Saturday, April 30, 2011

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

I had three free hours Thursday afternoon. It was pretty wild. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself, or with which overflowing Inbox to start trying to catch up.

Luckily, I had an important task to take care of first. My good friend Kate turns 31 today, so a herd of us celebrated Thursday night, with a little Gracias Madre this and a little MC Yogi that. And I found a long-overdue excuse to bake again.

Here's the result. I turned to that old standby, the vegan chocolate coconut cake recipe from my yoga of baking article. I tweaked a few things this time around: added more coffee and more espresso powder to kick up the mocha factor, added a 1/2 cup each of Kahlua and Frangelico to give it more of an alcoholic hazelnut punch, swapped out the whole wheat pastry flour for a friendlier gluten-free variety, whipped up a Mocha Frangelico glaze and left out the coconut and the Chambord.

Gotta say: it was delish. Even for a [potentially grainy and dry] gluten-free vegan variation. Heart-shaped, for K's big heart. And those blossoms on top? Red sweet peas, for a sweet pea.

Happy Spring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

I promised you a playlist or two. Here's the latest collection of recent tunes (in no particular order), including tonight's class at Flying Yoga and last weekend's Master Class at Oakwood Athletic Club.

Happy listening.

Samba Pa Ti Feat. Roy Hargrove, Angelique Kidjo
Society, Eddie Vedder
Love Came Here, Lhasa De Sela
Om (Invocation), MC Yogi
Spiderbite, Beats Antique
Quelqu'un M'a Dit, Carla Bruni
Om Namah Shivaya, Masood Ali Khan
Fools Work, Inara George
Beauty Beats, Beats Antique
Like I Love You, Justin Timberlake
Shrine, Beats Antique
Om Sri Matre, Wah!
Sharpest Blade, Over The Rhine
Dead Things, Phillip Glass
The Hill, Marketa Irglova
Love Letters, Dario Marianelli
Magpie To The Morning, Neko Case
In A Sentimental Mood, Sarah Vaughan
The Killing Moon, Nouvelle Vague
Ganesh is Fresh (feat. Jai Uttal), MC Yogi
Shanti (Radio mix), Wah!
Cold Sweat, Angelique Kidjo
Let It Be Me, Ray LaMontagne
Breathe, Alexi Murdoch
Sweet Demure, Beats Antique
Ganesha, Wah!
Derivation, Beats Antique
Chakra Beatbox, MC Yogi
Fever, A Fine Frenzy
Waisted, Beats Antique
Leave It All Behind feat. The Rebirth & Aima the Dreamer, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Star Scat, Caravan Palace
Dancing Buddha, DJ Free & Brent Lewis
Krishna Love (feat. Jai Uttal), MC Yogi
Hanuman, Wah!
Cry Me A River (Album Version), Justin Timberlake
Mission, Beats Antique
Ma Chant (Kali), Wah!
Aganju (The Latin Project Remix), Bebel Gilberto
Om Namah Shivaya (feat. Bhagavan Das), MC Yogi
Tabla Toy, Beats Antique
All My Days, Alexi Murdoch
Wise Up, Aimee Mann
Fare Thee Well, Indigo Girls
Ungodly Hour, The Fray
Elephant Power, MC Yogi
Dance With Me, Nouvelle Vague
For the Summer, Ray LaMontagne
Where Do You Go, Lhasa De Sela
Bells, Lhasa De Sela
Hallelujah (Album Version), k.d. lang
Moon River, Jane Monheit
Grace, Jeff Buckley
Dope Crunk, Beats Antique
You Do, Aimee Mann
Mushaboom, Feist
Fruit Tree, Nick Drake
Towards The Sun, Alexi Murdoch
Bhakti Gita, Masood Ali Khan
Loveland, Jai Uttal/Ben Leinbach
Harvest Moon, Neil Young
Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, Ella Fitzgerald
But Not For Me, Chet Baker

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

(I have posted this before, but I'm so in love with it, and so remarkably moved anew each time I read it, that I thought this sunny Tuesday morning deserving of a reminder. Hammer away, my little sculptors.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

Monday morning at Chez Rach, and it's a damp grey one out the window in the courtyard, the kind of morning made for catching up. Mondays are the one day a week I don't have to be out the door in a flash, bright and early, and I've got stacks of yoga philosophy articles waiting to be read, a full inbox, and a burbling coffee pot on the countertop. The theology nerd in me is thrilled.

Before that, though, a big thanks to the folks at Oakwood Athletic Club in Lafayette for a fantastic workshop over the weekend. I so enjoyed venturing through the tunnel to share the practice with such an open and willing group of yogis. We're talking about establishing a regular Master Class series there, so keep your eyes open for updates on workshops to come.

(Teaching two back-to-back vinyasa classes tonight at Glow, in case you're looking for a cozy Monday night retreat. See you in North Beach at 6 or 7:30pm.)

In the meantime, check out this excellent story from NPR, which wonders: has yoga strayed too far from its Hindu roots? I'm always searching to find the balance between what's "too much" spirituality, mythology, philosophy, etc., what's "too little," and what's that "just right" Goldilocks-style amount of religiously-influenced philosophy to share in a yoga class. Some studios are more friendly to that infusion than others, and in some settings, like the more corporate or gym-style classes, I tend to leave it out almost completely, in fear of alienating folks who are coming to the practice with a simple desire to get a good stretch on. And the practice is so naturally rich with philosophical influences that a lot of its Hindu- and Buddhist-inspired aspects come through without needing to be labeled as such. But I'd say NPR has their finger on a hot topic here, and one that will continue to fester as the Westernized phenomenon of "yoga as fitness industry" meets traditional, more Eastern notions of yoga as spiritual practice-slash-psychological-exercise.

This blurb seems particularly germane to me. Check it:
Ms. SHAH: I think part of the issue that goes back is the way that Hinduism has really been defined. For most Hindus, it's more of a way of life. And yoga is something that's kind of been incorporated into our lives, day in and day out. But that being said, Hinduism is a very pluralistic faith, and it's very accepting and very universal.

And interestingly enough, I actually just read an old article by a professor Stephen Prothero, and he was referring to the Vedanta Society. And at the very end, he quoted one of the swamis and essentially, the swamis said that whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, if you are truly searching for the inner divine within you, you are a Hindu. Because the idea within Hinduism is that the whole world is one family, and that the divine resides within each of us. And that's, essentially, the idea of yoga as well.

Has Yoga Strayed Too Far From Its Hindu Roots? (NPR)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Save the Date!

Please join me for three days' of workshops on the East Coast next month. I'm so excited to be sharing the practice with the fabulous folks at Balance Yoga in Forty Fort, PA. We've got some really dishy yoga planned: a helluva lot of Friday night heart and hamstrings, some ease-inducing Sunday morning shoulder openers, and one very special Saturday featuring two workshops with guest stars Karen and Amy of The Kitchen Yogi Cookie Cutter Collection.

Want more info? Head over to Balance Yoga's excellent site for details on dates, times, etc. And if you'd like more detailed workshop descriptions, well, you're in luck:

Open Your Heart, Open Your Hamstrings

May 20 , 2011 | 6 - 8:30pm
Start your weekend with a heart-opening, hamstring-stretching practice wrapped in love, laughter and devotion. Rachel's vinyasa classes are a music- and philosophy-infused blend of athleticism, dance, art, song and spirit. She brings her background in the arts and theology to the mat, creating an intense flow-based practice rich in yoga philosophy, sweaty with hard work, and celebratory in tone. You can expect creative sequencing, advanced backbends, arm balances, and inversions, and maybe a vertical split or two along the way. She hopes you'll laugh as much as you sweat, and maybe walk out feeling a little stronger, a little softer, and a lot more balanced. All levels welcome!

The ABC's of Yoga: Art, Bake, Create!
with special guest The Kitchen Yogi

May 21, 2011 | 10am - 12:30pm
Join special guests Karen and Amy of The Kitchen Yogi Cookie Cutter Collection to explore the ABCs of yoga, playfully connecting art, baking and creativity, all in the name of practice. In this family-friendly morning workshop, we'll dig into a creative flow of yoga, art, storytelling and guided meditation, finishing with the creation of a mandala. Discover the connections between art and asana, and have fun (and get your hands dirty!) in the process. All materials are included. Ages 1-101.

Baking Through the Chakras
with special guest The Kitchen Yogi

May 21, 2011 | 2:30 - 5pm
Take your yoga off the mat and into the kitchen! Meet The Kitchen Yogi, and in the process, discover your yoga practice elbow deep in sugar and frosting! Karen and Amy will guide us through the whimsical asana silhouettes of The Kitchen Yogi cookie cutter collection, and Rachel will revisit her Yoga Journal article on her "yoga of baking" practice creating bundt cakes every Saturday for a year, as we work our way through the chakras, one sweet treat at a time. The afternoon's "baking asana practice" will culminate in the creation of a delicious raw chocolate cookie in your favorite asana shape. We'll explore healthy vegan baking alternatives, baking as meditation, the seva of baking, and more. Ages 1-101.

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

May 22, 2011 | 10am - 12:30pm
Find ease in your shoulders, hips, heart and mind with this vigorous vinyasa practice focusing on opening these notoriously tight parts of the body. With the help of some mellow, lilting tunes and real-life, grounded spirituality, we'll find a balance of strength and softness in the process, connecting the sorrows and joys we often find stored in the shoulders and hips with the softening and releasing processes inherent in the emotional, physical, and spiritual heart of a yoga practice. Bring your soul, soften your expectations, and ease right into a Sunday morning's deep release. All levels welcome!
The Saturday workshops in particular are already nearly full, so please pre-register to ensure that you get a spot. Can't wait to share the practice with you, in its many forms: the vinyasa itself, of course, but also the music, the art, the baking, the friendship, the reaching across these thousands of miles to find that, at heart, we all share the same passion for the breath, the flow, the learning to live well in these bodies of ours.

Much love and so many thanks to Jenn and the crew at Balance for making this possible! I'm over the moon, and can't wait to head east to PA.

Balance Yoga and Wellness
Workshops with Rachel Meyer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Yesterday marked the 105th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Fittingly, we were shaken by a wee temblor around 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

I was midway through a sweaty yoga class and missed the shaking completely, caught up in my own efforts at balance in a wobbly Natarajasana. The 3.7 quake was a trenchant reminder, though, of how quickly life can change, in an instant. We're living on borrowed time here in the Bay Area, to be sure; the recent catastrophes in Japan are a sobering reminder of that.

The quake anniversary brought to mind this stream-of-consciousness piece -- one of my favorites, more bleak, more resigned than some -- which I'd written three years ago, sitting on the wooden floor of my old Edwardian on Sacramento St., shredding through dusty files on that warm April day. Beyond the purple hair and the Norwegian pop singers and the frozen lasagna, I'm fond of this piece for its raw honesty, yes, and for its resigned clarity of vision, and for its understanding of the inevitability of impermanence and uncertainty, that awareness that all things -- youth, beauty, love, careers, bodies, passions -- arise, suffer change, and fade away.

In days past, and in teaching lately, especially, I've found myself instinctively drawn to the Hindu symbolism that is Shiva: Shiva who represents change and destruction, that continual process of churning and turning, shedding old skins and taking on new ones, that unending cycle of dissolution, creation, preservation and dissolution all over again; and I can't help but see Shiva not only in this little piece of writing, but in the greater awareness of the inevitability of change in the form of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes and the like, and the certainty of impending death. There is a strange, eerie kind of calm, a willing grace, that comes from knowing, and sitting with, and ceasing to resist, this reality that all things, including our selves, will come to an end. We're so much more apt to be present in this flash of a moment, knowing that it will not be forever.

Reverie on a Shredder -- April 17, 2008

While we're talking about being present, and really coming into that question of how to show up for our lives, how to enter into them, let me point you to this fantastic teaching video from Michael Stone. I sat up late last night working, watching this, nodding my head, finding so much simple truth in these teachings. It's worth every second of the 14 minutes. Sit down, cross your legs in Sukhasana, set your phone aside, and just let yourself surrender to the listening. Pay attention. Be there. And begin to think about how to enter your life, and your practice, as one.

Michael Stone on the Question, How Do I Enter My Life from Toronto Body Mind on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.

~ Thomas Merton

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Back in action with regularly scheduled classes starting this afternoon at Flying Yoga, and tomorrow at Glow. Please join me for a class or two in the days to come -- I'd love to see you. Full schedule available here, of course, per usual.

My playlists -- lovingly constructed over the course of these many past months -- apparently decided to stay in Bali. (Can you blame them?) After having listened to them while at Desa Seni, I rebooted my phone on landing in San Francisco to find an empty memory card: "No music found."

Ok. Cool. (Breathe, Rachie, breathe.) We're practicing non-attachment, right? I believe this is what they call Shiva, a.k.a. dissolution, destruction, kenosis, an emptying-out to make way for new kinds of life to grow. So, we create.

So after a busy (late) one last night, and some lingering jet lag this morning, today will look like brand spankin' new music, and brand spankin' new sequencing, and the first Saturday back in SF since baseball season kicked off. It was surprisingly excellent to catch up with so many folks last night, even if this confused body clock kept me up past 4am. In spite of the achy head -- I'm glad to be home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Those long hot Balinese silences left me relishing words in a way I have not for some time. And here, now, home, I find myself still swimming in the heady words of writers and thinkers like, yes, Pema Chodron below, but moreso, namely, somehow, tonight, (this morning?), David Foster Wallace.

On DFW's tragic death three years ago, several media outlets republished the strikingly bleak and refreshingly honest commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005. I found myself drawn to it tonight, drawn to its remarkably yogic and Buddhist emphasis on choice and the control of the mind. Though DFW writes not in classically Buddhist or meditative lingo, the mind-training he speaks of -- the revelatory and fundamental project of paying attention, the learning to be present with details, the difficult practice of stepping out of oneself and applying compassion to the way we view one another, in spite of our own initial revulsion and impatience and disinterest -- in what is, really, of course, the recognition of the self as a construct, that bleak understanding that our myopic ego-driven vision is in fact a cloudy approximation of what is real and true and lasting -- well, it's all so very profoundly rich and gut-wrenching and true and real and necessary.

And I know people will revisit DFW's stuff and read his writing and see it only, largely, through the shrouded lens of his eventual suicide, but I can't help but relish, and wish, and want to share, the profundity of the things he's saying, the ways in which he calls out the bullshit and puts words to the experiences most of us rarely speak, his uncanny ability to make real what is often left unsaid. And it's not just the jet lag and the post-yoga-retreat wankiness and the exaggerated post-travel perspective suddenly harping on, opening to this, I promise. It's the breadth and the depth and the grey beauty of this:
As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about "the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master". ....And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
and this,
But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.
and this:
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving.... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
Whew. Go. Read. Pay attention. For your own sakes.

David Foster Wallace, in his own words: "This is Water"

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Pema Chodron gets a little raw, and for that, I love her:

"An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic, sometimes to anger, resentment, and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all."


Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Landed at SFO shortly after 7:30 this evening. And, with that, two weeks in Bali, gone in a flash.

Lewis and I sat in Malasana as we waited for Stacy to clear customs, and Garland Pose -- that deep yogi squat, hands at heart center, getting into the hips, the knees, the ankles -- has never felt so good than after 20 hours' or so of sitting, sitting, sitting, from Denpasar through Taipei and finally back to San Francisco. And now in these wee small hours of the morning, eerily still as the Tendernob sleeps, the City offers a flash of blanketed silence for catching up and unpacking and coming back into this version of Life As We Know It.

Convinced that I would not let myself be a jet lag weenie, it's back to the mat we go tomorrow, right off the bat, which is, I suspect, the best way to channel the sort of mad prana that streams from such a sweaty, sunny, life-giving, breath-sustaining retreat of sorts. After Bali's thick wet evenings, the cold night air back home here in SF feels particularly dry and cool. I looked out the plane window last night (was it last night?) flying to Taipei and the stars hung low just beyond the wings. It felt celestial, and intimate, and simple, and otherworldly, and strange.

Full speed ahead here now through to June, with all kinds of good master classes and workshops and articles and whatnot on the calendar. Tantric scholar and general badass Carlos Pomeda was scheduled to teach a two-day yoga philosophy workshop at Desa Seni this weekend, which means we just missed him there. I was sorry to do so. I'd planned to share this excellent interview with you before I left for Bali, and the time got away from me. But perhaps it's even more appropriate, then, now, to direct you to Elephant Journal for this intelligent and thought-provoking recent conversation with Carlos himself. Here's one of my favorite blurbs from the interview, on Pomeda's personal evolution from Catholic altar boy to Tantric philosopher:
And then what happened, of course, was that in meditation...I understood that God is not an old man sitting in a cloud pushing buttons to send different events to different people. That really, this being, this supreme being, this transcendental ground of consciousness, is what some traditions call “God” and other traditions call “Shiva” and other traditions call “the void” — and the name really doesn’t matter. But there is an ultimate reality that is also so obvious, because when you have that experience, when you touch that space, it’s like coming home.
Read the whole interview. Pomeda's thoughts are so good, so ecumenical, really so very worth your time. Pretend you're in Bali sitting in that open-air Trimurti hut, studying with Carlos perched on a meditation cushion in front of you and white orchids just beyond, snuggling with geckos and batting away aggressive mosquitoes with a Frangipani blossom tucked behind your left ear and a mango-banana smoothie in one hand.

Here; these photos might help. As warned, I didn't take many. But these few might give you an idea, a sense, a feel, of the lushness, the warmth, the languid tropical beauty. Three hours or so into being home again, I'm already planning my return. There's so much to see, and do, and learn, not just in Bali, in Asia, but geez -- all over this big world of which we know so little. How small we are. How small these lives we live are. How little room for ego, or grasping, or attachment there is, especially in the wake of realizing how much we take for granted, and how quickly all of that can be whisked away (hello, Japanese tsunami).

Neti-neti; we are not these bodies; we are not these homes; we are not these languages; we are not these dollar bills or these rupiah; we are not these histories; we are not these imagined futures; we are not these samskaras -- the grooves, the ruts, the habits, psychological or spiritual or physical or emotional -- that haunt our lives. It takes a new perspective to jolt us out of our current [fragile, fleeting, exceedingly temporary] realities to remind us of that neti-neti truth, yes, which is perhaps the greatest gift of travel. We are not even the names on our passports, or the changing time zones, or these bruises, or those bug bites. We are not those chants, lingering in memory, echoing in the distance. We are just this moment. That one, already gone. Were you there?

Interview with Carlos Pomeda: Scholar, Tantric Philosopher and Meditation Teacher (EJ)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

5:44 am, Sunday morning, outside of Canggu. Sun an hour from rising. Indian Ocean quiet.

Quick report this morn before we head up and out for the day.

Skin browning, nice maple syrup color. A couple of long-stroke, dirt-caked traditional Balinese massages under my belt. A helluva lot of ridiculously good organic greens and nuts and papayas and snake fruits and coconut milks consumed. Thick afternoon humidity cut by intermittent rain showers. An illuminating solo walk into Seminyak yesterday. Plans for Ubud this evening, and perhaps a run-in with MLS's dear friend Clair, and certainly a lot of art and music and people-watching. A heart-racing version of Sondheim's "Johanna" from Matt last night lingering over coffee at the dinner table.

(Oh yes -- and do you want to know where we're staying? Meet Desa Seni. Also known as Balinese-Alice-in-Wonderland-fairytale-paradise, home of the saline pool and ridiculous hippie veg cuisine and endless buds and blooms that magically appear on walkways and pillows and tucked behind the ears.)

There's quite a lot to say and very little to say, at once. I'm glad I brought the vodka. The morning coffee klatsch might be my favorite little ritual of this whole shebang. I wish I'd brought more mosquito repellent. It's nice to wear little flippy skirts again and not fear the fog rolling in over Nob Hill to whip them up and freeze your little San Franciscan ass off. And I find, again, how easy and remarkably lightening it is to slip into this no-internet thing. Life slows down. The rest of the world seems like very much inane chatter compared to the sun and the sky and the rain and the practice. I could be content with this for some time, and then most certainly would grow impatient, I imagine, as most of us do when we're rather unfamiliarly still for a long stretch. I watched my monkey mind swing from branch to branch to endless branch the other evening in a dark twilight guided meditation there in the open-air Trimurti hut, the silence juxtaposing so dramatically the clatter and chatter and buzz of our animated [dirty] dinner conversation, and it was a lesson in learning to watch and not judge and sit and be still in spite of the persistent mosquitoes sampling my blood. Good bites and bruises all over the place. A tiny frog sat with me and shared Paschimottanasana last night. And a little black dog, he who runs the place, shared Padangusthasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana (naturally) the day before.

All good. Adventures set for this week, a Thai massage here and a climb there and really just a savoring of this seemingly timeless moment of life. I can't imagine this experience without the yoga, or the chant, or the people, or the rain.

Sambasadasiva, sambasadasiva, sambasadasiva, jai jai om.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

Report from Bali:

Briefest of brief little check-ins now here at 11pm my time, just south of the equator, as y'all on the West Coast are just waking up. I'm sunburned and stretchy and singing and loving so much more than I even expected this sensation of being unplugged. No phone, no internet (save a rare few minutes every few days), no watch, no nothing except my breath and the yoga and this moment and that sky and that wind off the Indian Ocean just outside my door.

The days have been packed and yet remarkably, refreshingly free of commitment. Their pace feels right and slow and present and so not frenetic in a way that I've not experienced for some time. I feel like they've barely scratched the surface, and yet even being back home in SF last week feels light years away. A reset button, to be sure.

The yoga is heart and center here in this wee adventure, of course, but I'm finding that yoga to take different forms: as early morning and late night walks through the rice paddies with folks chanting Sanskrit melodies; as long conversations on shielded front porches in the midst of late afternoon downpours; as a learning to sit with incredibly thick humidity and crispy skin and the certain sense of how very close the sun is to us here, now, small, burning, a blip in the sand next to that loaming Indian Ocean.

I find myself wishing for more time, before the time has even begun to pass. You know, stay longer, finish my book, write another, be an ex-pat, screw the urban thing. There is a slow grace to the lushness and the strong dark coffee and the getting up at 5:30am that I love, love, love. Almost as much as the technology detox.

Clichéd update, I know. Probably all things that you expected to hear. But I feel it often throughout the day, in flashes, in moments, that in spite of the whirlwind required to make this urban hiatus happen, it was perfect, it is perfect; it was necessary, it is necessary; it is right. And being present for that? Well, that's the practice. That's the life, whether you're in Bali or San Francisco or Timbuktu.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Ready to get my inner Nellie Forbush on.

Fly out to Bali tonight after a whirlwind week of finding subs and tying up loose ends and all the usual pre-South Pacific trip kind of prep. But we're here, now, and finally looking ready to roll, so I'll say sayonara for now and promise to check in now and then with an update from yoga paradise.

(I've been singing Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes all week. Knew that old '96 musical turn would come in handy the next time I'd be standing on a Polynesian beach dancing around in a vintage bikini singing about washing that man right outta my hair. Already have the vintage bathing beauty suits packed and ready to be rocked. Though in this version, there might be a yoga mat involved, as well.)

I'll be posting a pic here and there, depending on time and access. You might have better luck finding brief updates over at Rachel Meyer Yoga, as well. In the meantime, take good care, keep practicing, keep reading, keep breathing, and I'll see you on the flipside. Back to the mat Sat. April 16th in Oakland, ready to rock and roll, and hopefully with a lot of new writing to share, as well.

Peace out, sailors.

(And here's your sing-a-long old-school Mitzi Gaynor version of "Wonderful Guy," in case you're feeling the SoPac nostalgia love yourselves.)