Monday, February 20, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things

I am lucky. There is little material want in my life. When I want something, I buy it. This fulfillment of material desires does not mean I’m wealthy. It mostly means I don’t want much. Still, I have everything I need. But there are a handful of things I want that I can’t have. They are silly things, really. Most people get through life without them. Most people don’t even want them. But I actually do want them:

*A hammock. I have wanted one since I first put my bottom in one 35 years ago when I moved to New York. A friend from the Philippines had one in her lower-east-side apartment. It was a big multicolored mesh beauty that disappeared when it was not in use and hung from one hook. At night, she strung it between two hooks and slept in it crosswise. Why can’t I have one? Apparently, this simple device used by primitive people all over the world is more complicated than it looks. Anchoring it securely in a space that accommodates its outstretched arc is, I’m told, not possible. Still, I want it.

*A mirrored wall. I was born without proprioception. I have no idea where I am in space or what I look like. It comes as a surprise to me that my posture is considered poor. I think I stand up straight. That’s because I never look in a mirror that shows the whole mess. The magnifier in the bathroom that reveals your blackheads in revolting detail doesn’t do head-to-toe. I know a mirrored wall would be obscene and ugly, and I wouldn’t use it except when I practice yoga. Still, I want it. A friend suggested I get one and hang a curtain over it so I wouldn’t have to see it. Other was not persuaded.

*An antigravity yoga swing. I know, it’s childish. But there is absolutely nothing—nothing—more thrilling than hanging upside down. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What's the deal with yoga mats?

Some stink of chemicals and are too slick; others smell of rubber and are so rough your skin snags on them. Still others—like my latest—have just the right amount of traction but stink of vomit. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Mia!

My daughter C is interested in lucid dreaming, a state like yoga nidra in which you are asleep but aware that you are dreaming. As soon as she wakes up, she says, she scrambles out of bed and scribbles as fast as she can to capture her dream before it dissipates. The more you practice, the more dreams you can capture.

As C was talking, I suddenly remembered a period in my childhood when I had a serial dream that I continued from one night to the next for several months, perhaps a year. It was such a pleasurable dream that I would plan out my night’s adventures before I fell asleep.

“What was your dream about?” C asked.

“I was Super Mia, flying to rescue people in distress,” I said.

“Mom, you were such a nerd!” said C. “You were such a good person even then!”

The truth is, it wasn’t the do-gooding that I relished. It was the flying!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Don't steal this idea!

I have a funny idea for a children's game: a version of D & D with Hindu gods instead of the conventional action figures. The Hindu gods have multiple personalities, or avatars, and special weapons and abilities, or super powers, and there are already zillions of little figurines already on shelves across the yogasphere. It could work! Or do Hindu children already play this game?

Afloat in the world

Yesterday I had the most marvelous experience in yoga. Although I don’t need to actually touch the wall to get into headstand, I’ve always been uneasy about doing it in the middle of the room—nervous about rolling over my hands and crushing my fingers or flailing and wrenching my wretched back. But here at the ashram, the wall is not allowed. Yesterday, without thinking, I felt my legs effortlessly float into the air. It was as easy as breathing. Oh, wait, that probably had something to do with it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

They were singing my song, and I missed a beat

Today the ashram celebrated Noma. A fire was lit in the temple, the priest incanted and fluttered his fingers. The swami’s wife began playing the harmonium and singing a paeon to Ganesha, the elephant god made from his mother’s scurf who is revered as the Overcomer of Obstacles. And the devotees were invited to silently request help overcoming one of their own obstacles, cast a stick of incense into the fire—which is supposed to deliver the prayer to the gods—dribble some ghee into the flames, toss some rose petals into a basket nearby, bow down and exit. 

Wow! I thought. They’re playing my song. Ganesha is sort of my patron saint, the god whose hymn of praise I was assigned as a mantra a couple of years ago. I haven’t been very successful as a mantra chanter or as a meditator. Still, I thought, this is auspicious. So I got in line, received my stick of incense, was about to cast it into the fire along with my request to the gods—and I froze. Just as I can never think of a suitable wish before I blow out my birthday candles, so I could not think of a single specific obstacle I wanted help with. God knows I have my share of obstacles and a poor disposition for overcoming them. But asked to name one, I couldn’t. So, lamely, I asked for help overcoming ALL my obstacles. Alas, I’m sure that diluted any help I could possibly secure for any single one.

Good thing I’m an atheist!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hanging out in Paradise

Hammock lolling often seems more an idea than an actuality. You get your book and your glasses and your hat, and you get yourself hunkered down just right in all the webbing without getting flipped over—and then the phone rings or you remember you’re hungry or a fly starts to harass you. But today I had a perfect hammock experience. I got my book and my glasses and my hat and a sarong to keep the flies off, and I swiveled myself crosswise and positioned myself exactly—and fell asleep for an hour! And there were three other people cocooned right along with me.

Two hundred stories

This place reminds me of the old trope about New York City: There are 8 million stories in the naked city. At yoga camp, there are only about 200 people, but all of them have a story. They’re mourning or dealing with an illness or coming to terms with a childhood trauma or … Everyone’s dealing with something the whole world over, of course, but at yoga camp strangers sit with strangers at dinner and talk freely over the vegetable goulash, and the details emerge quickly. 

Signs of the times in Nassau

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Om is everywhere

Beach bloom

Dear Guru

Mostly meditation here is eerily quiet: 200 people jammed into a tiny temple and you can't even hear anyone breathe or shift around or rustle papers. But once in a while someone snores. My question is, Should I wake the person up?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dear Guru

Is it o.k. to do kegels during meditation?

It's better in the Bahamas

Maybe it's just me, but I think Bahamian pigeons are nicer than American ones.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Monkey mine

So it occurred to me today that my blog serves as a repository of my monkey mind. In yoga, your monkey mind is all the distracting thoughts that flit in and out of your consciousness as you’re trying to meditate. So I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I actually write down all that ape shit. 

Om again, Om again

I had been nervous about being at yoga camp, afraid I’d be either bored or lonely. The boredom part has been assuaged by a gentle sense of newness. Stepping off the boat onto the dock felt like coming home, but coming home after my cleaning lady has just left after subtly rearranging things as she worked. Last time I was here, the bedding was dingy and flattened. This time, the mattresses have a little (a very little) bounce! And the old ratty, rough towels have been replaced with ones that feel hotel luxe. Last time the toilets were often stopped up. This time they may stop up eventually, but the shower looks newly tiled. Last time I paid for my half of a double and had to share it (which was a disappointment but turned out o.k. because my young roommate was a delight). This time I paid for my half of a double and ended up with it all to myself, at least for the first six nights.

The conviviality I remembered from previous visits remains. I had feared that no one would want to sit next to the gray-haired lady. But gray-haired ladies predominate, at least until tomorrow, when a new class of teacher trainees arrives.

One thing I had forgotten. At almost any given moment, someone somewhere is chanting Om. And even if there’s a momentary lapse in the constant Oming, the ocean breeze soughs an Omish song. It can get confusing. In Sivananda yoga, you take a little rest, called savasana, or corpse pose, between sequences. To rouse you from your relaxation, the teacher Oms. Yesterday I couldn’t distinguished the teacher’s Om from the wind’s Om., and was constantly jumping up. I didn’t get a lot of rest. Today I put myself right at the front of the class, where I could tell the difference.