Sunday, February 28, 2010

So long, YogaWorks!

Today my unlimited annual membership at YogaWorks expires. I am not renewing. I've known the end was coming for some time, and have been thinking about my own use-patterns, the money, my values, and I think I've landed on the side of going to a small studio instead, supplementing with workshops and advanced trainings elsewhere. Today the little bar-coded plastic tag will come off my key-chain, sayonara.

It's a little bit sad for me, since I joined what was then Yoga Studio in September of 2005, which feels like much longer-ago than 4 1/2 years. Up until that time, Joe and I had a family membership at the JCC up the street from us, which was $105/month for both. We were using it only to take yoga three times a week. It was a pretty dreamy situation. We'd have breakfast, grab our mats and stroll up the street to class - sweet! In those days (don't know if this is still the case), the JCC would stop offering classes for the entire month of August every year, meaning we had to search elsewhere for our fix. That's what took us to Yoga Studio in Larkspur Landing in the first place. And the first time I walked in, it took my breath away a little. It's a beautiful space, and I loved being in a studio devoted to yoga (where I didn't have to feel rushed getting out of the practice room so that the frantic step aerobics people could set up). The cost certainly gave us momentary pause: $139/month each, which was an incredible escalation from what we had been paying. But we were in love, so we jumped and reveled in the number of available classes and teachers and locations.

Even as my own practice has changed, I have maintained that membership. I met and found I adored the owner of Yoga Studio, a brilliant creative woman with a genius personal style. I loved being in the space that she had made, inside of her beautiful realized vision. I made some great friends. Still, in 2007 I jumped off more into Anusara and started taking classes at Yoga of Sausalito, a one-studio space with lovely retail and sweet owners. At first, because I was doing an immersion there, my classes with my teacher were free, part of the deal. But soon I was hooked, and supplementing classes at Yoga Studio with classes in Sausie and San Francisco. I became a yoga nomad, moving between studios and across bridges, in search of the teaching I wanted.

Suddenly last year, after I'd made my annual unlimited membership payment to Yoga Studio, it was acquired by YogaWorks, a yoga giant with studios on the East Coast and in LA now expanding into the Bay Area market with the purchase of these three studios and the construction of another in Walnut Creek. I was suspicious of all of the anti-corporate chatter I heard about it, even as some popular teachers flew the coop, and hung in there. After all, I'd paid already, right? So I maintained my dual-citizenship, and slowly a gap opened up.

There have been some improvements. Certainly, the prices for memberships are lower: what cost me $139 in 2005 now goes for $119. But Yoga Studio was a place with great style and interesting, curious staff. Now I'm generally annoyed by YogaWorks with its neither fish-nor-fowl, pseudo-corporate but hippie-dippy vibe. The key-card is a great example of this. You'd think it would make signing in for class faster and more efficient, but there are longer lines with it than there ever were when we just signed in with ink on paper because you have to hand the key-card to the desk-staff who tend to be a little bemused. And slowly things have been slipping way. Anti-bacterial liquid hand soap appeared in the bathrooms. Then two weeks ago enormous Purell dispensers appeared both outside and inside the Mill Valley practice rooms. I know I might be more aware than your average bear of toxic, estrogenic chemicals in everyday products thanks to my work, but honestly: how do you put huge ugly sanitary towel dispensers with giant logos on them in a yoga studio? Gross! Yes, there are still some great teachers there, but the place feels to me too gym-ish now, stripped of spirit and style.

So I'm done with them, for now, and am saying good-bye. It was beautiful for a long time, but that part's over and I'm moving on.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baby, I Love You

I planted seeds last weekend, the first of the season. And darling little Arugula already emerged, 5 days later, sweet baby leaves reaching for the sun. Oh Arugs, how I love you. In just 35-40 days, I'll be adding you to everything on my plate.

It's so exciting to have begun the spring planting already. Last weekend I filled our seed starter, 12 each of Arugula, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chard, 48 Gourmet Baby Greens. Might seem like a lot, but we'll be trading some and generally growing a lot of food this year, now that we have twice the plantable space we had last spring. Tomorrow, I'll be sowing Peas, Carrots and Radishes directly into the newly-amended soil. Thank you, languid long vermicompost worms, for the black gold you gave us in exchange for all those ends of bread, vegetable peelings and dog hair! It's such a remarkable process every single time, how something becomes nothing and nothing becomes something all over again. Honestly, why look anywhere else for miracles, Dorothy, when they're right in your own backyard?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Show Your Self, or May all Captives Eat Their Captors

I had a particularly crap day at work yesterday, eleven hours' worth of progressive demoralization. Really just utter crap. Woke up this morning after a night of stressy dreams with an incipient migraine (stress- and poor sleep-related), and saw again the newspiece about the SeaWorld trainer who was drowned yesterday by a captive orca. Now duh, of course, I know this story has nothing whatever to do with me, really, but it helped crystallize some thinking for me about wildness and freedom.

Honestly, my first reaction to the drowning was "Good." That might sound awful, callous, inhuman, but honestly, I instantly wished that all captive orcas would do the same, until we finally get the message and stop thinking we can keep them in the conditions we do.

And yeah, because I have a few powers of perception, I can see how that reaction is not entirely divorced from my lame, demoralizing experience of yesterday at work. I instantly went a little Orca myself and mentally took my own captors to the bottom of the pool.

At the immersion now two weeks ago, I kept coming back to one thought, which, of course, I see as a slogan on a t-shirt: Show Your Self. That seemed like the most important task we all have while we're alive: to be who we really are in all of our magnificence. And sometimes when we do so, we end up eating our captors.

[Since nothing is coincidental, I am also remembering that Martine relayed a blogpost from Zhenya late last week, relating the story of Kali eating the Raja Biktas. To read or listen to the whole thing, go here Intense how the message just keeps getting louder until we pay attention, right?]

I'm late for work but this seems like the place I should be right now, working out this Thursday Orca mood, unraveling my desire to eat my captors, to break free, to return to my pod. Maybe we should all take advantage of this reminder to check in with who we really are, magnificent free creatures who should be doing only exactly what we are. Doing tricks might be entertaining, and it might bring in the cash, but damn, what a tiny little piece of how fierce and beautiful we truly are.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Finally, we hear about the tonsil

Joe completed his chemo in January and has gradually been making his way back to 100% normal, riding his bike, working like a fiend, cooking dinner again (thank goodness), growing his hair back, and generally astounding me with his resilience, good humor and general cuteness. The one little thing we've been still worrying about is this Something on his tonsil, the Something that was still on the PET-scan after 4 rounds of chemo and which is still there. He had an MRI a few weeks ago and heard from the oncologist today. Finally.

Dr. Maloney said that what the Something is exactly remains unknown, but that it's good news that it's not a big tumor. Phew. It's a "minimal soft-tissue asymmetry." I don't recommend Googling that. I already did, and it wasn't helpful at all. Joe will see the Ear Nose and Throat specialist, whose name -- fabulously enough -- is Dr. Chin [that cracks me up no end]. Chin will either biopsy the mass on the tonsil and tell us more, or remove it altogether, biopsy it, then tell us all about it.

So really we don't know very much at all, except that I suppose it could be a lot worse. Dr. Maloney could have called and said, "Holy Shit, dude, you have a huge tumor in your throat!" but that's not what happened. We have this vague minimal soft-tissue asymmetry to explore, instead.

As usual we're staying optimistic, dealing with one thing at a time and trying not to get ahead of ourselves. When we have more news, we'll shout it from the rooftops. In the meantime, we're happy and loving every minute.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Geek with a notebook

When I say that I've set goals for 2010, I'm not kidding. My process this year resulted in two pages in my notebook, organized into neat categories (underlined in green): Personal, Business - Out of the Woods (Joe's cabinet shop), Building, Love, Financial, House, Business - New! I know I'm probably way too Type A/retentive about this process for many people's liking, but I love it. And since it's in the notebook that goes everywhere with me, it's so handy as a reference or in case I need to add something -- like last week's addition of "Stop Hating" as a goal in the Personal category.

I'm a little crazy about this particular notebook. I started it in 2004, then set it aside for a while, so it tracks a variety of adventures. It starts with notes on "developing a home yoga practice" workshop I took with Lori Salomon, then lists all the books I read in 2004, to notes for our trip to France in 2005, to business ideas, to last year's beekeeping course, to a meditation class, to inventory of 2009 blogposts, to yoga, yoga, and more yoga. At an event a few weeks ago, I put my notebook down on a chair to save a spot. When I returned, it was gone -- setting off a serious panic for me. All that personal history: gone! Fortunately, it was returned (thanks, Kalila!), ending my sense of bereftness pretty quickly. Seriously, I am never without this notebook, though I can see that I am nearing the end of its blank pages now. [Meaning that I have already started dreaming of what kind of notebook will take its place: same Moleskin style or something different, oooo maybe something Levenger?]

This notebook habit is old for me, and probably stems from the whole cahier preciousness of my French early schooling. "Harriet the Spy" has a role in it too, along with all those lockable diaries of my youth. I don't really know how to pass the time if I don't have a pen and mechanical pencil and notebook at hand. I know enough about my faulty memory never to trust that I'll remember that idea or book title or album name later. And I just plain like writing things down, something so satisfying about the shapes, so different from this exercise at the laptop.

Leafing through this book, I see that I went through my calendar (yes, another thing I carry everywhere) and wrote down the FOUR movies we saw in 2009, that challenging year. Also charming: the plan for last year's garden, with cultivation dates. Delicious to sit and remember where I've been and to consider where I thought I was going!

To support this reliance on paper, I solemnly swear to recycle and reduce my consumption of other resources. No matter how far I progress, I just can't see giving up the feeling of paper under my hands, the sweet look of letters freshly formed, not to mention this compulsion to capture thoughts and events, no matter how small, in pen and ink.

Spanda: perfection and contrast

Spanda is the fundamental creative pulsation that is life, the heart-beat at the core of everything. It's the way we describe the cycles of life, the alternation of expansion and contraction, and also the way we move in asana, from expansion (breathing in, inner body bright, sidebody long) to contraction (muscle to the bone, muscle energy) and ultimately to expansion again (organic energy). I think it's also where the brand-name Spandex comes from, just by the by, if it's helpful to think of something that's stretchy but that also pulls back in to shape. It seems to me that spanda is really just the truth of how things work, you know -- seems so basic, a law like gravity, but also so easy to lose track of...

The week before last, the week I was in the Anusara immersion and workshops with John Friend, was utter Perfection. It was 7 whole days of great: I was happy every single minute, completely present, totally engrossed, 100% lit-up, receptive, inspired, loved and committed. WOW, the total package. Even though I stayed in my own backyard, it was an awesome vacation. I was seriously high as a kite all week, even when I got my period starting mid-week (Aunt Dot normally accompanied by 3- or 4-day migraine, but not this time), even when I started to feel a head-cold coming on (held it off until Monday). Just GREAT. Perfect.

And then I went back to work. That was a rude awakening. I managed to keep some grip on the Great from the week before, but the contrast between that blissful week and the reality of my day-to-day work experience was sharp. The first day back I asked myself, "Really, this is what I get to do all day?" At the end of the second day, I felt like crying on the way back home -- just so demoralized. Later that night, I realized I had spend most of that day feeling hated and/or dismissed. By Friday, I was a bit clearer, perhaps because I knew long mat-hours and freedom were coming.

There's spanda for you, right? Of course, it's not possible (or is it?) for every week to be like the immersion week -- one or a few weeks like that a year go a long way -- and it's sure not necessary for every week to be like last week at work. Somewhere there's a middle, and I just have to find it, make it.

Now that it is the weekend, I had a perfect day yesterday. Practiced in Sausalito with Laura and Trixie and the rest of the beautiful gang, then came home and worked and puttered in the garden for hours. I started seeds and weeded and turned the compost and stared at birds, while Joe worked on the new fence, both of us completely In what we were doing, checking in and talking every once in a while, but busy at our tasks. Trix and Josh came for dinner and we ate and laughed and watched the 'Lympics and generally reveled in a great friendship. Today is more of the same. I'm home after a walk with Joe and Jasper in the rain, writing and thinking and enjoying being here and being me. Joe is off, milling more parts for the fence. Nice.

And I know that tomorrow, Monday, will necessarily be different, not as great. I'm ready for it, because I'm staying clear on what I do get to do this year, which is change it all and find that sweeter middle spot between high-as-a-kite perfection and drudgery, that middle spot that is slowly taking form.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And There's More!

Up early again today, Day 6 of the Anusara tour. This weekend is workshops. I'm doing the Intermediate/Advanced classes, and also doing seva (service), assisting the 200 or so students in the room to place their mats. Anusara classes are visually unlike other classes in that there is great store placed on the mats being lined up just-so -- none of the ragged stagger -- and the closer the better, since after all this is a group activity we're engaged in! So I'll be at the venue at 7 to mat-marshall the 8 o'clock class, observe that class (goody!), then practice from 10:30 - 12:30, mat marshall for the 1pm class, then lunch, then class from 4-6. A very full day, the first of two.

I'm really looking forward to today, since many friends who weren't at the immersion will be there. It will also be such a treat to have the opportunity to observe a class, to spectate the motion and emotion in the room. Yay!

This experience has been like being on retreat and also not. I am glad to sleep in my own bed, and most nights have hit the pillow by 9 and then been awake by about 4, just too excited to sleep more, too full of the prior days' accumulated illumination to stay down any longer. In some ways, this has been a more "real" experience than retreat, since I've had to integrate the usual routine around the long days of yoga. And really, since it's all yoga, then so are dishes and bills and chores.

I won't lie: it would certainly be delicious to go back to my cozy nest and sleep. But that's what Monday's for!

I am so enjoying the way the days are unfolding, how I never know what we're going to do, where exactly we will be led. I am delightedly relaxing back into that, so happy to remember that really, truly, I'm not in charge. Just going along, presented with opportunity after opportunity to be dazzled. Such powerful lessons being integrated into my cells. What will happen next?

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Your Dharma: Don't Hold Back!

It's early on the morning of Day 5 of the Anusara Yoga "Melt Your Heart, Blow Your Mind" 2010 World Tour, Day 5 of the immersion with John. This has been an incredible week, so much bigger, deeper, sweeter, funnier than I ever could have imagined. Melted heart? Check! Blown Mind? Check! Chit and ananda are on board.

Sometime on Tuesday afternoon I think, John said something about the notion of Wednesday as "hump day," that in our culture there's this prevalence of just needing to get through Wednesday so we can coast downhill to TGIF and the weekend. And also the idea of meting out our energy through the week, trying to make it last, holding back on Tuesday because we know there are hundreds more poses coming our way on Wednesday, and Thursday, etc.

That's nonsense. Don't save it. Go big every time. Go big every time like it's the first time, go big every time like it's the last time. This idea we have that our energy is limited, that if we blow it all out today there's none left for tomorrow, is a self-imposed limitation that prevents us from stretching to new lengths. We don't even know the heights and depths we'll hit today, let alone tomorrow. Energy, like love, is expansive. There's more!

And so we all went big on Tuesday. And we went bigger on Wednesday. And we went even bigger on Thursday. And guess what? There was always plenty of energy, more more more than I ever thought I had access to, to hold the poses, to sit cross-legged, to drop into backbend, to press up into handstand, to fold forward and stay there. Sustaining longer = more opportunities for the light to come on, for a deep sense of contentment to unfold and take up residence deep, deep, deep in the core.

I don't think there could have been a better way for me to kick off 2010, my self-proclaimed Year of Intention, than being here with John and friends. Realizing intentions, living a dharmic life, is easy, actually. Yoga provides the technique, the rest follows. All we have to do is be clear about our dharma, about who we are, and stay with it, be true to it, not hold back.

Go big today, friends. Show yourself, sing out, jump around! And tomorrow we'll do the same, as it just keeps expanding, getting better all the time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why? Chit Ananda, of course!

I've been in a 5-day Anusara Yoga immersion with John Friend in SF since Monday of this week. The point of an immersion is to take the student deep in the philosophy and principles of the yoga system, a way of traveling so much farther into the heart of the practice than is possible in a 1 1/2- or 2-hour class. For someone like me who loves school, it is a combination of graduate seminar + recess: times when we're seated, gathered around John as he lectures, and times when we're on the mat, embodying through the poses whatever we just learned about. It might just be my very favorite way to spend my time. I'm happy every second, plugged in, present, drinking in the words, radiating out contentment.

It strikes me again this week that the reason why I deeply, deeply love this particular yoga is its Tantric philosophical underpinnings, that it all comes back to chit ananda -- awakening and bliss. Why do yoga? Because this elegant system provides the opportunity to line up the body and, as a consequence, experience awakening. Because it's the best way I can think of to be reminded daily of how we incarnate the limitlessness of space in our limited form, every part of us dusted with the miraculous. Because it reminds me that every moment, every interaction, matters, carries within it the potential to be transformative, to connect us to others and to the universe. And bottom line, let's not lie, because it's fun.

Yeah, fun. Even when a hundred+ people groaned yesterday at 5pm when John said, "1st side, janusirsana, again," we're all still in the room, we paid for the privilege of being instructed, we'll keep coming back simply because it's fun.

And that's what I love the most, that the yoga presents the opportunity to tap inner reserves of happiness every single day, that by sharing yoga with others, we can help others find their own bliss. For me this is utter perfection, to be part of something that celebrates happiness, and to have techniques for hitting, sustaining and expanding this great feeling.

Even when I'm standing still, I'm doing a happy Snoopy dance. Truly, what could be better than that?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yoga is where I live

I'm home after Day 1 of the 5-day Immersion with John Friend in SF. Wow! It's hard to know where to even start to describe how fun, how inspiring, how awesome the day was. I am just so glad I'm doing this. Honestly, I wish I could do exactly this every single day!

I have pages and pages of notes from today, of course, and am still processing every thing we heard. If there were more hours in this day, I would re-read my notes, and read the new Immersion Part 1 curriculum that was distributed today - first-time ever that's been handed out! As it is, it's almost 8 and I just polished off dinner, and I'm feeling the virtually-irresistible draw of the couch and cozying-up under a blanket with my husband and watching something funny on tv, then retiring to my book and some ridiculously-great natural sleep.

Aaaaah, what a day. I am so looking forward to tomorrow, to hanging around with my buddies again, to learning more and to practicing for hours and hours. Sheer bliss!

Almost no matter the question, the answer = chit ananda!

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 Goal #1, Re-Learn How To Sleep: check!

This is the third morning in a row now that I've awakened from a natural sleep. The first two nights I managed 6 hours at a stretch, last night 7. It's ridiculous how good I feel right now, how awake, how 3-d, how refreshed. Weird, but I swear my brain feels juicy and plump. Man, sleep is so basic and so good.

When I made my list early in January, the very first thing I wrote down, my #1 goal for this year, was to learn how to sleep again on my own. Is it really possible that 36 days into 2010, I'm already there?

I am grateful to Ativan and Ambien for the sleep they gave me in 2009. Without them, I would have been more fried, since the only reason I turned to them for assistance was that I became such a miserable, anxiety-addled insomniac sometime in February-March of 2009. And yeah, last year was challenging so it doesn't surprise me that my anxiety didn't have enough daylight hours to express itself and needed to jump off at 1 or 2 every morning and kick me until dawn. I tried a lot of stuff -- yoga poses before sleep, less coffee (mistake!), more aerobic exercise, Rescue Remedy, breathing exercises, The Power of Now -- before I Uncled and reached for the pills. Those pills got me through a lot.

But I've been giving them up gradually, then cold-turkey, since January 1, and now here we are. I'm free. I'm sleeping!

Yes, this could be hubris, I could be declaring "Mission Accomplished" way ahead of time, but I can't help crowing. That's what sleeping does to a person, to me. I am excited about the day, feeling like I can handle whatever comes.

Oh sleep, you're so dreamy!