For the last 9 months or so, Monday mornings have meant hustling out the door at the crack of dawn, packing a bag for the day with a couple of apples, a change of clothes, and my laptop, joining the rest of the North Bay morning rush hour traffic to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Southbound 101, and spending the day bookended between teaching a 9am class in the City and a 7:45pm class in Oakland, with an opportunity for some sweat and some silence in between.
But my schedule has shifted a bit of late, which means this Monday morning in May finds me contentedly ensconced in my home office (read: perched on a barstool at my blue tile countertop with a wood fire raging to my right, a bouquet of sweet peas at 12 o'clock, and an empty coffee cup at left).
For years, really, before I started teaching, Mondays were always my day off, and I secretly adored the fact that the rest of the world was dragging off to work, heads heavy, while I got to savor a quiet morning in my pajamas curled up with the Sunday paper and a bottomless cup of coffee. Now that life has come full circle and I'm settling back into that mellow-Monday rhythm, it feels pretty damn good.
Sixteen things I'd like to write about this morning, but the fire's flaring and I'm ready to launch into the Primary Series in a few, so I'll be brief.
(Speaking of, this is great. And true. Read it.)
We enjoyed a much-appreciated chill weekend for the first time in awhile; lots of sunshine, stillness, reading, and good friends. A few of whom are pictured above right, with our man Buddha himself. (This is the only photo in which I am not inadvertently grabbing Buddha's breasts.) Had the pleasure of celebrating our good friend Chris's 60th on Saturday evening (whilst wearing blonde Britney Spears wigs, another story completely), which meant a jaunt to Petaluma that reminded me how much incredible scenery is at my feet, right here in Northern California. Really hard to imagine living anywhere else — well, that is, except in those moments when we number-crunch the possibility of buying a house and I realize that Wyoming is really the place to be if you wanna be doing any buying.
The roses are busting out in the side yard. As of this morning, we've got brilliant red, soft yellow, a peachy-pink, and a yellow-pink-hybrid. Plus irises. Plus something else that I don't yet recognize.
Waking to crickets and stillness and an odd horse-whinny and the low buzz of oncoming summer lends a certain ease to the day. I find myself thinking often of Annie Dillard (Live like the weasels, Rach!) and Willa Cather, and feeling in their writing the deep knowingness that is understanding the ways in which our natural topography, the land, the life that thrums around us, can change our days.
We are thinking about buying a greenhouse.
(“People need to realize how powerful the transformation of soil can be,” he said, with a hint of evangelism. “We’ve gotten so far away from our food source. It’s been hijacked from us. But if you get soil, plant something in it and water it, you can feed yourself. It’s that simple.”)
My neighbor Peggy and her husband Jim (both amazingly inspiring teachers, yogis, and people) grow nearly all their own food, make their own honey, and are generally just rock-your-world quietly-incredible folks. I admire them so much. I aspire to their blend of authenticity and travel and wisdom and sauciness and warmth.
(“People in my neighborhood are so disconnected from the fresh food supply that kids don’t know an eggplant from a sweet potato,” Mr. Finley said. “We have to show them how to get grounded in the truest sense of the word.”)
I'm drinking homemade almond milk in my coffee this morning. (Thanks to the Mister.)
I'm not driving anywhere.
I'm listening, a lot.
You should look into the podcasts from Against The Stream. You maybe already know their meditation work as a subsidiary of Noah Levine's book, Dharma Punx. Both worth your time.
There is so much to learn.
And the more I know, the more I realize how little I know.
Clichéd, but true.
And you should hope that any and every teacher who purports to share "yoga" should feel the same way. 200 hours is just a toe in the water, my friends.
We've been reading Hafiz every day. This book, the one I recommended a few months ago. It's so great. Silly, light, wise, deep, sorrowful, endlessly joyful. Carefree, in the sense that it acknowledges the base of all that is sacred, the divinity and the ease that transcends, that undergirds, everything seemingly small or large in our lives.
It felt so good to celebrate Chris the other night. As a blonde, in a maxi-dress, with toy musical instruments all around. (Part-ayyyy!) He has done a great deal for so many; really is the heartbeat of this small community, and the love with which he was toasted was a direct result of the endless offerings he presents (oh-so-humbly) on a daily basis with no expectation of return. Ishvara pranidhana, my friends. Doing it all for the joy of doing, finding the perfection in the process.
(There's a new production based on The Gospel of Mary Magdalene this summer at the SF Opera. So excited. AND, it features Nathan Gunn, baritone-dreamboat extraordinaire. Do not miss.)
Yesterday after class a student came up to me and thanked me in particular for the short meditation we had done together at the end of class, before savasana. He said he'd had a meditation practice for 40 years and it meant a lot to him. I was struck by his gratitude and so happy to know he liked it. Because that brief meditation — a couple of silent breaths, in which we hold the stillness together in that refuge, that sanctuary of the breath — is one of my favorite parts of class, too.
If not the favorite.
Slipping together into that sweaty hushed silence, holding the stillness together, hearing the sirens blow by outside, listening to the sound of one another breathing, feeling the wet heaviness of the air, smiling tenderly when the inevitable errant cell phone rings. It's sacred. It's dear. It's a blip of stillness of our own creation in the midst of otherwise harried days. And I would not trade those few shared breaths for anything.
Start where you are.
Your life is the path.
Susan Piver writes in this morning's meditation practice:
In meditation, it is not helpful to be mad at yourself for the inability to be peaceful. Start where you are. Start with sorrow. Start with rage. Start with boredom/anxiety. Start with high hopes. Start with disappointment. Start with your very own body, breath, and mind. Your experience IS the practice. There is nowhere else to go. Within your own experience, the entire path can be found. Please give it a try anyway and see for yourself. I will try too.I fucking love that.
Yes, yes, yes. Start where you are. Atha yoga anusasanum. Assuming that you have everything you need, here, now, enough.
I don't really think of myself as a yoga teacher anymore. Lately, if anything, I think of myself as a meditation teacher. A moving meditation teacher. I don't give a shit if you can put your foot behind your head. That open hip, that stretchy hamstring won't necessarily lend you mental peace. I do care if you can follow the breath, if you can watch it rise, watch it fall, if you can witness your thoughts and know they are not you.
That's all. The body will come and go. The body is an illusion. The body that you know now as yours is nothing like what you were born into (soft and malleable and oh-so-hydrated), and is very little like what it might someday be (bald and wrinkly and arthritic and hunched over).
I have been aware of this lately, this sense of the body as illusory, as merely a fluid, ephemeral veil. Several of my friends are getting married around the same time I am, and they're in full-on diet/work-out/body sculpt mode, like, actively shaping a new outward shell. And I sit back and watch what they're doing, and admire their mindfulness and their deliberacy, and how sweetly excited they are about feeling optimally fit and healthy for their weddings, and a little part of me wishes I cared, but another bigger part doesn't, and I don't even wanna get on the same boat, because the body's an illusion, yo, and life is so short and precious and unknowable, so I put some water on to boil for pasta and open up the Mt Tam and pour another cocktail. The wedding's a few months away, sure, and if my belly hangs out a little or my arms are jiggly, sweet, dude. My dress is stretchy and beautiful and comfortable like a pair of velour sweats. And today, I want to have a gin fizz and eat cheese with my baby and enjoy this moment, this life, this day. Maybe because I know that the body I bring to a wedding day is just an illusion, just like the body we bring to any other day of our lives.
You are not this body. You are not your hair color. You are not your BMI. Or your BMW.
(Smiling at my own cleverness. That's a sharp one, Rach. Good job.)
Ease. Go for ease. Go for comfort in your skin. Knowing full well that you are not even your skin. It will change, too. Someday, if you're lucky, you'll have liver spots.
Good job, you.
Good job being alive in this life that is all tired Mondays and sweet Saturday evening birthday potlucks and sunny morning visits from beloved friends who don't like to hike.
It's amazing to me how much easier life gets when you can live in a spirit that is unattached. Unattached to whether you buy a home or not. Unattached to what number is on the scale. Unattached to whether your job shifts or not. Unattached to what the next day brings, never naming it as "good" or "bad," just letting it be as it is, rooted in a spirit of non-reactive equanimity.
Just like that wise farmer, whose story I think of every time something goes "wrong."
("The yogi accepts a pleasant turn of events with equanimity, knowing that pleasure and pain never last forever....It is wise to give thanks for everything that happens, knowing that the present situation can change in an instant.)
Meeting every moment with what it has to offer, and seeing the God within.
Because it's all God. Duh.
Sound said to me, "I want to be holy." And I replied, "Dear, what is the problem? You already are."
Then sound quipped back, "What do you mean?"
"Well, the wind speaks, does it not? And what about the refrain of geese? And what of the moo and the baa and the rooster at dawn,
and the chorus from the sea and the rain, and the thunder? Is not all a part of God, thus sacred?
I think God has surrounded us; we better give up, or God might bring out the heavy
artillery . . . like just outright lifting His skirt everywhere. Think of all the sweet madness that would cause."