Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yoga Babies

Yoga babies. No, it's not an attempt to rip off the ever-growing yoga clothing industry, nor did I witness some strange new Mommy-and-Me mutation. It's the perfect description for the class I had today.

Now, babies have been on my brain lately. Not in the way you might think--I'm not gettin' knocked up anytime soon--but I have been thinking about 'em. A dear friend welcomed her first child into the world recently, and following her experiences with that has been fun. I'm also in the mid-semester grading slump that hits all of us teacher types. (Non-teachers: please forgive your teacher friends for their inexplicable yet cyclical October/April madness.) To prevent myself from falling into a pit of grading despair, I take a few moments here and there to let my thoughts get all innocent and childlike. There's a big difference between this internal monologue: "Goddammit. How did you make it to this level of college without learning to use a fucking apostrophe?" and this one: "I notice that this student takes a creative approach to the conventions of English!"Ahh, a beginner's mind can be a welcome relief to the drudgery of the day.

Back to yoga. Today's class was a steamer. To boot, there were quite a few first-timers, which meant the instructor had to spend a bit of time here and there attending to Fixed Firm poses and ankle-holding issues :-) And there was just... something in the air. You know those classes that seem to have bad energy? Those ones in which us students remain obstinate and listless, wrung out like an old rag, despite the best efforts of a wonderful instructor to keep us going? It was one of those.

As the normal hour for class to be over approached, we were still postures away from being done. As I lay on my back between postures, I noticed bizarre things--people walking back and forth (to get what, I don't know), the wheeze and moan of a newcomer. At one point, I turned my head to see the instructor walking the rows during mid-posture savasana. She knelt down between two new students, whispering some sweet reassurance to them. Enviously, I wanted to know what she was saying. Couldn't she see we were all suffering, too?

That was when it hit me: our class was a bunch of yoga babies. There we lay, little infants, exhausted, begging for relief and attention. The teacher was ultimately of no use in this matter. And I think that the best of teachers, mothers, husbands, lovers, friends--none of them can do anything but remind us of the fact that we are already worthy of our own love. Isn't yoga all about self-care? Ain't it a tool for us to tend to our weary, irritated, and ambivalent souls?

So, it's OK, little yoga babies. We can throw our little tantrums and wish our teachers would tell us "take it easy, honey." But even sweeter is the realization that we already have the ability to soothe ourselves.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lions and Camels and Nietzsche, Oh My!

"Writing is like magic because you cannot see the simple psychology you are weaving, the questions you are asking, the way you are reshaping how you interact with your world," writes Rebecca K. O'Connor, author, falconer, and blogger on The Rumpus.

I wasn't able to articulate why I haven't been able to blog lately until I read that wonderful piece of O'Connor's. Lately, I feel like I'm seeing life so clearly. In looking back over the stages when I've blogged most often--and blogged best, if I may be so bold--it was when I was mired in little tragedies I was willing to share with you all. I was desperately trying to peak behind the fabric of my experience, and writing was the fingers that allowed me to grasp. For a moment, perhaps I'm taking a break from weaving that simple psychology.

These past few months have led up to a pretty big change in my life. I made a decision that took far too long to arrive at, but the relief that swept over me after making it was so welcome I don't regret the lost time one bit. I feel now that I've been on my knees, begging for mercy, for over two years, and I finally heard a voice saying it was OK to get up. And, mind you, not one of those "Hello, E, it's schizophrenia calling" kind of voices. Something different.

Anyway, how wonderful it is to finally stand up! Nietzsche and, oddly enough, Sufi poet Rumi write that spiritual unfolding occurs in three stages: the camel, the lion, and then the child. In the camel phase, we feel we have been burdened with the suffering of our existence. We trudge onward, until finally we kneel, as a camel will, under the weight of our burdens. We surrender completely. It's only then that we can rise up like a lion, full of the strength and majesty we need to meet our challenges.

OK, I get it--it's kind of a cheesy comparison. (That's also an odd thing to say about something Nietzsche-generated.) But you know, don't we all get to feeling like we've been taking a knee from the weight of our burdens for far too damn long? Moreover, I bet we also all know what it feels like to finally set that heaviness aside and rise the fuck up. I'm feeling it now--every sleepless night, every jagged meditation session, every scalding tear, every desperate conversation with friends, every scrawl in the journal, and every sweaty yoga class--they do add up to something far bigger than the sum of their well-intentioned parts.

Ahhh. Life is good. I teach, I sweat, and I sleep. The only downside is that it doesn't provide me with much inspiration for blogging :-)

But I know from living in a dualistic universe that these things are cyclical ;-)  I'm sure the camel will be back, but for the moment, I'm sure enjoying being a lion.