Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We all Surrender

When I was a teenager, U2 came out with a greatest hits album. It was the one CD my entire family enjoyed equally, that is, except for the song "Bad." In our universal dislike of this song, we'd instantaneously agreed to skip it during family road trips. "NEXT. 'Where the Streets Have no Name' is way better."

I've come to appreciate "Bad."

"Surrender. Dislocate. Let it go," Bono sings in this meditative and steadily-building song.

What do they surrender to, someone who dies? What part of them dislocates? What do we surrender to, we who live? What part of us is dislocated, and what happens to it?

A colleague... a friend... passed away this weekend. It feels like a tiny bit of good has dislocated from the world, a piece of our big, beautiful puzzle suddenly gone. Since then, I've been inhaling the tributes that have been dispersed through conversation and the internet: emails, Facebook memorial posts, and phone calls. Their sweet smell lingers after I put down the phone or walk away from the computer. I feel oddly calm after each discussion about him.

Maybe we--"the living"--surrender the most. Any disagreements, any sense of separation between "you and "me" are dislocated, and we surrender ourselves to moments of pure connection with others as we remember the good in the deceased. I think that when we're doing it right, we all surrender, all the time.

So, Leon, amongst other things, you and I argued about music, but we both grudgingly agreed that it was nearly impossible to hate U2. Enjoy it, all!

U2 "Bad"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What are the ways it's NOT hot?

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. What if you shut that door yourself? What if the universe doesn't do it for you, and you have to weigh the risks involved? "Do I want to keep walking through this door? Will another one really open?"

I spent a good amount of time recently wondering if I should shut a particular door. I pleaded with friends. I questioned my yoga teacher. I asked my family. I asked myself, and I asked the door itself. "Should I shut you?"

I don't know if "I should/shouldn't" "She should/shouldn't" statements are the best ones to let churn around one's mind. I will, however, offer up my tiny little testimony: shut the door, sometimes you see doors that have always been there. You've just been to door-obsessed to notice how unique, simple, ornate, solid, and beautifully-made they always were.

OK, back to the "I" voice ;-) One of the doors I'm seeing more clearly lately is yoga. Each time I go, it's a transformation. The possibilities for progress are always there. In the Bikram blogging world, it's a cliche to write about how a class that is "the same every time" provides ample opportunity for different experiences.

Lately, I've been taking those 20-second savasanas to question my stressful thoughts that come up during class. We've all had the "It's too freakin' hot. The teacher should really turn it down" thought. So, when I notice that's coming up, when I see the students wilting like sad Icelandic poppies in gushing heat, when I see the puddle of sweat on my towel is abnormally large, I think about it. What are the ways it's not too hot? Let me count them :-) I can still feel my body, my heart rate slows when I'm not in the posture, I keep sweating, I keep thinking... etc.

It seriously works! I've had a couple of classes lately that were hotter than normal, but my experience in the room was much better than it "should" have been.

Ay, speaking of "should," I feel like I should come back to the door metaphor ;-) Take the time to look around, I guess. They are many doors that are already open. That much, I can promise.

A not wilty Icelandic Poppy

Sunday, March 20, 2011

You Good Scholar

I've been learning my lessons in the weirdest places lately. I get it--we are constantly presented with opportunities to learn, but it seems like the more I turn to books or teachers for answers, I'm presented with these really decisive messages from other places.

I think learning to be honest--with ourselves and with others--is a life-long journey, but currently I'm getting reeeeeal schooled in it.

I learned a little factoid recently that told me someone I work with had sold me on a pretty big lie. I had believed it for a long time. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this factoid until the person left, and I probably won't be in contact with her for a few months. So, upon learning this, I sat, stunned and steaming in anger, trying to think of ways to let this person know how she'd lied to me and how pissed off I was about it.

There is really nothing I can do, though. She is gone, and even if she were here, what would my confronting her do about the situation? I fantasize that my lecture would turn her into the upright citizen I want her to be, but it's doubtful my words would do that ;-) Only she can do that.

Since I can't inform her that she's a liar and what to do about it, I've been sitting down with myself and asking the same question. What did I lie to her about? Turns out, plenty. I had (and still have, I suppose) a lot of professional respect for this person. She is good at her job, so any suggestion she had about my work or personal life, I figured I should immediately put it into practice. I put winning her approval first so I might feel like I was the professional I always wanted to be. Rarely was I honest about how I really felt. So I lied to her pretty much all the time, too.

Jeez. When I let myself go there in anger, I have plenty to get pissed off about, but really, is there anything I can do but go sweat it out? Or healing that anger by being more straight with the people I come in contact with from now on? (Are ya throwing up by now? ;-)

I don't know much of anything, really, but this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver deals with how the world around us is really our teacher. I hope you good scholars see that "untrimmable light" everywhere you go!

From "Mindfulness" by Mary Oliver
Oh, good scholar, 
I say to myself, 
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light
of the world, 
the ocean's shine, 
the prayers that are made
out of grass? 

Other random factoid: speaking of nature, did you know that seals are known by environmentalists as "charismatic megafauna" due to their sweet, big eyes? I can't get over that.

Cute seal

Monday, March 14, 2011

Put It Down

I made a huge life decision a couple of weeks ago, and while the process (deciding, going through with it, dealing with it) has been painful, I've already experienced a lightness I have not known for a long time.

As all regular practitioners of anything disciplined already know, your practice reflects what goes on inside. (I am also learning that how you treat others is pretty much an inversion of how you treat yourself, but that's a whole other blog!) I know this intellectually, but it hard to feel it inside at all times. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when reading a post by The Lady J. In it, she was expressing gratitude for being able to let go of her "life" and just focus on what was happening for 90 minutes. The lovely LalaPiggy confirmed that she, too, knew freedom from those stressors when she was in the hot room.

I've been having such awful classes lately that I could hardly believe what I was reading. My stuff has weighed on me like a ball and chain when at yoga.Yes, the classes brought relief, but only because I suffered so tremendously when I was there that I was simply yoga-stoned by the time it was over. I would spend the majority of the class pondering things going on in my life.

It even manifested in very specific physical hindrances. For months now, I could not kick my leg out and hold it the entire time. Ever. Either set. I couldn't get my head to the floor in separate-leg-stretching pose, and this is a girl who has been doing yoga since she was 16.

But now that I made that choice, I feel like I've put a tremendously heavy weight down, and I can simply go further than I could before. Sometimes, I can hold my leg out the whole time, the kicking leg getting closer and closer to being flexed. I can also usually get my forehead to the floor.

Nothing, of course, is much different in my world. I still wake up, go to work, grade papers, play with kitties, read, write, do yoga, watch tv, see friends and family, sleep, and start the whole thing over. On one level I can see so clearly that what causes us stress is just the thoughts. It's arguing with reality that freaks us out, and that war is fought entirely in our heads. I can also see, though, that sometimes you just gotta put some things down in order to move forward and kick that leg straight.

No advice here, just reflections. Thanks for reading! :-)