Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yoga Life

When I was nine years old I went to visit my aunts Susan and Margie. They lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know how Madison is anymore, but at the time it was full of hippies, progressive politics and amazing farmer's markets, street artists and musicians. That trip was a number of "firsts" for me. The first time I ever had my hair French braided, my first taste of real apple cider from a street vendor, the first time I ever smelled Indian incense and my first introduction to yoga. Both of my aunts were avid practitioners and I remember waking up early to find my aunt Susan doing sun salutations in a candle lit room. She looked like a goddess. That image has stayed with me and it most likely propelled me 8 years later to begin practicing yoga myself.

In between that time and when I took my first yoga class at the University of Illinois, I was, like so many children/late adolescents today, fairly disembodied. With little confidence, the patriarchy pushing "ideal body images" my way, a general sense of Catholic guilt and a less than satisfactory peer group, I didn't spend much time cultivating my connection with my body. I spent even less time trusting my own personal sense of magick and intuition. I tried to conform to the suburban masses, but something inside of me fought it hard. I am grateful for this part of myself.

At this first yoga class, in 1993, I remember feeling many strange sensations in my body. It was overwhelming, emotional and hard. I wasn't too flexible and I also didn't know how to breathe properly. Although there were many obstacles I kept coming back. First, just once a week. Then, two years later I practiced every morning. Upon completing my BA my aunt Susan and I went on a bike tour in southern Spain and Portugal. We woke every morning with the sunrise and practiced, rode our bikes all day long and practiced a little more before bed, before talking long into the night.

I traveled to India, more yoga. When I came back into the country I moved to Los Angeles where yoga was the one aspect of my life that was healthy and sane. It kept me grounded in a place and culture that I was fundamentally at odds with. I am pretty sure it was the wisdom and insight I gained through my practice that eventually inspired me to move to Alaska. I lived in Fairbanks with the most wonderful community of people and yogis. These were yogis in the true sense of the word, each of their life paths was an authentic practice of presence and awakening. They were activists, botanists, mothers, teachers, researchers, naturalists and each one of them lived with integrity and heart. While living and learning with this community I found that yoga was a practice that kept me aligned with my values, my sense of gratitude and devotion as well as humility. It also reminded me that service is the most important aspect of a yogic life.

I traveled to Massachusetts to complete my first formal yoga teacher training. I had been teaching already but wanted to immerse myself in a month of study with other practitioners. It was a dramatic experience for me and at the end I knew that I wanted to keep living a life of social service. I moved to Boulder, CO to complete a degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy, so that I might have a private practice where I could blend my life's work together to assist others. While in Boulder I continued to practice all aspects of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga. I studied with amazing teachers, completed another teacher training and although it had been an incredibly long journey I felt completely embodied. This sense of embodiment drew good things my way. I trusted myself, my intuition, my erotic longings and decided to move to Athens with the man who is now my husband.

My husband and I had a baby. We had her with Ahimsa (the yogic principle of non-violence)leading the way. We had her at home and I used everything I ever learned from yoga to bring her into the world. And to date, motherhood has been the most REAL yoga practice I have ever engaged in. This is the real path: being a good mother, a present mother, a mother that "lets go" of ego and agenda...being a good wife, a loving and respectful wife, a wife that lets go of her ego and agenda. This is it. This is yoga.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Loss of Athens

I live in Athens, Ga. Which among the many places I've lived (Fairbanks, Venice, Boulder, Champaign, Chicago, Dharamsala and Downers Grove)is a good place. It's good because it has a rich history (although that history is being wiped out by the Atlantification i.e.)gentrification of small southern towns). I care about this history being wiped out. Out of all the places I've lived I care most about what is happening to Athens (not that this isn't happening in other places, because it is) but because I get the sense that it snuck up on its citizens and it's being orchestrated through late adolescents who don't know any better (but they should).

This generation of late adolescents my mother recently said are the generation that, "get a medal for showing up." They are entitled, self-focussed (not on issues, but shoes, ipods, and texting) and appear to be pretty checked out (many of these adolescents i.e.) UGA college students, walk out in front of traffic because they are looking down at the aforementioned cell phones and UGG boots.) Now, I understand that college-time is about self-exploration, self-centeredness to some regard and hopefully a commitment to one's personal ideologies. I just can't figure out why all these kids seems so empty. I don't get a sense that they care about much of anything. They're not politically engaged, there's not much philanthropy happening, they don't organize. These are all things that I did as a college student (still do) and my friends as well. And it's not like I grew up in the 60s. So what gives? And mainly what's going to happen when these kids are leading the nation?

I feel equally bad for the folks that these kids are pushing out of Athens (myself included) as I do for the kids themselves. This consumer-based, pop culture is turning some of the most fundamental times in a person's life into a solopsistic hell and they're buying it hook line and sinker. There's no sense of urgency at all that an entire generation is being raised on Fox News and Brittany Spears tabloids. I guess that's what you get when a nation spends half of it's federal budget on the military. It makes me sad and now I'm getting too global.

I'm most sad about the fact that due to a lack of jobs, good higher education opportunities and a basic sense of depression about Athens, we are going to be leaving soon...soon like in the next several months. And this is the place that our daughter was born, and my husband grew up. And damn it I wish something could convince us to stay.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Daughter on the Rampage

It's happened, and she's only seven months old. We knew from the get go that Eleanor was precocious, but we didn't think she'd leave us so soon. And we certainly didn't predict that it would be to join a Flock of Seagulls cover band. But here it is, living proof, she's gone and done it. Come back baby.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bienvenido 2008

On our hike to the shoals yesterday I noticed that our old friends - the triumvarate of goats - were back. Since goats, in many traditions,symbolize fertility, vitality and ceaseless energy I took this as a good sign. These are things that I welcome back into my life with the ushering in of the luz and new year.

Well actually, I'll add an andendum to this. I welcome fertility as in creative fertility, fertility to grow ideas, community, conversation and other non-baby types of fertility. Me and the mister aren't sure if we want to have another child. We certainly know not now, we said we'd check back with one another on that in three or so years. So yes to fertility, no to pregnancy. Yes to the longer days, the hints of daffodils in our lawn. Yes to playfully frolicking in the woods. Yes to all nine applications to MFA programs begin submitted. Yes to cooking up some fun. Yes to the three goats. Yes to Ella, Jonathan and Stella. And yes, yes, yes, to newness in the new year.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The babe is asleep

Today was many days in one. It was the day that we (after a year of living at 2389) finally made it to the river. We played on the shoals. We scrambled through briar patches and muddy slopes to get there. We did this all with my daughter on my back.

Today was also the day that we felt the little one's first tooth bud (finally...hallelujah!) Maybe we'll finally get to meet that tyrannical piece of enamel and calcium responsible for making our daughter growl at god for the agony of teething.

It was a good day. It was, at times, a hard day, as parenting days are meant to be sometimes. I say meant because I believe it's the first year of parenting that gets you in to shape to be a good parent for the rest of your wee one's life. It's this first you that you, "get your head out of your asshole" as my husband has said, that your ego is annihilated, that you let someone else become the center of your universe. It is a promising year (at seven months I feel this)and it is exhausting.

Like most peak experiences it rips the bottom out of your comfortable, habitual life and leaves you falling and falling (sometimes flailing, sometimes laughing, sometimes fearful, but most times trusting that the ground is there somewhere). It also makes you appreciate the simple things; bike rides, elevator flirtation, and a glass of red wine at the end of the day.