First day of Fall

It’s the first official day of Autumn, and although Statesboro, Georgia is still steaming at 88 degrees, my body feels like fall. My Dad is visiting Colorado right now for the sole purpose of seeing the colors of the changing leaves. He sent me a picture of a valley covered with deep yellow, orange and red Aspen trees. When I was about twelve, my sister Molly and I took the train from California to Colorado in early Fall to visit my Dad and his best friend, Jim. I remember resting my chin on the window sill of our train car and watching how the Fall colors blurred together as the trees passed by. For those of you who have not seen Colorado in the Fall, put it on your list of things to do before you die. The leaves look like they have been painted one by one with the deepest, thickest, most opaque reds and yellows and oranges you have ever seen. Go to Maroon Bells for the full effect. ­čÖé

Eventually, the trees let go of these gorgeous leaves once they no longer serve them, and they flutter to the ground. Autumn, for humans too, can be used as a chance to let go of things that no longer serve us. As beautiful as these things, judgements, attitudes, habits, whatever, may have been yesterday, are they really making a positive contribution to who we are today? It’s amazing how much we are capable of holding on to without even realizing that we’re doing it. Humans aren’t like trees (obviously)–we don’t naturally let go of things that we don’t need anymore. Unfortunately, these things that no longer serve us stay hidden in our bodies and translate into physical and mental stress. So take this day, this month, this season, to let go. Maybe you let go of one thing, maybe many things. But do it, as gracefully as those Aspens will let go of their leaves.

Oh, and go to Maroon Bells! That will definitely help you out with this process.

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Looks like Georgie

First post in a while, I’m sorry but life has been busy and crazy! I have no time to…Okay I’m lying. I’ve been visiting my friends in Georgia for the past week and do nothing but sit at the pool and read yoga books and drink wine. I do practice yoga in the mornings, more so than usual because my hip flexor has been feeling really ouchie. I guess I overdid it with the whole running every single day of summer thing.

I saw the area in Savannah that I’ll be living and it’s gorgeous. The yoga studio is in the Victorian District, right next to Forsyth Park, so I’m looking for a loft as close to the studio as possible. It’s starting to sink in, the fact that I’m really moving across the country (again), really getting this certification, really going for it. Taking a leap of faith never felt so good. The decision is becoming less scary-looking and more Georgie-looking. At first, this whole thing didn’t seem like something I would do. Move across the country? For a guy? I’m not going to lie-the feminist in me almost didn’t allow any of this to happen. But then, I had my “I’m not being a feminist, I’m being a stubborn bitch and I’m keeping myself from being happy for the sake of being a feminist” moment (I think all feminists have this at some point) and I realized that it’s okay to do something for a guy. If you aren’t giving up any part of yourself and if it makes you happy, that’s a good thing. And now, I’m starting to really feel like Georgie. This decision looks like Georgie. I feel brave and strong and spontaneous. I haven’t felt like myself since I got back from the road trip, so I’m assuming that this is a very good sign.

I will leave you with a poem that I read often, when I need guidance, a smile, or something to keep me from getting angry at dumbasses. But I always (for the past ten years or so) read this on my birthday. And since today is my 22nd, I thought I would share it with all of you. Enjoy and have a great day my friends.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

The Yoga Problem

My mom ┬áhelps organize a tennis tournament for charity every year. She went to meet with one of the business dudes involved in sponsorship or something, and he kept going on and on about his daughter who got into some grad school and scored in the top whatever percent of something or other. He then asked my mom what her kids were up to. My mom is just as excited as I am about all of this, so I can imagine her smile, how happy she must have been to finally be able to talk about me after hearing about this guy’s daughter for fifteen minutes.

“Actually, my oldest daughter just graduated from college and she’s heading off to Savannah to train to be a yoga teacher!” I can picture the energy beaming from her face.

Can you guess how Mr. Business dude responded? If you can believe it, he literally apologized to my mom.

“Oh, I’m SO sorry,” he said, probably with eyes wider and filled with more pity than the first time his daughter got a B+.

I don’t know anything about this man. I don’t know anything about his perception of yoga. I’ve realized though, that a lot of people are like this, they don’t understand how someone could be happy doing anything other than being a doctor or owning some company or getting voted into office. But mainly, I think, he doesn’t understand how I could be happy without money. Lots of it.

I’m not about to say that money isn’t something I care about. I want money. I want money so I can see this world and drink good wine and give my future kids an education in whatever they’re interested in. Unlike that guy, I don’t want money just for the sake of having money. Maybe I’m judging him, (okay, I am judging him) but rather than expensive cars, yachts, brand-name clothing (lululemon excluded), diamonds, private jets…give me a plane ticket and a map. That’s what I want money for.

Every day, I become more thankful and more aware of the values my parents instilled in me. Thank you Mom and Dad, for showing me how to be brave.

Okay, so we’ve solved the whole that-guy-is-an-asshole piece of this puzzle. On to the other part, the more important part, what I like to call The Yoga Problem. Yoga is, in my opinion, very misunderstood by Westerners. Myself included-I sometimes still can’t really wrap my head around it, and I have been to many classes where the teacher obviously can’t either. But we can’t blame ourselves, our culture makes it difficult to really understand what yoga has to teach us because our minds aren’t conditioned to think this way. We were brought up like this: if you eat your vegetables, you can have ice cream. So the only reason why we eat our vegetables is to get the ice cream. Or how about this one: if you go to college, you will get a job (such bullshit). So, we grind through college in order to get a job. Then, we get a job, and the only reason we work is so we can get money. Do you see this cycle? Our society and culture tells us that all of our work being done in the present moment should lead to a greater goal, for something we don’t have. We are only doing things right now in order to get something in the tomorrow, the 2011, in the retirement plan. And all of this comes at a very large price-we have completely, without even knowing it, lost the now. We have lost the present moment.

Take for example, something as simple as washing your hair. (This section of my post is inspired entirely by The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, I did not come up with these revelations by myself! Just in my own words.)┬áThink about why you wash your hair. You probably haven’t thought about this before. Most likely, you wash your hair so you can have clean hair. You get in the shower, lather up and rinse, with the sole intent of getting clean. But with this attitude, so much is lost. Yoga teaches us to approach this in a different way. It tells us to (and it may sound silly at first) wash your hair in order to wash your hair. Do you even know what washing your hair really feels like? Could you explain it to someone who has never done it before (Alex after Day 15 of the road trip)? Do you even realize that washing your hair feels good? Most of us just stand there, scrubbing away, watching the soap and the now go down the drain. We lose all present-moment pleasures.

Yoga is only recently popular in Western society. I believe that the only reason why it has become so attractive is because of its associated health benefits. Most of us don’t do yoga for the simple sake of doing yoga. We do it to lose weight, decrease stress, become more flexible, what have you. And while these things are benefits to the practice, they should not be sole the reason for practice. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on what yoga truly is. Or at least what yoga is to me.

Climbers know what I’m talking about. There is a beautiful climbing spot in Berkeley called Indian Rock. On one side of the main rock, there are carved-in stairs leading up to the top. The other side is where people climb. As I climb, people like to inform me, “you know there are stairs on the other side of this thing” or “why go through all that trouble when there are stairs leading up to the top?” These people are half kidding, but they really don’t understand why we climb. Climbers climb because they love to climb, not because they love getting to the top of rocks. Otherwise, yeah, we would take the stairs.

Yoga is movement. The title of this blog. I’ve found that the things I love to do are, in simplest terms, movement: climbing, traveling, running, writing. Obviously, physical movement is involved in these activities. But another kind of movement is happening here too. I am a strong believer that our physical bodies are infinitely connected to our mental minds, so when we have movement physically, through asanas, through climbing, anything like this, our minds are also moving. This mental movement brings us to a more centered, right-here-in-this-moment kind of state. And that is a really precious and uncommon thing to experience these days.

Back to asshole business man dude who felt so sorry for me and my life choices that he actually apologized to my mom. Maybe he is a happy, fulfilled person from how he lives his life. I do hope that he is happy, but I wish he could see that other people can enjoy life without the bells and whistles, without having some main-stream job. The Yoga Problem, in his case, doesn’t apply to his practice (because he doesn’t practice yoga, obviously)–it applies to his entire life. He puts so much importance on the future, so much so that he has sorrow in his heart for people who aren’t like him. It’s sad. I bet that guy hasn’t ever truly washed his hair. Not even once. Otherwise, he would understand.