Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Getting my Hippie On or How I learned to enjoy Yoga without a shit ton of analysis

Exercise! Eat right! Drink more water! Get enough sleep! Take your vitamins!

Wha-wha-wha-what? Is there anything else I can do for you? Oh? There is? Continue please…… Low Carb! More protein! Embrace anti-oxidants! Understand your Omega-3’s! Stop smoking! Drink more wine! Laugh every day! Get a pet!  Take a baby aspirin every day! No wait – don’t take a baby aspirin every day! Go Vegan! Gluten-free? Blah – blah – blah.

It’s exhausting, right? I’ve been around long enough to see a bazillion health & well-being trends come and go. And come. And go. Ask a group of ten friends what they do and you’ll probably come away with then different answers. Ask that same question of those people a year later and be prepared for a shift in their answers.

I’m as guilty of this trend-reflex as the next, so before you go sticking your tongue out at me consider that in my basement you’ll find: an ab-roller – remember that? Plus a box of Tae-Bo videos crammed in with my Sweating to the Oldies collection. There’s also a HUGE crystal sitting in front of me as I write this, flax seed in the cupboard, a neti-pot in the bathroom and a rosemary bush by the garden gate.

And now for some personal reflection .....

Located on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, not far from the ocean sits an amazing place called Self-Realization Fellowship. Founded in the 1950’s by Paramahansa Yogananda, the site is basically an open air shrine dedicated to all religions (for movie buffs I should add that the sight was one of if not the first movie studio in the early 1900’s where silent films were made….no! seriously!! Google it if you think I’m full of shit).

Unfortunately, people see/hear the word ‘religion’ and start backing away which is a shame because this place – open to the public – is a magnificent walking and visual meditation in and of itself. Here you will find the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, which houses a portion of the spiritual leader’s ashes (the only portion of his ashes to be interred outside of India). There are also statues of Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi, Bhagavan Krishna, Buddha, and the Madonna and Child. Paramahansa wasn’t kidding about ‘all religions’.

I remember one day, not long after being introduced to this beautiful place, taking a walk with a friend around the lake, meeting orange robed monks, yamaka’d Hebrews, Nuns in traditional habits and every manner of folk simply seeking a respite from the everyday hustle and bustle. There were families with children, a priest, and an abundance of what we gleefully refer to as tie dyed hippies, enjoying the atmosphere.

Not much of a ‘joiner’ by nature, the classes and services offered at the SRF were known but not something that called to me….it was simply a physical place that represented a higher ideal. One of peace and well being that I’ve taken with me in my soul as life and circumstance led me elsewhere.

What was the point of that story? Simple. It’s about finding an oasis of calm – even in the midst of daily chaos.

We’re all so frenetic these days. Over-connected. Plugged in. Tuned in. Internet driven through Facebook, email, messaging, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, even Pinterest. We have Kindles and iPads, cell phones and navigation systems. My TV has three hundred plus channels and when that’s not enough there’s Netflix or Hulu or even Amazon Movies to choose from. I have more damn bookmarks ‘in the cloud’ than I have time to visit.

But do we have pockets of silence away from this never-ending barrage of connectivity where we can switch off, back away, listen? Yes and No.

Since I was a teenager, yoga has fascinated me. To this day I have never taken a formal class – not much of a joiner, remember? – but even so have managed to develop a simple, straightforward personal practice that is equal parts meditation, exercise and therapy. I don’t think about it. It’s like brushing teeth. Something that gets done. Picking apart or analyzing WHY we brush our teeth is unnecessary clutter in an already over-saturated reality. As Nike says – we JUST DO IT.

There have been so many changes in my personal world and I’ve found myself walking a completely different path than the one I’d been on just a year ago. New challenges. Old regrets. It’s all the same, yes?

It’s taken me awhile to find my footing – if that’s what you can call it. Life is, after all, a sometimes-slippery slope over which we have little control. But I like to think that through simply trying to be aware, I’ve moved the story along if only just a little.

We’ve had a brutal winter in the east. If you’ve lived through it, you know what I mean. If you’re watching from elsewhere …. the endless news stories have done a good job of depicting what’s gone on. In a word, it’s been exhausting.

So….there I was early this morning – enjoying the quiet before everyone’s energy got things ramped up – making my customary cup o’ tea (side note: ordinarily I would have thrown in the expression de rigueur since it really IS part of my vocabulary ….but recently I’ve seen some eye-rolling and Google searching going on when I talk/write so I simplified, simplified, simplified) and it started to snow. The screaming in my head from the weather is getting so fucking old at this point!

Without planning or thinking it through (that’s what these ramblings are for:) I pulled out the yoga mat, flipped on some “spa” music from one of the hundred music channels available on my cable system, and got down to it. Twenty minutes later, the mental screaming was replaced with quiet laughter…”Weather!  WTF?!!”

Now, I may eat too much meat, don’t drink enough water and roll my eyes at the hard-core Vegans in my life but that twenty minutes keeps me from taking most of this shit so seriously that yet another layer of stress is added.

To be clear, I’m not preaching. If you knew me personally, you’d know why that impression is beyond fucking hilarious. I’m not advocating (shut-up Vegans! Said with tongue-in-cheek love y’all). I’m not hyping. I’m not selling. This isn’t a pyramid scheme for yoga freaks and I went out of my way not to single out the who/what/when/where and how’s of my practice. That’s for every individual to decide on his or her own.

What I’ve been getting at – in a rather round-about way (you can thank years of teaching for this BTW. Showing vs. Telling, y’know?) is that through a bit of time spent on a mat, I’ve found a way to disconnect and in doing so re-charge. Go ahead and make the snarky comment about the spa music on the cable system. It’s cool! You’re right. It’s hardly disconnecting if ya’ wanna’ be a dick about it – but a point made is better than a shit ton of white noise that leads nowhere.

It’s still snowing but I’m not screaming in my head at the weather gods or shaking my first at the sky. Yeah, annoyed and slightly pissed but ………oh well……..rather than oh my fucking god.

I'm taking that as a WIN.

No comments:

Post a Comment