A few months ago I went with Beulah to a concert that was entirely one man playing many Tibetan Singing Bowls. He gets them himself from Tibet, where he stays with the people who make them. He could make water spray out of the bowl just with the vibration of the sound.
I have a Tibetan Singing Bowl that I treasure greatly; it was a gift from gamergrrl when she came back from Mongolia. It sits on my shelf, looking beautiful. Usually.
Tonight I took it down to try to play it. At first, I thought there was no sound at all. But I played with it, slowly and carefully, to get the hang of it. There was a faint bell=like sound. And then I realized suddenly that there was a loud, musical ringing tone that seemed to be all around me - but it could only be coming from my bowl.
Happy with my experience tonight, I'm going to try again tomorrow. It seems a beautiful kind of meditation.
The Bhagavad Gita tells us that “yoga is to be performed with nishcayena (steadfast determination) and without mental reservations, worries, fears or doubts.” Determination is the firm resolve to achieve a desired end. When we stick with a plan to achieve our goals and intentions, no matter how many obstacles arise, it strengthens our tapas (will power), our minds, and our hearts. If we let our distractions and our fears disrupt our determination it will be difficult to make any real progress on the path of yoga, or in life. - Timothy Burgin, Editor, Yoga Basics News
I did yoga this morning, which is of course a good thing, but not unusual.
What is unusual, though, is that I did the Adho Mukha Svanasana - the Downward Facing Dog. A pose I haven't done in two years. I thought I'd never be able to do it again, since the elbow replacement, but hey. I was wrong. I did it. It wasn't even difficult, though it was different; doing it with one arm slightly bent and not equal in strength to the other.
It felt good, both physically and psychologically.
An oddly satisfying couple of days. I signed up for more French classes, even though I really don't have the money, but it might help me find or keep a job, and I love it.
Then I cleaned up my bedroom. I panicked because I didn't know where my French text books were - and don't want to pay for a new one. I was pretty sure they were among the piles of stuff in my bedroom, and I was right. By the time I found them (about ten minutes after I started cleaning up), I was on a roll, so I did the whole job. Sorted all the piles. Emptied all the bags. Threw out the stuff I'll never need, put away the stuff I will need, and made a bag for the Salvation Army. I even repaired the lovely little Tiffany lamp that had fallen over and come apart. Nothing broke, thank goodness, but the bulb.
I even found places for all the books and comics.
So: very satisfying.
Also went to work for four hours this morning, which will help alleviate the money worries. I'd originally planned to keep today free for myself - for reading, errands, housework, and the like - but I've been working on a project that really needed a little more attention, and I wanted to get it done. I didn't get it done, but I did as much as I could. I also set off all the security alarms because the security company didn't have my passcode in their records. Even though I sent it to them. (On March 26. Yes, really.) I'm happy to say I wasn't arrested for tresspassing, but it makes me nervous about going in to work on a Saturday. On the plus side, since I was the only one there, no one came to me with things they needed me to do, and I could concentrate on the one job.
After coming home, and after a brief nap, I spent an hour doing exercises. Yoga - a pretty full workout, which I'd stopped after breaking my ankle and never really got back to, despite a few false starts.
Yesterday, after telling myself I was not going to spend any money on anything but necessities I bought myself a kettlebell. It's something I've wanted to try for a year or two, and with some encouragement from commodorified, who was buying one herself, I got a five-pounder and studied some beginner's instruction on YouTube. You know what? It's as cool as I thought it would be. As soon as I can afford it, I'm going to get a ten-pound kettlebell, too.
And as I hoped, an hour of exercise and yoga raised my energy, which has been horribly low of late. I keep napping all the time. But I don't want to turn into a slug, and I think what I need is not more napping, but more motion. Walking just wasn't doing it, especially since I've had a sore foot ever since someone rolled a shopping cart over it. So: kettlebells, dance, yoga... Feels good.
20-Minute Retreats by Rachel Harris. I liked the way this book is set up. Lots of good quotes. Every chapter is about a trait - Faith, Forgiveness, Intuition - and each chapter contains exercises... no, 'exercises' isn't a good word for it - contains meditations on fostering that trait. And each chapter has questions pointing out why a person would need to retreat. For instance:
- You can hardly remember the last time you had a moment to yourself.
- You feel an unquenchable inner yearning.
- You don't laugh as much as you used to.
These things relate to lives of stress and distraction, and in every chapter my answer to the questions was 'no'. Okay, given the examples above, I do feel an unquenchable inner yearning - but it isn't a desire for spiritual peace, which I think I have, it's a desire to learn and experience life, and I wouldn't want to lose that. Curiosity and a sense of wonder: the most valuable things in my life.
I laugh a lot. Living alone, and currently having no job, I get as much time to myself as I want. I don't feel consumed by guilt or anger, I'm not plagued by anxiety. Which is not to say I don't have my worries; 'unemployed', remember? But on the whole, I began to feel like an impostor just opening the book.
At one point Harris pointed out that saying we can't find twenty minutes in a day to relax, retreat, and meditate, is simply wrong - we probably spend twenty minutes a day watching ads on television. To which I could only think, hoo, boy, this book is so not addressed to me. I don't spent two minutes a day watching ads on TV. Never have, never will, don't want to.
So, okay, accepting that this book wasn't written for me, it was still a good read. Some of the exercises in deep breathing, visualization, chakra work and creativity are things I may well do. Some of the quotes ( were terrific. For example... )
I went to a noontime yoga class at Adishesha Yoga Zone today. It was superb. I was most impressed with the teacher, Basia Going, and plan to go back for another class on Thursday. I emerged from the class feeling both relaxed and energized - which is exactly how I should feel. And it's a sign that my back is much better.
Then I met Lynne at Bridgehead, and showed her my Caribbean photos, and we talked about various things - mostly travel. She's going to the Isle of Skye in May. Lucky woman.
Spent most of the afternoon writing my apazine, mostly about my trip.
Then I watched Supernatural "The Song Remains the Same" with maaseru and explodedteabag. maaseru and I had both seen it yesterday, but explodedteabag hadn't. She liked it even more than I'd hoped. And I enjoyed it even more than I did yesterday, especially the parallel scenes between Sam and John, and Dean with Mary. Sam is superb in this one. But then, so is Dean.
Then I perusade them to watch the pilot episode of White Collar, which I am happy to say, they both liked a lot, and they recognized and reacted to the slashiness of it. Yay! My pimping was succesful.
I woke up this morning feeling great - the aches and pains of the last few days had gone away. So I happily jumped out of bed - and was felled by a spasm of lower back pain. Sitting - or standing, once I was sitting - was excruciating. Last time this happened (in the spring, and it was my upper back then) it took me several weeks to recover.
I was not happy, so I went to my computer to read my e-mail and Livejournal and console myself, and discovered I'd lost my Internet connection. My usual ways of fixing this didn't work. It took more than half an hour of fiddling with wires to get online again.
What more can go wrong this morning, I asked myself? I did my yoga practice conscientiously. Thank goodness no one could see me. Imagine Hatha Yoga done by a robot without joints.
I decided that a good way to cheer up was to invite maaseru to join me for breakfast. She said all she wanted was toast; fine, said I, I can make toast. But when I went to my kitchen, I discovered my bread had gone mouldy overnight.
So that's what could go wrong next. That hit my sense of humour, and I stopped feeling grumpy about things. maaseru had to bring her own bread. And make her own toast, come to think of it. I was in bad shape for standing around in the kitchen.
Then a few hours later my back stopped hurting completely. I've been rather cautious in my movements all day, but it seems just fine. We'll see what doing yoga is like tomorrow... but it looks as if I won't have the weeks of pain I was fearing. Right, I tell myself once again: there is nothing to fear but fear.
Today was the first day of a two-day solo retreat. Did it go as I expected? No, though my expectations were fluid. Was it successful? Definitely.
I woke up with a bad headache and aching limbs. Felt a little better after doing yoga, but soon afterwards the aches and pains and headache were worse than ever, and I came to the conclusion I'd picked up a virus.
Since my plans for the day mostly included "do yoga, relax and read", I read. And slept. And read more yoga. And slept some more. Some of the other reading was serious, some not. (Deadpool: Suicide King does not count as "serious" by any stretch of anyone's imagination. Fun, though.)
Sleep, now, and with any luck Day 2 will be more like I'd planned.
This afternoon Beulah and I went into the Singing Pebbles bookstore, which specializes in yoga, New Age, health and diet books, and sells crystals and chant music on the side. We like to drop in there before we go to dinner at the Green Door, our favourite local vegetarian restaurant. Usually one of us buys books. Today it was me. I should have a new mantra: I will stop buying books. I will stop buying books...1
Anyway, we saw a bumper sticker that said Namaste. This is a Hindi word that means - well, I've seen it translated different ways, but my favourite translation is, "My spirit salutes your spirit." I sign my e-mail and letters with that as my salutation.
I said to Beulah that I should get it for my suitcase. I have a new suitcase - it's shiny and black, and since I don't want it to be one of millions of other black suitcases, I was going to put a good sticker or something on it. I said I wanted something more esoteric or fannish than "namaste", though, and I told Beulah about msmoat's wonderful suitcase, that had a CI5 sticker on it. I told her about having TORCHWOOD INSTITUTE on the backpack I recently took to the UK.
The girl who runs the store heard that, and laughed. "Did you get comments?"
"Some," I admitted.
"Did you get sex with aliens?"
"I hoped, but... no."
"Did you meet John Barrowman?"
"Well, actually, yes."
What fun to encounter someone who knows the show.
~ ~ ~
1 Hah! Not likely. Not until the money really runs out.
Someone told me they'd heard B.K.S. Iyengar had died recently. He's been a huge influence on my life; the idea was shocking, as was the idea it might have happened and I hadn't heard. So I looked him up and it seems he's still alive, and his website is up to date.
I am relieved to hear it. Long may he thrive.
I looking him up, I found a detail about him that I hadn't known: "In 2004, Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine." How cool!
Another thought about Enlighten Up!: it featured a lot of interviews with a lot of yoga teachers, and students too. One thing I noticed about the teachers, about a third of the way into the movie, was that they all had extraordinarily interesting faces. They weren't extraordinarily beautiful (or ugly), but they all looked interesting - their personalities showed strongly on their faces, they looked liked people who would be interesting to talk to.
Maybe not the pro wrestler, so much. Maybe because he was new to the practice.
Beulah and I went to see a documentary movie about yoga this afternoon. It's called Enlighten Up!.
Through the first few minutes, the film-maker, Kate Churchill, briefly interviews a montage of American yoga teachers, asking what yoga is, or what it means to them. I was excited to see familiar faces (like Rodney Yee) - faces familiar from the pages of Yoga Journal and the DVDs.
Kate was setting out to prove the transformational nature of yoga, and wanted to do this by taking a student who was a newcomer to yoga, but prepared to dedicate himself to yoga for a while and to allow the documentary to be made. She chose Nick Rosen, a journalist, aged 29, living in New York. I wondered whether it was Nick's interest in yoga or his rather stunning cinematic good looks that made Kate choose him as her subject. There are a lot of close-ups of his expressive, attractive face throughout the movie.
Nick is an atheist, skeptical about the claims of yoga as a path to enlightenment. He was already a rock-climber and in good physical shape; but the scenes of him going to yoga classes and watching in bewilderment as his fellow-students lithely and smoothly achieve impossible positions are extremely funny - the "been there, done that" kind of funny.
One after one, Nick visits the American teachers, from the New Age to the Macho "T&A" yoga style taught by a former pro wrestler. Then he goes to India for the heavy-hitters like B.K.S. Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi, Dharma Mittra, and Dr. Katarya's "Laughter Yoga", becoming ever more bemused and confused by the different forms of practice and the different definitions of yoga held by the different practitioners. Is yoga God? Is yoga a health regimen? Is yoga transformational or illusory? And just what is the point, anyway?
The turning point of the movie is in Nick's interview with Sri K. Patthabhi, who tells him, in heavily accented English, that essentially yoga is what you make it, and each person finds his or her own yoga. Nick finds himself fiercely missing his parents and his home, and leaves India earlier than he expected. He goes back to the US, stops his yoga practice, and teacher rock climbing in Colorado. He asks himself: did yoga do anything but make him feel better? His answer: yes. But he doesn't tell the viewers exactly what.
The movie doesn't articulate my own definition of yoga. I would call it a pattern for living the best life you can. For some, this means physical work for the health. For others, it means finding spiritual meaning through religion - or otherwise. For others, it's a means to a goal, or a way of relaxing. And whatever one's motives and goals, yoga is probably not going to end up being only one thing, or to have only one result. And the answer to "what is yoga" is very like the answer to the question Sri K. Pattabhi asks Nick: "What is happiness?"
I took to yoga at eighteen because, after a childhood of illness and auto-immune disease, it was at a last an exercise system that I could actually do. And my health blossomed. Yoga has brought me through Epstein-Barr and candidiasis: if health issues are the big challenges in my life, then yoga has been the answer.
I thought this was a delightful movie, a positive and funny look at yoga that is respectful of the discipline without complicating or oversimplifying it. The viewer can make whatever conclusions seem appropriate - the movie is food for thought, posing questions rather than giving answers.
And it's fun.
Because I was so happy with Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies with Sara Ivanhoe - whom I always want to call Susan Ivanova, for alliterative reasons - today I tried exercising with Yoga Weight-Loss Workout for Dummies with Chris Freytag.
A different kettle of fish. For one thing, Chris Freytag doesn't have the natural charm of Sara Ivanhoe. She has a fixed smile that I found rather terrifying at first, till I got used to it. It's a good DVD, but a type of yoga I'm not used to: lots and lots of aerobic movement, while I'm used to the static positions of the Iyengar style. It says on the back of the DVD not to be intimidated by it, but I confess, I was intimidated. Luckily my response to intimidation is attack-escape, and I got through it with only one set where I could only do two our of four reps, and filled in the difference by dancing in place. It's the only yoga programme I've done (either in class or on DVD) that didn't end with Savasana (also known as total relaxation, or Corpse Pose), though it did have the "namaste" that I always love.
My balance is still appalling, but I was able to do Virabhadrasana III, a.k.a. Standing Warrior Balance Pose. No, I didn't do it very well, and it didn't look like in that picture, but I did it. I love the Sanskrit names, which have a trip-off-the-tongue romance to me that the English translations don't keep. Though anything with "Warrior" in the title is by its very nature romantic, you can't do much romanticizing with "Standing Forward Bend", though the name "Uttanasana" delights me.
After yoga, I made breakfast. maaseru was going to join me, but there were no working elevators, and she's on the ninth floor. One elevator has been out for about a month, to much grumbling in the building - the management says they had to order parts from the States. Then with our only other elevator out of commission, it was walk or nothing. The people milling around the lobby talking about it looked hungrily at my plate of crepes and tea and I walked by; by the time I got up to the ninth floor on foot I was huffing and puffing, but I felt I'd earned a good breakfast.
Another triumph: I was able to fix the keyboard drawer for maaseru's computer, which has been stuck and unusable for months. I examined it carefully with a flashlight, used powers of deduction and observation, and then went for brute force. Which worked. I was proud.
So I'm in a good mood again this morning, after being overtired and out of sorts yesterday evening.
I had a bad dream in which I was trying to do too much for too many people, not getting any time to do what I really want to do, alone. I woke up thinking: there's a message in that.
I think I will have a Retreat Oct 17 and 18.
Do I have the strength of will to do what I need and want to do?
Of course I do.
Aghast at how stiff and out of shape I feel (and note that I am not using the word "old", oh no, no, no, I'm not going to let another birthday phase me), I did a full hour of yoga this morning. I used Yoga For Dummies, which I still think is one of the best yoga DVDs around.
I also found two yoga websites I was impressed by:
You know - the bottom line? For the moment, I feel terrific.
Now for breakfast.
I went to the 6:30 a.m. "Yoga Flow" class at Adishesha this morning.
It was jumping into the deep end: it's been years now since I took a formal yoga class, and I've never taken 'flow' yoga, always hatha or Iyengar style. So: time to try something new.
It was exhausting and challenging and I felt terrific afterwards. My balance is shot, my ankles don't flex enough, I'm too fat to be fully flexible, and my upper body strength is inadequate. Otherwise, I did fine. No, really. Better than I expected. Had to modify some poses, but didn't have to skip any. Did some I'd have thought I couldn't.
It was, in fact, rather inspiring.
So while walking home I ran into explodedteabag on her way to work, and walked with her to Bridgehead on Bank for coffee. I got a Thai Tofu-Cucumber sandwich for breakfast, and ate half. Bought groceries.
And then got an appointment for a colonoscopy. Ugh.
Went for a walk with maaboroshi this afternoon. It was gorgeous... sunny and warm, by March standards. For Ottawa. We dropped by Asishesha Yoga and I signed up for classes - it's close, conventient, and I liked the look of the place. I could go to a Hatha Yoga class at 8 a.m. tomorrow. I just might.
We went into Glebetrotter's and I bought three pairs of shoes, including new Blundstones, as my old ones are wearing out. Can't remember if I've ever bought three pairs of shoes at the same time in the same place before. Probably not.
This isn't even counting the Ilse Jacobsen wellis that commodorified and I were admiring in another store the other day. Wellies with laces. So cool.
Then we went into all the art and jewellery stores, and had a great time... Jewellery stores aren't usually my thing, but now I'm dreaming about amber earrings. They had some gorgeous art designs.
Makes me feel idle and decadent. Is that a sign of spring?
I'm home safe and sound. One of the effects of the trip was to leave me tired today, I think. The Foot is doing so well I can't believe it, but I must be careful not to strain it. I want to write up my adventures in Toronto - especially about seeing John Barrowman - but I'm just too tired to put one word in front of the other today.
Early this morning I went for a walk by the duck pond, and fed the ducks. A beautiful day for it.
Also made arrangements to go to work three days next week. Went shopping this morning, and bought myself a bath chair so I can return the one I rented for $30/month. Also got Beyond Basic Yoga for Dummies, which I've bought before, and given away because it's such a good DVD. And because I have a crush on Sara Ivanhoe.
Now: going to do some yoga. I feel better than I have in ages, but so tired. How does that make sense?
Since Sept. 4 I have lost 9 pounds. This is a good thing, since so far it has been easy. I'm not even really dieting, just trying to eat healthy food, recording what I eat, drinking six to eight glasses of water a day, and doing some sort of exercise every day - usually walking to and from work. Last night I tried using a DVD called Yoga for Weight Loss for Dummies. It was excruciating, really. I returned it to the library today.
For the time being I'm fine, but I know the old pattern. A few weeks from now the weight loss will have slowed to a stop. The nicely descending graph I've been drawing daily will turn into a horizontal line. I'll get impatient, and then discouraged, and stop weighing myself, taking the bus occasionally instead of walking, then more occasionally, and the weight will creep up.... My cycle is usually about six weeks.
Okay, how to break the pattern? "Do more exercise" is one idea, and I'm already commited to doing something physical daily - but more than that?
Maybe it's just a matter of being stubborn.
It might look as if I'm worrying prematurely, since I haven't got to any plateau stage yet and it is likely weeks or months in the future. But it sneaks up on me at a time when I'm ready to - literally - forget about exercise and watching what I eat; just dropping it from my mind. Like having a short attention span, though of course I don't have a short attention span for things I really love.
I wish I could bring myself to really, really enjoy exercise.
And truly, I do enjoy walking out of doors. But not in summer heat. And not when it's icy and slippery outside; it's just too easy to slip and sprain or break an ankle.
Maybe the answer is treadmill and audio-books. That's something to consider, anyway.
I have incentive. I have drive. I can do this. I just wonder how...
For years, I did a headstand (sirsasana) every day. I took it for granted.
Then about ten years ago I got lazy (and unwell) and stopped doing it. Now... I can't. I just can't get up there. There's nothing stopping me but lack of practice.
So: I have a new resolution for 2007. By the end of 2007, I plan to be able to do a headstand again.