Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Engagement, Weddings, and Punk Rock: A Long-Time Marriage Cynic Puts A Ring On It


I'm getting married in September.

This is weird.

Ask any of my long-time friends. They'll toss out barbs about pigs flying and hell freezing over.

* * *

I never wanted to get married.

In fact, for about 15 years, I was vehemently against it.

When my little sis got engaged back in 2006, I congratulated her sarcastically on "getting branded" and "tagged" with her new bauble.

She was not amused.

I was against marriage out of solidarity for my gay brother, who couldn't get married even if he wanted to; against it for all the queer people I know and love who can't benefit from state-sanctioned support for their unions; against it having read everything that's been written about how contemporary marriage blows and how it's based on the exchange of property and rooted in obsolete patriarchal traditions marking women as chattel and how it celebrates a myth of female virginity and means your sex life will dwindle to a slow nothing and how the whole wedding-industrial-complex is one big gross consumeristic pretty-pretty-princess opportunity for women to become sniveling, selfish, narcissistic high-maintenance brats for a day.

You get the picture.

I scoffed (internally, quietly, judgmentally, self-righteously) at my peers who got married at 21.

It wouldn't be me.  No sir, not this one.

I was a lone ranger, I would be punk rock, countercultural, against the grain, I would have nothing to do with a suburban bourgeois existence. I would be Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, living a Parisian-style sexually liberated bohemian intellectual life. Anti-establishment, outside the box, certainly not constrained by life-sucking bourgeois institutions.

My parents married young (well, relatively so, I suppose, though they were very normal for their generation) and were probably married about 15 years longer than they should've been.  Inertia, Newton's first law, you know.  They weren't miserable miserable; they just outgrew one another. Let's just say their model didn't exactly give me hope that marriage could last (and thrive, and grow) for decades.  And most marriages around me seemed to reflect that same stagnant, murky, muddy energy.

Ironically, over the last few years, I've officiated four weddings for dear friends.  But that was different.  At least, it felt really different.  It was a sacred gift, a precious honor, a rare opportunity to be present in their relationships in a most-intimate, most-beloved kind of way.  And I will ever savor those four ceremonies in my mind, such that every time their anniversaries roll around, I find myself transported in memory to those breathless moments on Long Island, in New Hampshire, in Los Altos Hills, and on Railay Beach, Thailand. And I hope and I pray and I know that each of those couples' sacred commitments will stand the test of time.

But that still doesn't mean I thought marriage was for me.  I was quite happy to be the autonomous Rev. Rach, post-ceremony cocktail in hand, free to slip out at the end of the party and quietly go my own way.

* * *

BUT — you know what?

You get older.  You experience loss.  You realize that we don't get this life forever.  Your parents die.  Your grandparents die.  You make your own life, you become your own safety net, your siblings spread out far across the country and your existence takes on a whole new shape.  And in all of that, you realize that very basic, seemingly-crass-but-simply-honest anthropological truth, that this is how life works: you're born, you age, your family of origin dies off or moves away, you find a partner and create a new family.  Simple shit, really.  Same thing whether you're talking prehistoric peeps or 21st century ones.

So, anthropology in mind, you start to soften to the fact that this whole bizarro wedding industry thing is less an oppressive outdated excuse for narcissistic self-celebration and more just the most-recent cultural ritual for marking this evolution, this transfer, from family of origin to family of choice.  Neanderthals back in the day did something similar, you are sure, just with less taffeta and more loincloths.

Even though you still want to vomit when you watch Bridezilla reality tv shows or run across ads for bridal magazines.

* * *

BUT — then one Thursday evening in late spring 2011, while assisting for MC Yogi, you put your hand on some dude's lower back in Pigeon and he whips around in irritation to see who the hell's touching him, and it turns out to be MC's best friend, and after class he stops over to say thanks and hello in a deep rich radio voice, and he's charming and smart and sexy and confident and a long-time yogi, so you toss him your card and rush out to meet some girlfriends for the dinner date you're 45 minutes late to join...

...and two springs later, you're engaged.

* * *

Time has softened my college-age radical feminism a bit.  Loss has done that, too, as has Buddhism.  These days, I may shave my legs or wear a miniskirt or sport glittery toenail polish from time to time, but I still have no desire to crank any funds into the wedding-industrial complex.  I feel shy about even the idea of having to walk down an aisle and have people turn around to look at me.  I have zero interest in planning a $50,000 party or sending out frou-frou invitations or worrying about all the rest of that superficial girl shit we are supposed to care about.

So we're doing it our own way.  Sweet, simple, rustic, perfect, us.  Surrounded by the people we love.  In a place that feels like home.  Sacred, thoughtful, real.  Intentional.

There will be no Princess Jasmine dresses or pastel cummerbunds a la the kind your little brother wore in Junior High show choir.  There will be no 8-piece wedding band and there will most certainly be no awkward reception entrances or YouTube-worthy first dances.  There will be no expensive registry and certainly no horse and carriage.  Fuck that shit.

And don't even get me started on that word fiancé.

But, damn: partnership is sweet.  How lovely it is to have someone waiting for you at the airport.  To list a life insurance beneficiary who's not your sister (no offense, Bek).  To share a caesar salad with the croutons on the side (for him) and extra parmesan (for you).  To meet his family and find that they're kind and warm and oh-so-thoughtful.  To wake up and go to bed with the same open, living, loving, breathing, practicing creature.

And then he ends up being even more fantastic than you realized, and he laughs well and works hard and fixes the car and makes homemade almond milk and runs a mean vacuum and has great taste in music and buys fresh flowers and reads the NYT in the sun on the porch and cleans the toilet and makes you a fire in the fireplace while you stay under the covers so you don't have to get up in the cold and nails a killer Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B next to you there on the mat. And his light, his ease, his stillness is the perfect counterpart to your seriousness, your ambition, your freneticism.  You find that rare combination of ease and laughter and the desire to hang out all the time and maybe even to someday produce small people who look like him.

(WHAAAA?!?!?)

As an introvert especially, I know the rarity of finding both comfort and strength in another — that perfectly balanced blend of Shtira Sukha Asanam, effort and ease, strength and softness — that we seek on the mat and off. And there is great power in speaking commitment in community; in affirming, in front of the people closest to you, that rare experience of another person feeling like home.

I don't harbor any delusions about permanence or things always being rosy.  At times, they might blow.  Such is the nature of life.  And nobody gets married thinking they'll be the ones to divorce.  But I do know that there's a sweet kind of ease, of laughter, of solidarity here that I've not experienced before.  And it's worth fighting for, working for, committing to.  I like the active implications of the word "engaged": meaning, present, aware, active, not-on-autopilot. To me, that's what commitment looks like: commitment to being engaged, commitment to staying present, commitment to being in this for the long haul.

Commitment to growing old together.

* * *

Sure, there are scary bits about it.  I fear being a sellout.  I worry about betraying my queer friends.  I'm old by Heartland standards: 34.  OB-Gyns warn about drying up with a clucky tone in their voices.  (Shut up, I say.)  Between our recent purchases of both a crockpot AND a Vitamix, I fear that I've crossed over into that very suburban bourgeois territory I've always loathed.  (Don't even get me started on the vacuum.)  I'm terrified about not having the same space to write or create that I had as a committed singleton.

But there's also that little thing called companionship.  The joy of feeling that you've got one anothers' backs. And the fact it gives my Lutheran mother in Nebraska something heteronormative to tell her church-lady friends about, something that she understands, something she's excited about, and that's incredibly healing for our tenuous relationship.  And the fact that every time I see him walk around the corner, I get a buzz in my throat, and a whirl in my belly, and it's warm, and I'm home.

* * *

I'm learning that you can either reject old models and fight to live outside them (in which case, good luck ever getting that health insurance), or you can step into the old and crack them open from the inside.

The question is: how to queer it?  How to make this marriage thing your own without becoming just one more contributor to the wedding-industrial-complex?

My colleague Andrea talks about changing your story.  We get stuck in one way of being or another — I am straight or gay, perpetually single or a serial monogamist, I'm a morning person or a night owl, a feminist, a douchebag, a pushover, whatever.  If there's one lesson that yoga and Buddhism have taught me, it's that our stories are just that: stories.  Illusions.  Ephemeral, fluid, transient, ever-changing.  To get attached to one identity without remaining open to unexpected others (hello, love!) is to resist the natural way of the world, to swim constantly upstream whilst fighting against the current and clinging with everything we've got to that one old skinny rotten decaying branch.

Perhaps, then, the most radical thing for this anti-marriage post-feminist queer to do is to slap a big honking ring on my finger.  (I did, actually, and secretly, it feels great.  He chose it, lovingly, bought from a sweet 60-something man from Long Island who runs his own jewelry shop in West Marin.  I am crazy about it, not because I was ever a bling kind of girl, but because it reminds me of him, and his love, and his kindness, every time I look at it.  It could be a gumball machine ring, for all I care.  It'd be just as beautiful).  Maybe the hardest, most noble work is to transform the institution from the inside out, to queer the symbols, to make them our own.

Hell, Virginia Woolf did it.  Joan Didion did it.  Sylvia Plath tried, and it was too much for her to take, okay, yes, so she made the kids some sandwiches and stuck her head in the oven while Ted was away.  But, dude: even Gloria Steinem did it in her golden years, decades after ripping the whole institution apart.

Three outta four ain't bad, as odds go.

If those brilliant, passionate, iconoclastic, highly-literate, incredibly-autonomous feminist chicks could find a way to negotiate marriage, to make it their own, I suppose I can, too.

You can hold off on the registry, though.  No silverware sets to validate our love.

We've already got everything we need.

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


Did Jesus do yoga?

This is a very good brief article from New World Library about one of my favorite books: Russill Paul's Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality.

Here's a blurb from the interview with Paul:
Why is Christianity in crisis today?  
First, Christianity needs to become more inclusive and take more time to understand and appreciate the value other traditions. Second, it needs to provide more advanced forms of practice for those who want to go deeper into the tradition. There is no gradient for the inner, mystical life for mystically enthusiastic and the more educated practitioners. Third, it has to find optional ways to present its deepest truths and practices to other traditions without emphasizing conversion or acceptance of Jesus as a personal Savior to the other. 
Why is Yoga so popular in the west? 
First, because it provides tangible results, both immediate as well as long term. Second, because it is both practical and spiritual simultaneously. Third, it is answering a deep need that Christianity is not meeting: a need for the mystical dimension. 
Can a Christian practice Yoga? 
Absolutely! Yoga does not require a Christian to give up faith in Jesus as a personal savior nor compromise any core theological views, such as that of the Trinity. One can actually use the techniques of Yoga to develop concentration in prayer and deepen relationship with God. 
Can Yoga help Christians? 
Without any doubt Yoga can help anyone, and is of special help to Christians, showing them how the body can be actively involved in prayer, transformed into a living temple of the Holy Spirit, and become a tabernacle for Christ consciousness. 
Why are Christians fearful of Yoga? 
Christians are fearful because Christian leaders do not understand or appreciate Yoga; they are worried that it will take Christians away from their faith in Christ Jesus. These fears are unfounded and based on prejudice and lack of proper understanding. 
Will the practice of Yoga take a Christian away from his or her faith? 
Absolutely not! Once Christian practitioners are allowed to practice Yoga, it will only deepen their faith and experience of Christ. 
Was Jesus influenced by Yoga? 
Forms of thinking and sacred speech that developed in India found their through the caravans of the Silk road to Alexandria and Capernaum. Some of these ideas would have definitely influenced Jesus as evidenced in the Gnostic Gospel of St. John....
There's more.  Read the whole thing.

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

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.







Asana pancakes from Yummi Yogi.

Yes, please.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

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




Could not be happier to be returning to Gospel Flat Farms to lead this WildSoul Farm-to-Table yoga feast with my creative and earth-connected friends over at Solyoga Trips.

Join me in Bolinas on Sunday, March 10th.

We'll get our hands dirty.  And leave with our hearts — and our bellies — full.



All photos courtesy WildSoul

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


I'm subbing for MC YOGI this Saturday morning in Point Reyes. Keep it in mind as you plan your weekend. This place is mad-dreamy.

10am @ Yoga Toes Studio.

(Oh, and that's Amanda, and Nicholas, and the Mo.  Co-founders of the studio, artists, musicians, yogis, and their dog-named-after-Gandhi-who-really-owns-the-place. Awesomeness all around.)

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


Hey lovers.

We had such a good time Tuesday evening at our debut book club gathering.  Seriously, like, heart-burstingly good.  20 smart cool thoughtful passionate down-to-earth beings.  I've been smiling for 36 hours.

We're just about ready to roll out details on next month's book.  Heads-up on all of that info soon.

In the meantime, check out this sweet shot that Gary snapped quickly that evening.  It was a twinkly good time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

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



I'm nerdily excited for our first yogi book club meeting tomorrow night. Are you coming?

It's all good if you didn't quite get through the book, BTW. Just come anyway.

Bring: yourself, something sweet to share (if you can, or a bottle of cheap Pinot is cool, too), your questions, and suggestions for future books. Super chill.

7pm, OMpower Cycling and Yoga.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Next Big Thing

My friend Joslyn Hamilton reached out to me a few weeks ago about participating in this wee little writer's circle project called The Next Big Thing.  It's basically a chain of writers talking about their next projects.  You know Joslyn as the genius behind RecoveringYogi. She's a freelance writer, a take-no-prisoners editor, a craft-war queen, a grammar nazi, a former "yogi-to-the-stars" who lived to tell the [real, gritty, not-so-shiny] tale, and generally a most-rad lady. I appreciate her candor, her humor, and her willingness to be absolutely unbuffered. Plus, she digs a good hike.

Point being: I totes respect her work.

So when Joslyn invited me to participate in this little project, of course I had to say yes. Last Friday she blogged about her newest work-in-progress, a book called Half-Assed Buddhist that I would most def buy. And this week it's my turn to sing a little ditty or two about one of the projects I'm working on in the between-times of my day-to-day life.

Disclaimer: this is at once terrifying and liberating. You wouldn't believe how much superstition and caution most of us writerly types have about speaking our projects out loud in, ahem, words. [Irony noted.] In fact, four different really fabulous writer friends to whom I reached out about participating in this little circle declined because of that very reason. It's pretty scary to put your shit out there. So props to all of y'all who are willing to do so at this early juncture.  I know that, for me, it's a big hairy scary step to articulate this little baby.

Here's to balls. And coffee. And cocktails. Which make it all possible.


What is your working title of your book? 
Bartendasana: Martini-Soaked Tales For the Rogue Yogi 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Oh geez.  It's been percolating for a long time.  Like, 8 years. 
Mostly, it came about because I got really sick of reading crappy inspirationalist rainbows-and-unicorns-style writing about yoga.  The kind that's full of platitudes and moronic uplifting talk of manifesting and letting go.  I wanted to write something that felt real, something that felt intelligent, something that actually managed to meld legit philosophy and theology with the stuff of the real world. I did my graduate work in Marxist body theologies; basically looking at ways to ground the sacred in the profane, to explode those binaries and land the transcendent in the day-to-day.  And I wanted to do that to a hyperbolic degree, transferring the often-esoteric and misunderstood teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and yoga philosophy into the real-world, relatable, dirty, sweaty schtuff of life.   
Also, I just really dig the idea of a rogue yogi. 

What genre does your book fall under?
Uhhhh....theology?  Philosophy?  Contemporary non-fiction urban narrative?  Vaguely-shrouded memoir?  All of the above.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
I dunno about that.  I'm way too much of a control freak to let someone else take the reins on an adaptation.  Let's say: Marion Cotillard, 'cause she's fabulous.  Zooey Deschanel, for the same reasons, plus bangs.  Russell Brand, 'cause he's got a little yoga street cred already.  And Hugh Jackman, just so we could insert a sexy baritone solo somewhere in there.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Bartendasana grounds the esoteric concepts of yoga philosophy in the stuff of real life, shining light and humor on the aching, breaking, sweating, breathing, loving, suffering, bumbling day-to-day experience of being alive in a body.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
Represented by an agency for bazillions of dollars.  Duh.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I've been dabbling in it for years, here and there.  Probably since about 2006, when I realized I was burned out on academia and wanted to find a way to speak all the rad countercultural theological truths I was studying in grad school in words that folks could actually relate to.  On and off, more off than on.  You know, distracted by teaching asana and falling in love and drinking tequila and reading other peoples' books and baking cakes and moving and planning a wedding and figuring out Twitter and watching Jon Stewart and all kinds of other really good reasons not to actually sit down and finish it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
Umm.  I really don't know.  Yoga Bitch?  Misadventures of a Garden-State Yogi?  Stretch?  Except heavier on the theology and the urbanity factors.  And less flatulence.  And more vodka.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
My lack of interest in the boring academic spin on this stuff.  The clear need for a yoga counterculture (thanks, Joslyn, that's all you) to balance out the Pollyanna-esque rainbows-and-unicorns spirit that tends to pervade the scene.  The emergence of a "yoga scene" at all, which makes me want to curl up in a ball and shout that "it's not about the expensive pants!"  The desire to offer a populist understanding of some of these often hard-to-approach ancient texts and ideas.  And the realization that my own life, my own experience of being in a body that aches and breaks and feels and heals, has been so transformed, so touched, so eased by knowing these teachings.  And the wanting to share that in a way that feels real and embodied.  And the certainty that you can still be a yogi if you have margaritas for lunch.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Oh boy.  Lots of swearing.  And instant enlightenment upon reading.

* * *

Now that that's over with (whew!), please take a look at these fine friends and fellow writers who'll be answering these very same questions about their upcoming and/or recently-published projects next week.




Mira Rubiano, a Burlington, VT-based writer and yoga teacher who'll be posting about a compilation of narrative essays related to her experiences as a nomad living abroad, negotiating the subtle cultural nuances of social interaction — ranging from when things have gone well to where they have gone horribly array — on her blog, mirarubiano.com.







Mikah Meyer, a Washington, DC-based professional singer and writer who'll be blogging about his current work-in-progress, a humorous travelogue memoir detailing his year-long road trip through the US titled Life's More Fun When You Talk to Strangers.  You can find Mikah at www.mikahmeyer.com — and he'll be posting a guest-blog right here next week.





Ryan Case, a Philadephia-area scientist who'll be blogging about his recently-published novel, MASALAI, a thriller that scientifically explores the origins of popular supernatural folklore (think vampires and werewolves).  MASALAI draws from Ryan's own Ph.D fieldwork in Papua New Guinea.  It's a great choice for when you want a fun escape from the real world — e.g. poolside with a margarita — and available now for e-readers (and in print next month).  You can find Ryan's post next week at www.masalaibook.com.






Sarah McCarron, a Los-Angeles based actor and writer who'll be blogging about one of her current projects, Not One, Not Two, a documentary film on meditation in the west.  She's currently at a Zen Brain retreat conducted by several of the neuroscientists and philosophers who work with the Dalai Lama under the umbrella of the Mind & Life Institute.  (In other words: wow.)  Sarah will be guest-posting on my blog (right here, baby!) when she re-enters the "real" world next week.







Chris Delyani, an Oakland-based writer who'll be blogging about his most recent book, You Are Here, published last fall, which features a San Francisco artist and the love triangle that changes his life.  You can find more on Chris and his previous books at www.chrisdelyani.com.  Plus, I learn a ton from him via Twitter.  Just sayin'.







Lisa Munger, a fellow Lincoln High grad, journalist, and yoga teacher who's now doing inspiring work melding Ayurveda and yoga in Des Moines, Iowa.  Lisa will be blogging about her current projectHip Chick's Guide to Ayurveda: Breaking Down Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life, which is a collection of regular articles offering a down-to-earth perspective on Ayurveda, moving closer toward answering the question, "Ayur-whaa?"  You can find her post next week at www.lisamunger.com/blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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


Busily, happily birthing this new baby.

Wishing you a hushed and holy Ash Wednesday.
It's always been one of my favorite liturgical holidays. The best parts of Christianity + Buddhism, all wrapped into one.  

Remember that you are dust, 
and to dust you shall return.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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




When you feel sad, feel sad.  Be in it.  Offer it tenderness and a spirit of curiosity.  The yogi's project is not to deny all complicated feelings in favor of forced joy, but to sit with everything human that arises and trust it will pass.  As everything always does.