Was it intentional that yesterday, with the growing stack of hand-scrawled note paper tucked into the back pocket of my bag and the deadline for their neatly typed untanglement gnawing at my mind, that the Residency schedule handed me first a lecture on breath in writing and then a seminar on meditation and chant? Yesterday, Day 7, was a gift of non-linearity.
In both classes yesterday morning, I planted my feet firmly on the ground, shifted my spine upright and away from the chair back, closed my eyes and breathed long and slow. The second seminar, led by one of the writing mentors who is also a Kundalini yoga teacher, was a solid two hours of kirtan dance, kundalini chant, pranayama and mantra. Not counting the Metallica I blasted down the 405 on Saturday, it was the first time I'd heard music all week. I closed my eyes and let the rhythm and song sway my bones that have been folded into right angles. We chanted Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo, and the tight lines of sentence and story structure slackened into ribbons and streams. Afterwards, in a fevered rush to write faster than our minds could race, we pushed our pens across the page without agenda, prompted by "Disco" and "Zebra", unleashed by the meditation and chant that came before, and fell into uncharted territory, pulling from hidden nooks of memory and desire. It was like rolling down a grassy hill, laughing and falling into a pile of daisies at the end. It was like eating ice cream before there was any mind chatter about calories and clothes. It was like playing music when the notes just sail from the horn. It was like riding a bicycle home.
Later, while standing on line for a salad at the little shop across the way, a classmate said to me, "You sounded like the ocean." I told her about ujjayi pranayama, victorious breath. I asked her about the little aluminum-backed book in her purse, and she showed me her bible, all dogeared and doodled with colored pencil. She told me how in love she is with Jesus, how he has saved her and loves her. I told her about Rumi and Hafiz, and how they felt the same way. We ate our lunches together and spoke with open-hearts about life and spirituality, without fear of difference or coldness of ego.
I got home late last night, but Darby and the girls did too. It was a lively house at ten. Emerson was still dancing because her holiday choir concert had just ended and she was wired and hungry and happy. Esme was dancing because Emerson was dancing. Darby was happy because his girls were happy.
I was, of course, exhausted. I've finally succumbed entirely to the cold that has been threatening to settle in my lungs. The cough has deepened, the sneezes sudden and loud, my voice barely over a whisper at the end of the day. But, the girls were wired and giggling, and they would not let me crawl into bed. They flung the covers off me, yanked at my arms, tickled my feet, pushed and pulled and twisted me in knots, until I finally surrendered to their love and threats, crawled up with them to the birdsnest and tucked them into bed.
Last night I slept for the first time since last Thursday. I laid on my belly, pushed away the pillows, and didn't move for hours. In the morning, just before the alarms sounded, Darby lay next to me, listening to my sleep. He watches over me, I know, sends me love in those quiet hours when I'm still deep in dream.
Was it the breath or the chant? The meditation or the music? Maybe it was the fierce love and laughter that tugged at my weary limbs, and pulled me despite my protests, out of story structure and back into the home I adore and the family I love.
It's a strange thing to leave the comfort of a perfect life to reach into unknown territory for unknown riches. It's a beautiful thing when the perfect life pulls you back in from the abyss. Sometimes it tickles you halfway to death, and then insists that you kiss it goodnight. Jesus, Darby, Kundalini chant, girls, music... whatever it is that gives you the love you need at the moment you most need it is perfect, perfect, perfect.
In my yoga classes, sometimes I will ask my students to hold a pose beyond a few breaths, beyond the point of comfort, beyond the point of interest, and ask them to explore their experience. If it's pain, I tell them, move out. But if it's merely sensation, even if the sensation is not pleasant, I ask them to stay. It is so tempting to break a pose under the guise of thirst, reaching for the water bottle with relief, not because of the water, but the escape. However, the discomfort can be interesting. It can reveal a physical imbalance in our body -- oh, this hip, oh, this quad -- and it can reveal a psychological crutch. How many times do we shift prematurely out of a relationship or a situation simply to avoid dealing with discomfort? What revelations do we miss when we shift too soon? Or reach for the closest distraction? What at point do we stagnate in our personal evolution because of an aversion to difficult sensation?
Yesterday I met with my mentor. I took the elevator to his office on the second floor, and as I moved to step into the hall, he stepped into the elevator and pressed the button to go down. Perhaps this was a sign that we might experience mixed messages in our mentor-mentee relationship these coming months. I rode the elevator back down and filled the coffee I had just topped off, and then went with him back up to the second floor.
When we finally settled into his office to discuss my goals for this Project Period, he suggested that "we" might need to break the songwriter in me. He's read an excerpt of my story about a night I spent in Texas while on tour. "Tumbleweeds," he said. "It's like a country song."
I was up all night thinking about tumbleweeds. Literally, I did not sleep. The damn things mingled with my muffled coughs as I tried not to wake Darby. Which states have tumbleweeds, I thought. What songs? By morning I had concluded that of course tumbleweeds make an appearance in my story. I was in Texas for a week, west Texas for two days. The story is about one of those nights. I'd never seen a tumbleweed in my life until those stops on the tour. They were fascinating, but even more importantly, they were everywhere. I write about setting, and every long stretch of road was bordered by the dry globes of loose stems. One stormy night, the last time I traveled those roads, my hands gripped the wheel as I dodged them with every gust. Actually, come to think of it, the song I wrote about the same night doesn't mention tumbleweeds at all.
My mentor lives in Vermont. Has he raced the wind and rain and rolling weeds? It doesn't take a songwriter or a country song to write about nature, and in west Texas in the second half of summer, nature was rolling.
As I drove to campus this morning, those tumbleweeds kept spinning in my head. I tend to sell myself short. While I don't want to inflate my writing experience, perhaps I undersold it. Did I somehow imply to my mentor that I have only written that one story? Did I come across as a songwriter exploring longer form for the first time? My resume is not lengthy, but did I do a disservice by neglecting to mention these past five or seven years of blogging? Is it relevant to mention the published essays? Does it matter that I teach writing/yoga workshops? In my interest of exploring "voice" did I give him the impression that I haven't developed my own?
And under all these questions, deep in the discomfort, I am crying out No. Do not break the songwriter. I still feel that in the world of songs, I have only just begun.
So, enter the discomfort. I have been shaking for days, every morning trying not to spill my coffee as I write these posts. So this is me, exploring. Open to discussing. Breathing.
I was taken off my yoga mat the other day mid-class to find my phone and jot down a note. My mat was rolled out in the front row at the far end of the studio room, the furthest I could be from the cubbies where we students stash our belongings. As everyone else lifted up into a warrior pose, I crossed in front of twenty or thirty mats to dig out my iPhone. I couldn't have been more distracting. One of the practices of yoga is clearing thoughts from the mind, but I didn't want to risk losing this one.
That was Sunday, and now it's the middle of the week. In these between days I've felt a tightening, like a bag I keep cinching closed. I've distracted myself with snacks and articles and jewelry designer websites, but like a kitten scratching at the bedroom door for breakfast, as much as I try to go back to sleep, the idea still lingers. There are other ideas too -- integration, which is something I've been thinking a lot about, and Lovember, which is an idea/project/mindfulness practice that I am embarking on this month -- and I'd rather write about them. Alas, Sunday's yoga interruption is the one caught in the bottle neck. Nothing else can come out until this one does. Here, then, is my attempt at loosening this bag, at softening around the idea I've tried to tie shut, at releasing some of the lurking darkness.
There was a viral youtube video that went around a few years ago. It first emerged in 2007. Perhaps you saw it? It was an experiment arranged by the Washington Post for one of the world's most talented violinists, Joshua Bell, to perform incognito during rush hour in a Washington D.C. train station. For one day, the virtuoso was virtually unknown. Spoiler alert: he was mostly ignored.
For here I'm a tad more interested in what happened on Sunday (but you should really read this excellent Washington Post piece about what happened that day in the train station). My sweetheart Darby teaches the yoga class. He's a well-loved teacher, and it's a popular class. Throughout a regular Sunday there is laughter, some groaning, a few f*bombs, a lot of sweat, and occasional cathartic weeping. A sense of camaraderie has developed among the students. We are all human, we are all perfectly imperfect, the class seems to say in a collective sigh. Sundays are less about silent meditation and more joyful celebration.
On this particular day, as we moved through prasarita padottanasana (wide legged forward fold) and some standing twists, Darby talked about awareness. He mentioned the recent Banksy stunt in NYC in which the elusive graffiti artist set up a stall near Central Park and sold (via an unknown gentleman) authentic Banksy prints for $60 - and had only three buyers. Oh, whoops. Spoiler alert.
Darby was pretty much asking us to wonder, how often do we rush by things of beauty, interest, poignancy? How much do we miss? He also mentioned the Joshua Bell experiment. As various articles about this ask, "If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"
Well, that's a good discussion, if you're considering the viewpoint of the passersby. In fact, more often than not, we are the passersby. But what about when you're the busker?
In fact, this conversation on Sunday hit home because I was the busker. In the mid/late '90s I stood with my guitar on the gusty train platforms and sidewalks of Harvard Square, offering my art to anyone who had the time.
Much like the Joshua Bell event, my busking was also an experiment. I loved writing music. I loved singing. What I didn't like was the gut-wrenching, finger-numbing, throat-tightening anxiety that gripped me every time I stepped on to a stage. I wanted to love performing, and the best way to do it, I thought, was to perform as much as possible. I bought an amp with two inputs for voice and guitar, a boat battery to power the amp, and a bright red dolly to lug it all out to the street in a compact package on wheels.
The good times were when it wasn't too cold, and someone sat down on the sidewalk to listen, say a kind word, or put money in my guitar case. More than fifteen years later I still recall the night a man handed me one hundred dollars - five twenties, actually - and told me to record my songs, and the afternoon one of my local idols, folksinger Catie Curtis, stopped to listen for a few songs. There were times of encouragement, but mostly it was a practice of ignoring being ignored. Joshua Bell and I have at least this in common. When I look back on those busking days, I remember a few people resting nearby to listen, but I mostly remember the passersby.
Until this week, I had almost forgotten that getting over stage fright had been my main reason for the busking. As it turns out, my experiment mostly worked. The anxiety never entirely went away, but it certainly lessened. Yoga helped with the rest. But until this writing, when I've thought back on those busking years, I've mostly remembered them through the lens of failure. It would take a heart of steel to overlook the hundreds of people who never knowledge the music. That's what gripped me the other day in yoga. In addition to Banksy and Bell, Darby mentioned another incident of an overlooked artist: the band U2.
Years and years ago, before U2 was known by anybody here, a friend of Darby's shot a few photos of them. They were performing live at a club in Dallas as the act between wet t-shirt contests. Unlike Banksy and Bell, they were not famous at that time. Maybe they were ignored because they were unknown, or because the club patrons were only there for the other shows. Possibly they were ignored because they weren't any good. The point, I realized, is that it doesn't really matter. What matters is that they didn't stop there. The band didn't let past failures be the measure of their future success.
This is what I had walk across the yoga studio to write down: Do not base the possibility of future success on the memory of past failures. Too often I look at my past in an attempt to predict my future. After all, we are the only case study any of us really have. More often than not, I consider something a failure if it didn't meet the high expectations (and generally short time frames) I set myself. I've looked back instead of forward. I put lack of success on a pedestal and declared it The End instead of resting it on the side of the road and continuing the journey. Too many times, I've rubbernecked disasters instead of keeping my eye on the road.
So here we are. November 1. This is going to be an interesting month. For a long time now I've been looking forward and setting measurable goals. I did get into the MFA program. I did finish the marathon under five hours. I did book the gigs. This month of November I've renamed Lovember. I'm dedicating it to a different sort of growth, one with no measures. There's going to be a lot less rushing around, because Lovember is not about check lists. Lovember is about kindness. Joy. It is about showering the man I love with love, and writing because I love to write.
This Lovember I am keeping my eye on the things I hold at the center of my heart's bullseye, and not letting past failures be anything other than one lens through which to look at history.
On a fairly normal Tuesday a few weeks ago, when the cloudy morning daylight was beginning to lighten the bedroom windows, Darby crawled out of bed to awaken the girls for school. The girls' bedroom is off the hallway, tucked behind a secret door and up a flight of stairs in what we call The Birds Nest. The room was once an attic, now a cozy space littered with colorful tween clothes, glow-in-the-dark stars, and books. It has a birds-eye view of the backyard, and the moon often shines through the big picture window as we go through our bedtime ritual of stories and back rubs. The night before, after reading our latest chapter in the Anne of Green Gables series, we'd turned out the lights and had a big snugglefest. On Tuesday morning, though, when Darby stood at the bottom of the stairs calling that it was time to wake up for school, we heard an angry grumble from Little E.
"Grrrrrr. I don't wanna," our little 4th grader growled from the top of the stairs.
Darby was compassionate. A few minutes earlier he had probably also said something like, "I wanna stay in bed." Any day, I'll agree. I'm a morning person, but it's a rare 6:30 a.m. that I spring out from the comforts of our flannel sheets.
"I understand, boo-boo," he called back up the stairs sweetly, "but it's time to wake up and get ready for school."
"Grrr," came the angry response from the top of the stairs. And then the soft sounds of blankets and clothes, and two girls getting ready for school.
Darby came back into the bedroom a few minutes later with steaming mugs, and as we sipped our coffee (sugar, black for me; sugar, vanilla soy milk for him) Little E poked her head through our doorway.
"Introducing... the Grumpasaurus who lives with the troll under the bridge!" and with that, Little E bounced into our room, giggling as her arms flung wide and she flopped on our bed.
Where a few minutes earlier we had been dreading a difficult morning, now there were smiles and laughter. We all cheered Little E's transformation. How many times have I held on to a bad mood on principle. Here, Little E, not even in her double-digits, flip-switched her way out of a grumpy state by calling on the oldest trick in the book - laughter. This is a skill I feel that I am just learning, and she's already a master. And she did it before 7:00 a.m.!
I was reminded of the Grumpasauraus again last weekend. Both our girls have been riding horses for several years now, but we recently switched barns where they take lessons. The new barn - Shadow Hills - is a slice of serenity. The property is tucked in and around shady foothills, and is the home for many interesting animals - two miniature donkeys, a parrot, a potbelly pig named Bacon (which I don't find funny at all, but that's me), llamas, several dogs and cats, and of course horses. On a small cliff above the main arena where the girls ride there is a quiet sitting area and a shaded gazebo for visitors to observe the lessons.
On this particular day, Darby and I were sitting in the gazebo watching Little E take her second lesson with the new teacher. Big E was off at the stables getting her horse ready for riding. Maybe it was the new teacher, maybe it was that Little E was still getting over a cold that had kept her out of school earlier that week, but midway through her lesson she stopped her horse in the shade of a nearby tree and began to cry. We could see her from across the arena, her head turned downward, little gloved hands wiping at her eyes.
The girls have both told us how they love their new teacher, and we still aren't sure why Little E was upset that morning, but like yoga and running is for me, sometimes horseback riding shines a light on an internal struggle. The teacher let Little E rest under the tree for a few minutes, and then instructed her to start riding again -- but this time, to sing Happy Birthday while she rode. The teacher jogged alongside the horse as Little E trotted the perimeter of the ring, the two of them singing Happy Birthday together. Later, as Little E untacked her horse, the teacher explained the reason for the singing. While I can't recall the exact term she used, this is what I call it: pratipaksha bhavanam.
Pratipaksha bhavanam is a term that comes up in the Yoga Sutras. It means flipswitch. Yoga was a practice developed to ease the suffering of the mind, something that we humans tend to do naturally. The Yoga Sutras distill the human tendencies that cause us to suffer down to their very essences -- how we can suffer when we mistake one thing for another, when we attach our egos to temporary identities, when we become attached to past pleasures or build our life around avoiding our dislikes, and how we suffer under our fear of loss.
Luckily the Sutras do not only explain where suffering comes from. They also illuminate some techniques on how to relieve suffering. Breath. Meditation. Moving the body. And pratipaksha bhavanam. It means "reframe your perspective". Take another view. Pratipaksha bhavanam is the practice of substituting a positive thought in order to quiet a negative one. It is the very act itself.
Despite my years of yoga practice on the mat, and my years of teaching the yoga practice in my classes, I must admit that some of my greatest lessons have come in the early morning hours before I've even gotten out the front door. Also, my guru is not an aging teacher in India. My guru - one of them - is simply counting down the months till her 10th birthday. She begs me to measure her inches on the kitchen door frame. She tells the same joke nine times in a day -- "I'm so good at sleeping I can do it with my eyes closed" -- and then begs for another bite of chocolate.
Also, when my guru wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she laughs and sings her way back to joy. She teaches me how to do the same. I try to remember how a nine-year-old master can do it, so that I can do it too. Yoga is not really backbends and pretzel poses. It is not Lululemon or a particular body type. Yoga is bouncing out of your Tuesday morning blues with a joyful laugh and a flop on the bed. And it is also being non-reactive and allowing the flipswitch to take place.
Six months in, it is mid-July.
Six months to go, and I am already defeated.
Scroll back to 2008. Yearning for personal transformation and a healthier body, I embarked on a 40-day yoga challenge. I had been practicing yoga on and off for years, mostly at gyms and to DVDs in my living room, but I felt the need to change my practice, to find teachers, and to find myself. I was a little lost.
I hunted around on google for a yoga studio either near my house or my office. I was still fairly new to Los Angeles and didn't know anyone who practiced yoga, so it was just up to me and google to find a good place. I didn't know anything about style or teachers in the area. My requirements were location, class time, and price.
I found a sweet little independent studio called Rising Lotus Yoga in Sherman Oaks, and they had classes I could take right after work on my way home. Best of all, they had a "new student special" (still do) that allowed me to take unlimited classes for two weeks and not a lot of money. Since I didn't know if I would like it, that seemed perfect.
Once I had my studio, I settled in for 40 days and 40 nights. Well, 40 days. It was a number of change. It was a number of spiritual awakening. It was a number of transformation. It was the number for Noah, Moses, and Jesus. I figured if it worked for them, it could work for me. I also decided to take one day off a week. On the 7th day I rested.
I should state here that I am not particularly religious. I was raised steeped in an area of Judaism that my brother calls Conservadox. Technically it was Conservative, but on the very conservative side. Things have lightened up in my family since then, but by that time that happened I had pretty much left the religion entirely (except for Passover Seders with friends and Hanukkah candles with the kids). However, this yoga challenge was a body/mind/spirit thing. I needed it on more levels than I consciously knew.
Forty days. Rest on every seventh.
Every day I laid out my mat in the back of the Rising Lotus studio room. I sweated through the poses. I felt like a fool in my shorts and tank tops. I wasn't toned like the others. I didn't know what I was doing. My mind chatter was loud. Who am I? Why did I think I could do this? This is too hard. And then, towards the end of class the teacher would instruct us to lay down on our backs, arms at our sides, palms face up. Close your eyes. Release management of your breath. Release management of your thoughts.
After class, every single time, I floated out of the studio, peaceful, calm, beautiful, happy. I couldn't wait till the next day when I would lay out my mat again.
When the forty days ended, I continued. Six days a week. On the seventh day I rested. Each rest day I yearned to be back on my mat. And then on the day I came back, the mind chatter would start again. And then I would float home and return to the studio the next day.
This is what I was thinking when I decided to Run Everyday For A Month. I wanted to see what would happen. How I would change. How I would deal with the mind chatter. How my body would adjust to the daily demands.
Also, I wanted to prepare my body for #82 Hanson Marathon Training Method in which you train your body not to run 26 miles, but to run the last 16 miles of a marathon on tired legs. I enjoyed running my first full marathon in May so much that I have been looking forward to doing another - but this time with better training.
But I am already defeated.
I attempted my 30 days of running. I got to Day 8, when a difficult truth arose: Stop. I had been ignoring the pain in my ankle/foot, trying to "run through it", trying to discern if it was a real injury or just a mental block with physical manifestations. On Day 9 I realized it was a real injury that needs real time to heal.
Like many people, I find rejection and failure challenging to manage. The most difficult failure of all, though, is when I set my own personal goals and cannot meet them. I have doubts about my athletic prowess, and want to push myself past those doubts. I love disciplined practice -- I am a musician, a yogi, a writer, and now a runner. I love the meditation and focus that comes when I immerse myself in these activities. I find peace and self-worth in them. I love the challenge, and the accomplishment. Having to let go of my goal, give up, is one of the hardest things of all to do.
I suppose this is one of the lessons of The List. I can't do everything. Or, I can't do everything this year. Last year I had the same defeat. There were things I couldn't do last year. The item that was the hardest of all to let go was #100 Run From Our House To The Beach.
So perhaps this is where the silver lining comes in. I wasn't able to do #100 in 2012,but I did do it on April 27 this year. Perhaps because it took more time, more healing, more training, it was even more significant. There are other things, too, that I didn't get to last year that I have been able to do this year. Like #54 Take a Pottery Class. That one became this year's #45 Take a Pottery Class with Em, which we did on March 23.
So, letting go. Another lesson of the list. It feels like a bitter one right now, but perhaps it will be even sweeter later on?
We shall see.
As a yoga teacher, in my classes I emphasis the idea of letting go of goals, hoping that my students will always be compassionate towards whatever is going on in their body/mind/spirit on any particular day. In my book there is no "no pain, no gain" mantra. There is compassion, truth, kindness, healing. I tell them pain -- meaning actual pain, not simply the a sensation of discomfort or the discomfort of sensation -- is the body's message that you should move out of the position or situation immediately. I believe compassion is as much a part of the yoga practice as breathing. The discomfort of sensation is often just an indicator of newness - discomfort is where change and growth happen. Sensation reminds us to breathe and soften our resistance. I compare discomfort of sensation to the first day of middle school, or to going through a divorce, or any other of life's calls to evolve, step up, change, accept, breathe.
But I do believe there is a place for ego. There's the mental thing. Years ago, in my own yoga practice, I noticed that I conveniently got "thirsty" just when a pose got hard. I would come out of the pose and drink some water. I was using my thirst as an excuse to bail. In other words, half of the challenge of a physical practice like yoga and running is the mental aspect. If we always stop at the moment just before we reach our edge, where's the growth? Ego is what helps to keep us on the straight and narrow. It is the thing that pushes us past where we've been stopped before. It's the ego that wants to go further, faster, stronger, better. As a runner I feel it all the time. Ego keeps me moving at mile ten when there's still so far to go. Ego gets me across the finish line, with arms in the air, smiling at the photographer.
Well, ego has it's place. Here I am at Truth. Runners World Magazine calls it The 2-Day Rule:
The 2-Day Rule
If something hurts for two straight days while running, take two days off.
Two straight days of pain may signal the beginning of an injury. "Even taking five days of complete rest from running will have little impact on your fitness level," says Troy Smurawa, M.D., team physician for USA Triathlon.
The Exception: If something hurts for two weeks, even if you've taken your rest days, see a doctor.
And, yep, I'm at The Exception as well. Doctor's appointment is scheduled for 9:15 tomorrow morning.
In every yoga class I say to my students -- at least once -- something like, "Check in with yourself. Rest if you need to. Push a little harder if that's what you need today. Be in the truth of what is going on Now."
Many times, it seems, the things I say to my students are the words I need to hear for myself. There are days when it's clear as glass that I've got energy enough to power the state of California. Those days I push, run, stronger, harder, faster, and I smile through the whole thing feeling like an Amazon warrior goddess. There are other days when my body and spirit just want to roll out my yoga mat, find some long, deep hip stretches and then lay across a bolster, cover myself in a blanket, and chillax in savasana while the rest of the class sweats through sun salutations.
And then there are those other days.
Foggy days when the inner compass just spins.
Where am I, and where do I want to be?
On those murky days I can't tell my sage from my inner slacker. Is that voice inside me that says "chill out" just some lazy snail that wants to take the easy way? I have a deep fear of being lazy. It comes from too many childhood years spent eating bowls of cereal and watching after-school specials, waiting for someone -- anyone -- to come home. When I left home at seventeen I left television as well. Already I felt like I'd let too much of my life slide by, lost important years of creative activity, passed by my full potential. When I went to college I went with a vision of creating something out of this life -- I wasn't sure what, but it would have a purpose, a vision, a drive. Still, twenty-one years since I left home, lazy feels like a rabbit hole that I could still easily slip down. I have a fear of falling into a state of complacency. Of being pulled into a life of consuming crap television shows while eating crap food and creating a life of nothing-special. Crap.
Or, on those murky days, is it the wise woman side of me who whispers "let me tuck you in, you should rest"? In my fear of lazy I've gotten confused. My window to my compass is covered in condensation.
This sage versus slacker question also rings with a familiarity from something else. It doesn't just remind me of the cereal/after-school specials years because of the non-productivity. It reminds of the zero-or-ten starvation/binge eating cycle that I bounced between starting around high school, wracked with guilt for dipping into the fundraising candy box and then ricocheting into the vow "do not let anything pass by these lips". I knew how to go too far in either direction. It wasn't just me, though. It seemed at times that eating was a family activity. We didn't gather around meals to nurture our need for community. We gathered around meals to overeat and then go on diets. No wonder I lost signal and then over-corrected.
Another familial gift I received was strong muscles. That's from my dad, I think. I was a gym rat since I took the weight-room option for 10th grade Phys Ed. In college I still didn't know how to eat, but I knew how to lift. I knew how to climb. I knew how to put on headphones and sweat the elliptical trainer.
I've gone through different phases of working out since those 10th grade Phys Ed days, but yoga taught me the best. I am still trying to learn how to read my compass for steady. Yoga at least taught me that there is a compass to look for. For center. For body-need. For truth. For compassion. To trust myself and the signals from my tired -- or wired -- muscles.
So here is where I am. Today I ran. Yesterday I ran. The day before I ran. My compass bounced around between inner slacker / wise sage and steady ahead.
Sunday was great, and I was completely in tune with my wise woman after my first rainy 5.5 mile loop around Griffith Park. I've actually been applauding myself that I bailed on the second loop as planned. I just didn't have the stamina for a 12 mile hilly course for my first run after six days of no activity. (Back story: Last week I didn't work out at all due to being sick. My inner compass read pretty clear since my skin was hot and red. I had no interest in anything but rest). Instead I took it easy like Sunday morning and went home, showered, ate, and then had a wonderfully sweaty yoga class with my sweetheart.
Yesterday's windy 4.5 mile run was harder compass-wise. My body was tired from running and yoga the day before. I wished my old running partner was around. She wasn't fast but she was constant. At least, until she wasn't constant any more. Somehow I managed to mostly run, partly walk it, with a foray into some roadside push ups to keep things interesting. At the end I bumped into another runner whose company helped me eke out another mile or so.
Today was better. I hooked up with the new running partner (Jacob) which kept me moving. It was a new route, new company, new day. As it turns out, it was just his second day running in years, and it was my stamina that kept him going for the 2.75 mile loop we did together. Just busting those first miles with some new company helped me finish off my run of 5 miles. I could tell that if Jacob hadn't been there, my inner slacker would have stepped in.
January 27, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA
Raining, in the 60's.
average pace: 9:45
January 28, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA
Sunny, windy, low-60s
average pace: 9:54
January 29, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA
Sunny, windy, mid-50s
average pace: 9:09
In an alternate world, spirits are given standard-issue bodies in which to reside for their physical life. Spec-ed to perfection, each body's performance falters or thrives in direct and clear correlation to the quality of their care. Commitment to health combined with daily discipline begets obvious and standardized positive results. Misuse or abuse triggers noticeable imbalance. In this alternate world, there is a standard-issue body for men, and another for woman. There is no airbrush to tweak the natural form. The ideal body is a singular image, and achievable by any who follow the care regimen.
But in this alternate world, would I notice the sweetness radiating out from the hazel of my love's eyes? Would I cherish how my head rests perfectly in the crook of his arm when we lay down together at night? Would I so admire the tautness of his belly and contour of his chest that I so admire now? Would he say to me, as he notices the lines that have begun to set around my eyes and mouth, that he can tell I will be beautiful old?
If I so love the specificity of my man, recognize him when I see him in a room of people, celebrate his perfect-because-it-is-his body, why should I not celebrate my own?
Today's run was two steps forward/one step back. For days I have looked at my foam roller, sitting in the corner by the closet. Every day since Sunday I have thought "I should use that on my tight calf." And every day I have not. Tonight I will not forget. My left calf was so tight during today's run that I had to stop several times to stretch it out, then walked a bit, then ran. I took so much time in the stretching that I decided to take an alternate route to get back to my office. I missed passing Pauline, an older woman who sits on the front patio of her house and with whom I sometimes chat, but I did catch someone else...
Despite the starts and stops, it was a pleasant enough run. I will spin tonight, which I've come to really enjoy and find to be great cross-training for speed and endurance, and then go home to my sweet, specifically him, man and my stepkids. He will be working on a new song that he's been writing these past few days, and they will be dancing circles around me while I foam roll my calf muscle (and hey, while I'm at it, my glutes, hamstrings, and IT band as well). After we put them to bed and read another chapter in Anne of Green Gables, I will crawl under our own covers with the cat and a book. Later, when he is tired of working on the song, my man will turn out the lights, place my book on the nightstand, and curl up around my sleeping body.
January 9, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA
Temperature in the low 60's... a little chilly once I started walking
average pace: 12:49 per mile