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Monday, December 28, 2009

Aching for Asana

My body is aching for asana. 

An ache has literal and figuratve meanings as does asana; this is poetry.  The ache in my side reflects the ache in my heart;  while the asanas, physical poses, embody an ancient wisdom that reaches deep beyond the body.  

I was thinking about this idea of aching for asana” and began to wonder how deep the ache went.  My mind, for its own reasons, tuned into the movies, Fame and Flashdance. Memories of being a teenager, aching to act and work toward fulfilling that dream like Jennifer Beals’ character did in the movie, brought up the ancient ache of my youth.  Yearning to flourish in this demanding field was a definite identity marker.

My whole young adulthood was centered around this idea of my professional future.  When it became clear that this was no longer my dream, I felt a little lost and a new ache surfaced.  This was a beautiful example of the porous nature of identity and how easy it is to get stuck in our ideas of ourselves.  It was a time of soul searching and questioning and learning to be still, all of which ached & reappear as needed.  

This new ache was different.  This was not the ache of an unfulfilled dream, it was an aimless ache with no origin or goal.  None of these aches fully defined myself, nor did they permeate my daily life adversely.  But they were felt.  

As my children are growing and time is opening up creating new space, I am again  looking into a hazy future.  This time, however, I have an inner advantage.  When I’m on the mat or cushion (which I recently dusted off), the fog has more clear patches that keep widening and the questions seem less daunting.  My existential aches are more like growing pains than crises.

I don't know what this increasing clarity will reveal, but am confident that there is something special awaiting discovery.  The now subtler ache for what's to come is now a gentle reminder to first take notice and then move into action.

Writing these thoughts down, knowing they are not unique and that someone out there is nodding her or his head in understanding, is a beautiful reminder that we are all connected.  There is a calm in knowing I’m part of a human network of people all going through this life with the set of tools we’ve acquired along the way and that, for the most part, we are not so different.

With the new year approaching, the atmosphere is filled with resolutions, goals and good intentions for this arbitrary fresh start.  I have found myself overwhelmed by the weight of this energy, so I choose to take my fresh starts as they become necessary, whenever that may be.  

My very first teacher once told me, face to face in the doorway of the studio, “You have unlimited do-overs.”  (I hope you’re reading this now and know who you are.)  Those words open up doors of forgiveness & possibility any time of year.

It is magical to watch how the seeds sown at different stages, take root and often blossom in surprising ways and at interesting times.  This is a thank you to all the teachers, on and off the mat, whose positive marks have been made both indelible & temporary.  I think there might be something alive in that paradox.

I have not been completely without practicing.  There have been a few tentative downward dogs and some limited stretching on the floor.  Still unable to flow I count on my breath.   While my body still aches (physically to heal and spiritually to practice) and is eager to re-enter the world of regular asana practice, I am grateful to have this forced time to expand and further probe the inner workings.  

The ache is now a dull echo, heard and felt, but essential and light.

To ride the wave of the last post about toasting, I again raise my glass and repeat a toast my father sometimes says and that is:  "May your present happy days be your future sad ones."  

Make some beautiful memories and laugh a lot!
Happy New Year! 
Love & Peace 2010! 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Toast to You:

I had a roommate in college who had a toast she would make every time we had cocktails.  She would raise her glass, take a breath and say, “To new friends, old friends and absent friends.”  And then, CLINK.  

Among the many toasts that circulate the clinking of glass, this seems neither too trite nor too profound, though has tinges of both.  The ritual of toasting begins the, sometimes, mindless act of drinking with a moment of mindfulness.  We say our words of toast, take in the words with whatever meaning they hold, touch our glasses, take a sip ~ or swig, whatever the mood ~ and resume what we were doing before the toast was made or move on to the next moment.  

My glass is raised

My newest friends are the readers of this post I haven’t met but am glad to know, while my new friends are the amazing individuals I’ve met in the last seven and half years since I moved from Manhattan.  

My old friends are treasures from high school and college and that undefined time in my 20’s and early 30’s when life was so rich with varied experiences there is no central point of reference.  Some of my oldest friends (and I can call them that since we’ve connected on facebook) are those whose memories are longer and, in most cases, a bit vaguer.

Rather than solely  thinking of people who are absent from my life, I remember that I am also absent from the lives of old friends and acquaintences.  In fact, my former roommate whose words inspired this post, is an absent friend to me as I am to her.

I will end this post and this toast as it began:

To Old Friends, New Friends & Absent Friends

And add:

Future Friends and Friendly Strangers

Happy Holidays and Every Other Ordinary Day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Beautiful Burden of Memory

Facebook has put me in touch with many people I had put out of my mind for a long time.  It’s been a blast reconnecting with people whose names and images conjure up memories that have also long since lain dormant.  This whole experience has brought up old angels and demons of thoughts, alliances and actions of my past.  

I find myself looking at old pictures, trying to remember people’s names from different camps, theatre experiences, group activities and travel, so I can search for them and see what they're up to.  There are still a few people with whom I would love to reconnect and still others I’ve “hidden” from view, but still honor as people who have, in one way or another, helped shape who I am.  People I’m sure won’t remember me, respond with memories I’ve lost or stories that take me back to the moment as if I’ve inhaled the vapors of a memory tonic.  

One of my best friends, who has long since become more like my brother than friend, refuses to join this growing network.  While I’d love to share some of the fun gimmicks and games on Facebook with him, he has been in my life for nearly 26 years so it hardly seems necessary.  He is still in Manhattan (in the apartment we leased together in 1992) and our lives have moved in different directions.  We don’t see each other or speak as often as we’d like, but he is still one of my oldest & dearest friends.  We have seen each other through every phase of life since the summer I turned 16.  

When we are together, I’ve been told, we can make others feel a bit lost in our conversation (he would say he sometimes gets lost when it’s just us talking, given my non-sequitor impulses).  All it takes is a word, a gesture, a look and we break out in that belly deep laughter that can make your sides ache.  Time and distance have not weakened this reality, I imagine in part because the memories we share are still so potent.  We have so many shared moments that words sometimes just get in the way.

One day, about 15 years ago, I had a thought that turned to a shudder.  I realized that this easy manner we share has to do with the fact that we shoulder the burden of memory, together.  When you know someone long enough this is bound to happen. The shudder I experienced that day came when I had that mortal moment of realization that one day one of us won’t be here anymore.  

Once one of us is gone, the burden of those memories is bound to become heavier.  Who will laugh at the otherwise empty gestures?  Or bite his bottom lip at the implication of a past indiscretion?  Who will put me in my place when my memory deviates from his memory of the same event?  Who will be my historic mirror, for better or worse?

I am using my friend as the example, but the same holds true for my first family with whom I have already shared a lifetime of memories and my now primary family whose broad shoulders are adding precious memories, daily.

The generations that are growing up with Facebook, and other yet to be conceived social utilities, will likely collect their “friends” as they move in whatever directions their lives take.  It’s an immediate, almost indiscriminate action, to add everyone they know to a list of “friends.”  Their names may fade in significance over time, but they will live on the list without need for any in-depth searching for old emails or trolling of memory for last names (maiden or married).  

My generation never imagined that once the events and experiences of our youth turned to memory, that we would be revisiting them in this manner.  Mistakes of our past could remained buried in the recesses of memory; exciting thoughts of our budding selves could be left to flower into a subtle smile at the mere thought.  High School reunions had some significance beyond just getting together; there was an element of surprise and conversations that caught us up on life’s milestones and details.  In this way, we shouldered the burdens of our own memories.

The world is changing so fast, who can predict what will come next or how it will affect the comfort zones in which we live.  So whether I’m on Facebook navigating a world I never imagined, laughing without obvious cause by a friend who glanced at me sideways, struggling with a Yoga pose I’ve done a hundred times or I’m standing in the moment of a fresh memory, I will take pause to breathe and roll my shoulders back and down.  

They must remain strong and supple to carry their life-long load.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rocking Chair Yoga

I am fine, but need to take several weeks to heal from a recent procedure, which will prevent me from productively practicing Yoga on the mat.  But I refuse to stop practicing.  I see and feel the benefits of Yoga in every step and with every breath.  One of my teachers reminded me that as long as I can breathe, I can do Yoga.  

While my body is working its way back, my spirit remains active and curious.

While I don’t consider flicking the television remote control an actual asana, sometimes it can be the conduit to a yogic experience.  In one of my hazy moments, I landed on a program called, “Yoga for Life” ~ hosted by Kurt Johnsen (veria tv channel 162 on Verizon FIOS).  It’s not a spectator show, but more like an active Vinyasa class.  Sitting in my rocking chair, unable to fall into any expression of the asanas, I found myself breathing to the rhythm of the instruction and imagining myself on the mat.  In some moments, I felt minor shifts in my body as it tried to articulate the familiar poses.  (I will look for this program again once I’m more mobile.)

Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I began to tune into what was available no matter how limiting.  Within my own limitations, I found a surprisingly expansive space.  Spreading my toes and really feeling the floor, its textures and support, brought a new awareness to my foundation.  Finding Tadasana, even while my posture is necessarily hunched over, temporarily, redefined my idea of how to lengthen and root down.  A few neck rotations released energy I didn’t know was trapped.  Rolling my shoulder blades back and down, aligning my head and honoring my neck, brought an unexpected smile to my face.  

I’m getting stronger every day and must be vigilantly aware of my limitations without getting stuck in them.  Baby steps eventually graduate to leaps & bounds.

When we first started dating, my husband used to greet each morning by saying, “Happy new day.”  Each day opens up to the potential of being surprised and growing beyond expectation.

So to all of you who are reading this, Happy New Day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Taking Pause

Hello Readers.

I don't want you to think I've abandoned my post.  I am pausing to breathe through some minor physical healing, but will return as soon as my head is a bit clearer.  

If you're on facebook, you may find mini updates on my page of the same name (just search Drop & Give Me Yoga!).  Feel free to add your voice there by putting out comments and questions to our beautiful, diverse sangha.  Let's begin a magical brew of ideas.  Who knows what surprises are waiting to be discovered?

Please continue to check in and I will be back soon!

Wishing you all a peaceful, meaningful & loving holiday season!

~Namaste and a hug~