Southern Sojourn

So, we are leaving South Carolina. My experiment in southern housewifery is over, and I have to say it is with a great big sigh of relief.

A sense of relief not unlike the shockingly icy temperature of a Maine ocean on a hot summer day. I’ve been longing for that burst of coolness, refreshment from the stagnant. I’m actually looking forward to the fall and a change of scenery.

I miss my family, and we’ve done enough exploring here. The South is a different country from New England, with a different value system and culture from what we prefer. I want to raise my son in a place where being different is not jeered at, a place that values education and alternative takes on life. I’ve met acquaintances with many new variety of tree, plant and human. I recognize the weather, speech and traffic patterns, and I am okay with eliminating the term “y’all” from my vocabulary. Maybe some day I will curse the snow, but I miss those gray winter landscapes, and we all miss poking around in the woods without fear of lurking alligators and snakes. But, I have no remorse haughtily saying see ya to cockroaches. Its been like a year abroad for us, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience the regional differences in the country, not just overseas.

I have made a list of things I love about South Carolina.

…in no order of importance:

  1. Meandering the trails at the James Island County Park
  2. Easy to one of the top ten beaches in America
  3. Sitting outside on the patio all year long
  4. This place. And the view from this bar
  5. Walking along the battery with iced tea on a Sunday morning, and stopping to let our son splash in the pineapple fountain
  6. The amazing quality of local fruits and vegetables available all year–and my new love affair with okra
  7. Hearing the trees rustle outside our bedroom windows (never the dull roar of sirens and traffic)
  8. The general lack of anything even slightly resembling traffic
  9. My rediscovery of a genuine yoga practice
  10. How my plants flourished here–my lavender blossomed this year for the first time in 6 years.

It has been a swell year, but I think if I was really honest with myself I knew we weren’t really going to live here for long. It was a fun temporary change, this sojourn in southern living.


The Earth & The Body

This is how I aspire to practice. The earth and the body in harmony. Not following prescribed poses called out from a platform, but doing just what feels good.

Yoga outside is the ultimate experience of the poses, for me.

Watch this and I guarantee you will be inspired.

 


Chrysalis Phase in Retreat

The last few months have been tiring, notable here on my blog by the glaring lack of posts. I rarely opened my computer, but when I did and saw the wordpress icon, I looked away guiltily.

I suppose I am guilty of overextending myself sometimes, my aspirations are greater than the minutes each day has to fulfill them; eyes are bigger than my stomach. 2013 has been a mostly quiet year so far. Introspective and temperamental, but not unhappy. Reassessing and planning, as I’m wont to do every 4 months (sometimes 3) I find there is a shift. Sometimes with the seasons, sometimes with circumstances, but routines get broken up and as we’re settling into our new ones, life can feel a little rocky.

I do not have enough words to express the gratitude I have for the few constants I do have in my life: yoga, nature, the sea, my family, my friends. Today I actually practiced on my mat at home while my son played with the combination lock on my train case, and explored the rest of our usually off-limits adult rooms. Seeking strength through my core, knowing the limits of my flexibility and wanting to push past them: these are lessons from my mat that I need so badly to apply to the rest of my life. Holding my spine upright as I walk into scary meetings with new faces just might be the edge that gets me the job I am interviewing for next week.

As always, I’ve been doing my best. Many mammals hibernate in the winter, here I am stretching out of my air chrysalis phase and ready to dig my feet into the earth.

“We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.” –Thanks, Pema Chodron!

If I can offer one piece of advice so far for 2013: accept your state, do not judge yourself on sad or lonely days because they will end, and when they do share your happiness freely.

One more thing: This morning at the gym I was in the bathroom, washing my hands. I looked up at my face in the mirror, for half a second, and the lady washing her hands next to me turned and said “you look adorable, so cute.” She wished me a happy Easter (after asking if I celebrate) and breezed out the door. She infused me with joy. Husband had left for work very early, and my sweet son does not have much of a vocabulary yet. That kind stranger’s words gave me a kick of confidence, as I dragged my yoga mat into a deserted wall space.

image

Instead of kicking up to warm up my handstands against the wall like I always do, I floated on my hands in the middle of my mat for a few moments of unexpected bliss. Thank you, kind strangers everywhere!

Image: http://www.deutschefotothek.de/obj87503021.html


Going Places

Looks like I’ve got some traveling to do.


visited 62 states (27.5%)


OM

I used to do yoga.

I used to do a lot of yoga.  I went to Prana 5 or 6 (or 7) times per week.  The 6:15am class was my favorite.  I would also frequent Back Bay Yoga, since it was around the corner from our apartment.  I did yoga on the living room floor.  I sat in lotus pose waiting for the doctor to come into the examining room.  I read the Bhagavad Gita.  I tried different styles (bikram is definitely not for me). I snubbed gym yoga classes (too much focus on the physical) and I outgrew my yoga DVDs after one viewing (not enough variety).

I took my first yoga class 10 years ago.  Three years ago, I moved to France for a summer to train to become a certified teacher.  Last year, I took weekly pre-natal yoga classes.  But last month, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been to an actual class.

In my own defense, I have tried to maintain a self practice.  There is an empty studio at my gym I use in the early morning hours.  I blast some Awolnation (and other non-krishna chanting tunes) on the stereo and stretch my muscles to the edge.  But I’ve had to put that practice on hold for the time, and last night I jumped at a chance to hit up Back Bay.  I went to a Yin class, followed by a Vinyasa class.  They were lovely.  I lost track of time the three plus hours I was there, and not just because I didn’t wear a watch and turned off my phone.  I stopped thinking.  My mind had nothing to worry about.  My sister was on call in case of a child care emergency, and baby was with a competent sitter.  For the first time in over 7 months, I put the to dos out of my head, and let mind follow the lead of my body.

As much as I love my solo practices, there is something beyond the educational and social fulfillment that a group yoga class provides.  Its a form of spirituality.  The collective OMMMMM chant at the beginning used to really weird me out.  I did 12 rounds of OMs last night–3 at the start of each class, and 3 at each end.  After I let my voice hum with the rest of the group, I let go of the weird feeling and enjoyed the vibration.

Meditation is all about finding that vibration and letting the wave of energy carry you from one moment to the next.  As individual voices rise and fall within this great collective OM, everyone’s effort join to create one destination.  It is all you can hear, feel, and see, and it wouldn’t exist without your voice.

That summer I lived in France, the training required us to sit in meditation for up to 60 minutes everyday.  Even with a conservative estimate, I therefore sat in meditation for 75 hours.  When I think back on that experience, I don’t remember the excruciating pain I would get from sitting cross legged on a hard pillow for hours–no.  I remember only three clear moments when I hit the vibration on my own.  It was so beautiful and amazing.  The first time I laughed out loud with delighted surprise (which promptly lost my thread of concentration).

Meditation is like grasping at sand.  If you try too hard, you’ll lose it.   Such a fine balance, but in a group OM chant, the peace of meditation almost always arises in seconds.  You’ll know right away if its not happening, and in my experience it is usually because my ego is too big to ignore any fear I have of seeming foolish singing out this sustained syllable.   Try it, you’ll see.  If you put your heart into it, your lips will tickle with the hum.  You might see a flash of bright white, or colors behind your closed eyes.  Your temples will tingle.  But none of this matters.  It only matters that you try.  It is a simple way to glimpse into the rejuvenating aspect of meditation.  And I’ve only really mastered it a couple of times for approximately 2 minutes all together.  Imagine being one of those sages who can effortlessly slip into a meditative state.  What a calm and peaceful life they must lead.

I really must work on getting to more yoga classes.  I know I’m not going to be able to convince myself that I’m accomplishing much if I go back to 30 minutes of meditation morning and night…as disciplined and enlightened as it may be, there is just no way I can fit it into life right now.  3 minutes?  Sure…maybe.  But for now, I’ll take the 3 restorative OMs at the beginning and end of each yoga class to realign myself with the vibration of the universe.

How’s that for some Saturday night philosophy?