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Archive for October, 2016

Above the Noise

Last Sunday in New York, sitting on my cousin’s couch in New York, I pulled up the schedule for Laughing Lotus, a yoga studio I had been wanting to make a pilgrimage to ever since I had been introduced to the Lotus style of yoga.  We found a 5:00 SoulSweat class taught by someone named Essence.  The class promised an upbeat flow taught to the background of soul shaking music.  My soul needed some shaking.  So we packed up our mats, bundled up against the chill rain that still hung in the air and walked to the subway station.  We rode for half an hour, from a quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn to the center of it all.

The studio was located right on the Avenue of Americas and when we emerged from our stop, we did so into a sea of people.  We walked for a while, checking out a few sights, popping into a few stores and immersing ourselves into the flow of a sea of beings.  We allowed the map on my phone to guide us into the door of the building that held the studio, walked up three flights of stairs and found the door to Laughing Lotus.  The SoulSweat class was being held in a large room with beautiful wood floors, windows filling two of the walls and a large painting of Ganesh at the front of the room.  The curtains were open and the sights and sounds of a busy city moved in through the panes of glass.

We settled in and a beautiful woman stepped to the front of the room and introduced herself as Essence.  She told us that she had moved away from NYC about a year ago to go teach at the Laughing Lotus in LA and that she was back in town for a couple of weeks, covering this class as a favor to another instructor.  She then requested that we introduce ourselves to someone in the room that we didn’t know.  With my cousin to my left, I turned to the right and introduced myself to a woman who was probably a few years younger than myself.  We exchanged names and smiled.

To begin class, Essence asked us to sit comfortably and take the mudra of unshakable trust.  A mudra, in yoga, is a positioning of the hands in such a way that provides symbolism as to what one is striving for, perhaps in yoga practice, prayer or meditation.  Unshakable trust looks like this—you interlace your fingers and hold the hands a few inches away from the chest, palms facing the body and elbows out to the side.

I sat, I positioned my hands in the mudra of unshakable trust, I closed my eyes and immediately started to feel tears forming in them.  Essence began talking about journeys, about being on a path and being uncertain about the steps you are taking on that path when it seems as if everything is going wrong.  She talked about how, in those times, you needed to keep that unshakable trust that everything is going as it should, trusting that your journey is happening even when it seems as though you keep stumbling.  The tears were running in full force down my cheeks by that point and I was feeling all this space that was happening between the palms of my hands and my body.  My heart seemed to be practically vibrating, this tired little soldier that I had sent marching on so many journeys.

Together, as a class we breathed in fully and opened our mouths and let out the sound of everything, a loud resounding harmonious ‘Om’.  We separated our hands and opened our arms, breath in and then breath out with ‘Om’.  We sealed our hands together in a prayer mudra, brought our thumbs to forehead, breath in, breath out, Om.  Then we began to move, quickly ramping up to a challenging sequence that put a smile on my face and a shaking into my muscles.  Sweat began to take the place of tears.

As the class began to slow down, Essence guided us into pigeon pose.  Pigeon pose is an intense hip opener that feels glorious at times and like the biggest struggle at others.  If you believe in the whole subtle body part of yoga (which I fully do), it’s believed that different things that happen to us mentally, emotionally, spiritually are held in various places of the physical body and by releasing, opening, working those parts of the body through movement we are able to tap into the other stuff as well.  The hips…..well, they are the home to our emotions, they hold the feelings that wish to be birthed.  They speak to our desire to be connected to others.  Some crazy things can happen in pigeon pose and lord, after all that talk of trust, I was a goner.  I began to sob into the mat and Essence began to speak again of journeys; the wrong steps and the strength that it took to keep taking steps in spite of this.  I noticed that the stranger that I had introduced myself to at the beginning of class was softly crying as well.

Essence walked around and pulled the brightly colored sheets of fabric that served as curtains on the window.  All of a sudden, the room was bathed in the glow of the sunset and thrown into various prisms of blue, red and gold.  As I lay down for savasana, I watched these prisms dance on the back of my eyelids and let the sounds of thousands of strangers below and the honking of horns lull me into a safe comfortable space.

I thought a little about this path of mine.  I thought about how it seemed pretty unsure right now.  I thought about  how it wasn’t well marked and how exhausted I felt sometimes while traveling on it.  And then I thought about how all of it, every little piece, had led me squarely to that beautiful room bathed in light, in the middle of an amazing city.  And I thought that maybe that path was going the right way after all.  In the week or so since that class, life has happened, and as it will, has filled me with laughter at times, uncertainty at others, confidence and bravery, insecurity and doubt.  And throughout it all, I have interlaced my fingers, held them in front of me and asked for my trust to be unshakable.

 

 

 

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So with all of my talk about sitting still lately, I nevertheless found myself in a position last week of having a stretch of five days off, people who were happy to watch my dog, and a cousin who lives in Brooklyn with a spare bedroom.  So it became a question of ‘why not?’  Therefore, on Friday I rented a car and pointed it north, having distinct directions of how to get from here to there on my phone and just a vague idea of what this trip was going to hold for me.

My rental car came equipped with a CD player which was exciting news seeing as how the one in my 13-year-old vehicle has been broken for a couple years now.  But alas, you might be wondering why this is important.  It’s important because all throughout my life I have constantly made mix CDs until that technology became outdated.  But I refuse to let go of my collection.  So the day before my big drive, I packed up a bunch of blank CDs labeled with titles such as ‘For Flat Places’, ‘Back to West Virginia #8’, ‘We All Move On’, and ‘Listen to Me’.  Music is a time machine for me.  I can hear a song and be instantly thrown back to that time in my life, complete with the emotions and situations that were occurring at the time.  So therefore, with this long stretch of road and windshield time arcing in front on me on Friday, I wanted to revisit the past in order to get clues about where I was in the present moment.  I sang along, watching lines on a map form and undulate; lines that were sometimes full of smiles, sometimes hurt, sometimes bravery and sometimes mistakes.  I sang at the top of my lungs.

I stopped for coffee a few times and then because of said coffee, stopped way too much for potty breaks.  Then I hit traffic in Pennsylvania.  Stop Go Stop Go Stop Go.  I kept singing.  But despite my best intentions to not do so, I found myself driving into New York City under the cover of a dark night.  I got honked at, I cussed a little, I screamed as I nearly hit an abandoned car bumper that was sitting in the middle of my lane as I zipped over the Verrazzano Bridge.  And then, the moment my nerves were feeling like they couldn’t handle much more and I was wondering why in the hell I thought that driving to NYC was a good idea, I crested a hill and there right before me was the outline of Manhattan in all of it’s glory.  And there off to the left was the Statue of Liberty.  I squealed and laughed and looked fear in the face and said “I win this time.”

I had such a wonderful visit with my cousin and her boyfriend.  They played the ultimate hosts–taking me to their favorite restaurants and indulging in helping me find amazing craft beer.  We went to the Brooklyn Flea Market and ate tacos and donuts and ramen on Saturday.  We took the train to ‘the city’ for drinks.  I paid $9 for 5 ounces of one of best beers I’ve ever had in my life.  We fell into easy conversation.  My heart swelled ten times over every time the two of them broke into song together (they are musicians—this happens quite a bit).  My cousin Erin is the closest thing that I have to a sister and I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I like.  Every time I do, I am comforted by the bond and understanding that only family can create.  I look into her eyes and see mine.  I get her and she gets me.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to find a massive green radar blob sitting over New York City.  It was raining, it was windy, and the temperature had dropped substantially from the night before.  Yes, despite my escape, the remnants of Hurricane Matthew had come to find me.  I offered to run to the coffee shop a few blocks away and as I walked there I had to maneuver my umbrella against the wind so that it wouldn’t invert.  I ordered three coffees to go at the shop and the woman looked at me and told me that they had run out of carriers.  I responded that I was a waitress and could figure it out.  I negotiated three hot coffees, an umbrella and myself back to the apartment building and then found that I had no hands left to find the keys that would open the entry door to the building.  As I was standing there, an older Hispanic woman came from the other side and opened the door for me.  I thanked her profusely and her response came in heavily accented English—“It’s OK.  Sometimes I’m in the same place too.”

And there it was.  Leading up to my trip, I had been battling with issues of feeling lonely…of being alone.  And my time in the big city, surrounded by masses and masses of people….well, it was sort of making me feel more lonely.  And as the rain came down that morning, I got stuck further and further in my own head.  But due to circumstances–no coffee carriers and hard to reach keys, I was forced to lift my head up, to have an interaction with a stranger, to hear something I needed to hear.  She could have easily been talking about the fact that sometimes it’s her, standing on the other side of the door, needing to be let in on a rainy day.   Or maybe, just maybe, she was looking into my eyes and seeing my battle and saying “it’s OK.  Sometimes I’m in the same place too.”

 

(I also went to a yoga class which was super amazing but this blog is getting really long and I have to shower….so stay tuned for part two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Eye of the Storm

As I begin to type this, it’s the exact same time that I was supposed to be landing in the Bahamas for a little trip I had planned to visit an ashram.  As I type this, the tiny island where I was supposed to inhabit for five days is being battered by a hurricane.  I know how science works.  And I know that the little disturbance that started to build in the Atlantic over a week ago which has now become a massive storm, this beast called Matthew, did not have me in mind when it charted its path of destruction.  I haven’t stopped thinking about and aching for those who have been in the eye and worrying about those on the US coast for whom Matthew is going to affect.  But here’s what I also can’t stop thinking about—what does it mean that I planned a trip of escape and solitude in the exact same time and the exact same place of a swirling hurricane?

Because while I believe that the world and it’s doings and goings on will happen most of the time without thought of how it’s going to affect all of the individuals living within it; I can’t help but to think that we also need to take the time to look through the lens of that big old world and its’ happenstance and think about how its’ shifts start to shift us a little.  All of this to say….I can’t help but to think that this timing is telling me to ‘sit, be still.’

And so here comes this day.   And instead of basking in tropical breezes,  I sit in my bed in my home in a place of stillness and friends, my heart is split wide open.  I woke up this morning to a message from a dear old friend telling me of his dog’s passing.  I started crying.  An hour later I got a text from another dear friend, telling me of her dog’s passing and I cried more.  And then found out that two others that I care about have also had to lose their dogs today.  Now the tears absolutely won’t stop.  I had planned my trip to the Bahamas to escape….and now I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of this place of feeling every single bit of it.

Because anyone who has felt a connection to a beloved pet can absolutely relate to this pain, this grief, this absolute hole that forms when we are forced to let go of them.  My heart aches for my friends and I’ve started thinking about why it is that we let ourselves get close to our pets at all, because this is always this inevitable end.  Why would we expose ourselves to such potential pain?  Ah, but the answer is so simple.  Because if we didn’t we would never get to feel all that stuff that comes before it—that absolute joy, that unbridled unconditional love, that complete comfort that we get to experience in the time that they are with us.

And really, we make this choice not only with our pets but with anything else that we decide to expose our hearts to….we take this huge great risk to be crushed.

I planned this trip to the Bahamas, I’ve taken this month to take time off and travel because my soul is absolutely aching for it.  Without getting too entirely personal, it’s been a doozy of a year.  My heart’s been a little exposed and I haven’t done a great job of taking care of it at all times.  And the worst part through a lot of it is that I haven’t been able to find the tears to gather it all up and let it simply flow out of me.  I was hoping it would happen while on a tiny island with sand between my toes.  But nope, all of those tears are making up for lost time as I sit on my bed with a good dog sleeping just behind the computer.  And I couldn’t be more grateful to be right here, in the eye of a different storm.

A while ago I made the decision to live my life heart open.  In fact, I think it’s always been in my bones to live this way.  And I constantly have to remind myself to feel it all, whatever comes up, no matter how ugly it looks.  And I constantly have to resist the urge to put out the guards, the armor, the numb.  Even when I feel like my heart’s ass is getting kicked.  And I do this because I know the risk of what is involved with opening the heart, but god, I also know the rewards.

I know the risk of loving this dog at my feet, the risk of loving these friends that I hold space for in their time of need.  But the reward….it’s already paid me back in spades to have them in my life.  To not let them fully in would be far more risky.  And this, THIS is precisely what I needed to figure out today.

 

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