our attention to the front of the class, where she was demonstrating a pose. The woman on my right shot me apologetic looks for blocking my view.  In fact, I could see around her easily, but I didn’t want to.  She was my teacher.

Class ended and we rolled up our mats. “I really enjoyed practicing with you,” I said, smiling again. She said, “Oh, me too with you, honey,” and touched my arm with her long fingers. “Your practice is beautiful,” I said, feeling clumsy but wanting to tell her how inspired I felt being next to her, seeing her body’s strong elegance in the presence of significant age. “Are you a dancer?” I asked. “A long time ago,” she said, smiling and thanking me graciously.  She was, of course, still dancing.

So moved by this experience, that night I posted about it on Facebook. A friend and fellow yoga practitioner wrote me privately and said, “I think that’s Rosemary you’re talking about.” Apparently, my friend had also connected with this sparkly woman.

The next night, I was running late to yoga. This class, much harder than the previous class, was a 30 minute drive through traffic, and I got unexpectedly delayed. As I anxiously dashed in just before the opening pose, I saw that my usual spot in the back, next to another window, was somehow still open. I ran to it and unrolled my mat, relieved. Then I looked up. Just in front to my left was the old woman. And, to her right, an open space. Not much, but enough. I looked at my window, at the luxurious space around me–my comfort zone. I looked in front of me, at the small but adequate space next to my new friend. Shyly, I nudged my mat into the space beside her. She smiled and moved her mat to make a little more room for me. “Hi,” she said, “what a treat to practice with you again.” At the end of class, I asked her name. “Rosemary, my dear,” she said, “It’s so nice to meet you.”

A few days after these encounters with the woman called Rosemary, I was going back and forth in my head about the Cuba trip. “It’s expensive. Your GI just put you on a restrictive diet. You’re already taking trips. What if your car dies and you really need that money? What if it’s dangerous there? Plus, the planes will be cramped and you’ll have to share a room with a woman you don’t know.”  The other voice simply said, “Cuba.”

I went into my studio and started to paint. By then, I’d written the check and addressed the envelope for the Cuba trip, but I couldn’t bring myself to put in my mailbox. I finished the painting and almost immediately heard the title arise, “Message from Rosemary.”  At first, I didn’t know what the title meant, I just knew that was the painting’s name.

And then, I got it.

I put the check in my mailbox and raised the red flag.

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