Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Deep Ends 

At Ananda. The ashram, and often the state.

When the family of deer join me for pre-practice dawn-lit lakeside sitting. The flirting flitting butterflies swoop up and down as I sit watching the mirrorgreen lake change light. When people listen, really listen, with hearts open and minds empty. When I receive a hug'n'kiss or give a backrub- for no reason other than to receive and give. And I do.

Plunge hotheadfirst into the deep end of the cool blue and white pool- on its side, in Devanagari (Sanskrit script): Yoga Chikitsa Svimming Pool. Letting the day sink to the bottom as I emerge from a deep dive into the twilight night, cool breeze stolen nightkisses on my cheek, endless skies darkening as I float on shimmering pink-hued surface. Hours-long meals that I help serve and clear and prepare, with the love and attention that is their due. Creating sukha, or good space, for the guests who come and go and come and go. Inside, outside.

Pluck a plum from the branch less then an arm's reach from my second-story converted barnhouse building. My room here, that I've returned to almost every Sunday since March, is blue like my bedroom in India. This one is fancy, with gold-paint trim around doors and the two (two!) windows. At night in bed, I can count stars in the sky overhead. Usually three, then sweet sleep until morninglight (that I am so deprived of in my littleplace in the City, whose solitary window faces two taller buildings, others'lives) wakes me.

After quiet coffee and cleanup, self-practice is at the Lake House yoga room. Which, although not quite a house in the lake, does overlook its goldengreenbrownbluegreygreen expanses. Back when there were still blazing snowy footsteps on it, frozen memories of a long winter, the sun would embark on his ascent throught the skies right around Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) number two or three, and finishing postures bathed in spun wintergolds. Now I just try to beat the heat, birdsongs and kitchensounds punctuating the end of practice and start to day. Usually go straight to morning meditation and fire ceremony (like a mini puja) with Vedic chants for peace and healing and other cool things.

Depending on workload (for those of us in the work-study program, not to be confused with the Guests or weekend warriors. One of many parallels to my Mysore experience where there is that natural but unmistakable same distinction, between folks there for 3,4,5-plus months versus the one-monthers or so-called yoga tourists. Often, this second group is just as hardworking and honorable and honest as the former. Sometimes not, though. Which is cool, too. It takes a lot to go spend your time off at an ashram, much more to go off to South India. Same materials, different blown-glass shapes. Because sometimes, we get a lot of hot air blowin' around, regardless of where we are. Ah, so.), I may stay for more chanting (sometimes Sutra, sometimes Upanishad, most recently Ramayana) and, later, Sanskrit class.

Not recently, the latter. Not much abhyasa, there, not now at least. Once upon a time, whet my appetite with a three-day immersion at Eddie's; Vyaas Houston-American Sanskrit Institute- teaches an illumined and fun intro with a beautiful teaching model, echoes of which I still apply today. Alas, few letters were there, after. Initially took Laksmeesh-of-Guruji's-shala beginner/intro course because I was eager to pronounce stuff correctly in a language that boasts four "t" and "d" sounds, as well as two (two!) esses ("S"). Plus a "shuh". Hunh. Then, second month came because of the thrill of seeing the Gita and various beloved chants become slowly unveiled. Letters copulate and meld and manifest in new shapes as they blend to make new sounds and new challenges. Third month came because I got hooked, and because I wanted to chant at Guruji's birthday, and because I wanted to practice so I could get at a point where I could chant as fast as I could read. Or vice-versa.

That point has kept receding to the horizon as I've been focused on things other.
Except for one sun-drenched wintery day, when Ma Bha (one of the swami's senior disciples) sat me down in the gold-cushioned armchair opposite hers, sun framing her greywhite head and marigold robes, and had me read through the entire second Pada (foot, step, or book) of the Yoga Sutras. Sadhana Pada. Read through the Devanagari, that is. So I did.

Another point on the liquid horizon, for a really-really long time, has been, "when I start to teach. When I am teaching." Now that I am "Certified", the golden passport is there. Coulda done without, as folks have for millenia, but glad I did, as folks in the West do. Feel like I was a teacher before, and I am one now. I just say I am with a touch more conviction, now. The first time I actually acknowledged this was last fall, after a lovely chat with someone who was at the time new to Eddie's. "Are you a teacher". Yes, I am. No somedays or excuses or coy remarks about being dilettantish. Yes, I will.

Armed with the golden ticket, approached the senior vinyasa teacher here at the ashram about possibly assisting in the crowded Sunday morning class. Really so I can be exposed to different sequences (other than Ashtanga's set sequence, which I practice and will not be teaching, yet), and also so I can get in there in a low-key way. Offered a private, before he set me loose on his unsuspecting students. Agreed to meet after the next day's class. Which I was to take. Planned elaborate hip-opening vinyasa sequence, and went. He has a meeting right after his class and has to jet off, then he is subbing the evening beginners' class- unless I want to just teach it? I would be thrilled.

And I was. The auspiciously-numbered five local ladies, none or two or three classes into their yogajourneys, took me along for the ride. Lots of lower back pain softened and closed hearts gently moved to expand. None of them ran away after the class ended. They stayed with questions and praise and requests for Next Time. Which was the next day. Which I found out half an hour before I was meant to teach it. Open vinyasa class, with three teachers and three beginners. Hopefully they were all challenged and softened and learned something. I know I was.

So it was that four days out of the intensive with Alison, three weeks before I am off to Greece to hopefully teach and teach those who wish me to teach, and help and help those who let me help, I had my first paid teaching experience. With such incredulous delight and gratitude-- "...you mean I get to do this and you are giving me money to do it?!?" Said many times under my breath, like a mantra that if repeated often enough might finally make it really real. Like it might actually happen. It might.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Guru Purnima 

Today is the day of the guruteacherinnerlight. After meditation at the ashram, we chanted the Guru Stotram in its entirety, bathed in the upstate NY sunlight as the cow dung fire glowed off Ganesha's image.

Last year, I chanted with a handful of Sanskrit students that same chant (though only eight verses), in honor of Guruji on his birthday. I wish I was there, this year. Even though I have so much beauty and love here, too.

Our beloved Guruji turns ninety this year, and hundreds are in Mysore to honor and love him. Wish I was there, too. Sending so much love and gratitude that way.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dog bath 

Well I'll be. Blogging fom the Apple store on Prince Street rocks. It's free. There is music. It's free.

Nearing the last days of the last week of the yoga [boot]camp, at the oversaturation hump looking up. Too much talking. Too much information.

It's been magnificent, the workshop wetdream where it's all yogastuff, all the time, from 8 in the morning until 5 or 6 or 7 in the evening. But it's been a lot.

Am feeling increasingly like, ok, my back has been lathered and ears scrubbed and some of it was on good spots that get my back leg air-scratching in comiseration and my tail wag in glee, and some of it was not as much fun like when my ears had to be cleaned as I sat patiently, because they needed to be cleaned.

Now, am just looking forward to being clean and shaking some of it off and running around the house- and then running outside to roll and jump and play in the mud.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

August 10th 

Well, I did it. Another leap of faith for another year. Went and booked me a one-way flight to Greece. Yah-hunh, I did. My lil' studio is being subletted to a dear friend through mid-October, starting mid-July. Return flights'll be a heck of a lot cheaper off-season, and I will have had a couple of months rent from my apartment in Athens accumulated to cushion the fall. Which does not loom as deep and low as it could, since my trepidation and fears are less than they were just over a year ago, when I made that other booking for that other place so dear to my heart.

As the weight of uncertainty lifts and the unknown says hello, I look ahead as the sun pours through the window and alone, I smile. I will see my family this year, hug my dad, play with my cousins, swim in the sea, help those who ask to be helped, chat with my friends, watch the sunsets, laugh and cry and connect like I need to. Wow.

Practicalities: Alison's course is through mid-July. I want to spend my weekdays at the ashram an hour upstate, that's afforded sanctuary and company so often since March, coming to the city for weekend work at the restaurant. I can stay with friends in Queens. Hopefully make and save a little money. Absorb all I've learned and am learning. Gather up all the strength and love I've been amassing into an armfull I will present to all I love upon arrival on those other shores.

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