forbearance and the “me” factor

“some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings good ol’ Garth Brooks.

i face inner struggle… resistance to what is… urges to fall back into familiarity in the face of the big bad scary (insert suspenseful horror movie background music) UNKNOWN. (scream)

dramatic i know… it keeps me entertained though, and man, if we can’t be entertained by the endless happenings on the stage of life, it’s going to be a bad movie! and i want my money back!

i felt like that this morning at my Bikram class. despite all my years of asana practice, and my experience as a teacher, i was that student who hated everything in class today — myself, my appearance, the teacher, the smell of the carpet, any excess talking from the teacher, any corrections received from the teacher, and especially the bee keeper lady who kept me up late waiting for her call and then also woke me up at 2 am and proceeded to talk way too enthusiastically for the time of night and act as if it was completely normal to do such things at 2am and behave in ways so that i judgmentally dub her as a drug addict…hmm that’s a whole other thing… the point is, Bikram is a set sequence of 26 postures in a really hot room that’s always that hot! the variables are dramatically limited; we’re down to the teacher, the time of class you attend, and you. you (or me rather) (er uh i…) can contain numerous variables — what we eat, quantity and quality of our rest, regularity of practice, knowledge of alignment, attitude, will power, inner resiliency, the quality of our patience and forbearance.

forbearance really hits the nail on the head: “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” ooooh! tomorrow’s word of the day!

first, variables…. so when the variables are minimized it’s very easy to see that when you have a “bad” class, it’s not the sequence (again, in Bikram it’s the same every time), its not what the teacher says (most of Bikram is scripted— yet the teachers still ad lib, and that can be aggravating), it’s probably not the time of day, (unless you know you’re a morning person and you go at night or vise versa, but that still falls under the “me” factor), it’s you! my friend used to say, “what’s the common denominator in this equation?” (it’s me… er you)… sigh… so there’s that… it was me. it was me the whole time, and i knew it. i got through the class. savasana was so restful. i literally melted into my mat/towel. i was very grateful for un-talkative ladies in the restroom. and yet it seems that may be some of what i needed– some interaction. for on my car ride from the studio i made a couple of phone calls, one to my paw paw who i don’t get to talk to much. i adore him. he lives up in minnesota with his lady and they often make crafty things, like right now they call it “lawn art,” pretty flowers made of various metal scraps that they paint. i’m always impressed with his interest in life, his continual creativity and quest to be involved. just getting to talk to him briefly started to shift my mood.  then i called two girl friends and my twinny and left them nice messages. much better… i dorked out at Wholefoods… mission: drink green juice first after Bikram, cuz otherwise i might dive into an all out binge… (“know thyself”) (“forwarned is forarmed” – Lee Lozowick)

also, one of my girls facebook messaged me and shared some of her honest suffering. initially i see the surface of it as different than me. as i sit with it though, i see her suffering is the same as mine, despite varying physical circumstances. this realization helps me to settle, feel a sense of connection, and thus have compassion. instead of wallowing in my ick, i can reach out and write her a message to offer her some connection, love, and hopefully share some wisdom, for so often in reaching out to others i share exactly what i need to hear.

(i’m going to do that now) (stay tuned… unanswered prayers… then forbearance….)

and we’re back!… (uproar of applause)

chuckle chuckle… so back to the song. i’m a not-so-in-the-closet country fan (i was raised with it in the background), and this lyric came to my head today after reading my friend’s facebook message, “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” gotta love garth brooks… or you don’t and you just judged me and decided to stop reading my blog and never look back, and probably defriend me on facebook and certainly talk poorly about me behind my back… blink blink… … … blink…


unanswered prayers– the gist of the song is that the singer’s life turned out beautifully and perfectly and he only realized this when he saw an “old flame,” the one he’d always wanted and prayed for, and yet when they saw each other at this stage of life they had little attraction and nothing in common. “just remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care.” the point: we face discomfort in the face of not getting what we want…

(reminds me of another song, by wah: “she gives you what you want and hopes that someday you’ll want to take what she has to give.”)

… subsequently we feel anxious urging toward that familiar place of comfort. yet, that place of familiarity is not where we grow, says DR Butler… he says, “We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by familiarity. To allow the familiar to continue to be the fundamental reality is like functioning in this world asleep. When we do this we unknowingly create outer appearances of our fears and anxieties — all because we have no awareness or appreciation of the power of attention, the effectiveness of a conscious intent, and the final declaration of will.” (from Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.)  so, the consequence of choosing to be in the unfamiliar for the sake of “waking up,” as they say, is that you feel uncomfortable… “comfort” was a yogahour word of the day a few weeks ago. i discussed how it was an advanced concept that the yoga asana should be “steady and comfortable”, as stated in “the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” for only through dedicated practice over a long period of time does one accept, and thus get comfortable with the sensations that arise in the midst of transformation.

(((in the new super man movie superman’s father tells him (us): continue to push limits, test your limits, to see how strong you can get )))

so this too applies to our lives (for doesn’t it all?), in that in the discomfort of our life’s MG9952-Mcircumstances we have the opportunity to fall back into old ways, old habits, and tendencies for the sake of comfort, ease, familiarity, OR we have the opportunity to endure the discomfort with strength and sensitivity– not a teeth grinding sort of endurance, but rather an openhearted willingness to feel the gift of the moment. (manorama says in a decrescendo ending in a breathy whisper, “feel it. feel it. feel it.”) for that is what every moment is, a gift. and as we unwrap the gift fully in the moment, we receive as much as we are ready for, (or as much as our curtains’ openness allows for the light to poor in– Swami Gurumai Chidvilasananda). and this readiness expands as we practice being with whatever unfolds in the moment. thus it was all there the whole time, “always already there,” as Mr. Paul Muller Ortega says, and it is our perception that expands (HA! again! the “me variable!!!”)

(took udu doggy fer a walkee. nice night! big moon! it’s actually called a “supermoon!” yep, not making it up… two people confirmed it who don’t even know eachother. lol … it’s supposed to be the biggest moon of the year… and of course there’s symbolism there, right hippy?! the notion of dark becoming light. and how this moon at it’s brightest represents how we too have the capacity to achieve our fullest potential and shine at our brightest…. man this goes right along with what i’ve been writing about. so perfect, of course)

back to the point (Manorama moment…what’s the point?)

now on to forbearance…

such a fine definition my computer dictionary offers! “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”

this is precisely what yoga offers us the opportunity to cultivate (and it is always an offering, an opportunity, “an invitation,” as Mr. John Friend used to say… it’s never an obligation… for we don’t have to do anything, life beckons to us and we always have the option to refuse. to decline… to say no… hmmmm… but why not say yes? … and see what happens… fyi, you’re probably going to get uncomfortable… hahahaha). patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. the Bikram practice in a relatively small room heated to or over 105 degrees Farenheight, in which students face a large mirror, are not supposed to talk, fidget, wipe sweat, or even drink unless at a specified break… needless to say, all your buttons are pushed… and then what…? Ha!… this is an instance in which peer pressure is of great service. (do i really want to be the only person scowling and making a fuss?) you can really tell the newer students, as they’ve not figured out these subtle rules that you learn as you go… no body really tells you overtly, you just learn as you go, and everybody begins to conform in this beautiful synchronized unity that perfectly exhibits the very definition of yoga. (so i’m on a Bikram kick right now… doesn’t mean that other styles don’t offer these attributes, it’s just that this is the style i’m focusing on right now. i’ve experienced the same phenomenon in the Ashtanga method, and in Yogahour with Darren Rhodes, and in certain teacher’s offerings of Anusara Yoga, and John Friend and Desi Springer’s “Roots” Practice…) i learn to not express my emotional outbursts through mindless fidgeting, dramatic facial expressions, or talking. i come back to tadasana (steady mountain pose –the steadiness offered from within my own self), and seamlessly onto the next pose. these styles of practice are a beautiful metaphor for life, in that it’s always on to the next thing.  (reminds me of a time Christina Sell was teaching about inversions and quoting one of her teachers said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”)  in Bikram they say, “Let it go.” In a recent Lesson from DR Butler, he commends the “many principles of Truth exemplified in the world of sports,” and he quotes head football coach at Cornell University, a former Rhodes scholar, and ‘very intelligent man,'”To me, the number one thing is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you. You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before — drop the baggage, drop the pressure, and just play.” on to the next moment. may we move into each moment untethered to the drama of the past…

…through the practice i face my thoughts, my emotions, my “ways of being”… and practice moving in the face of them…

i continually recognize my tendencies to think poorly of myself, to talk badly to myself, to want to quit, give up, to be tempted to wallow in self pity, to feel isolated and singled out, uncertain, overwhelmed…(this helps me to feel profound connection to my students, especially the beginners and to really appreciate the intensity yoga presents in a matter-of-fact sort of way, like, “here it is.  here’s the path.” the rest is up to us… walk it, or don’t– no judgement.)

and then there’s the next pose, and tadasana, and the next one, and tadasana, always coming back to center — physically and mentally.  through practice i can now recognize which postures the final postures, signaling that class is closer and closer to savasana (which ultimately means death — how much we long for this relative peace, ease, and comfort!). this familiarity with the set sequence brings a sense of calm to the mind, knowing the finish line is near… (i always hear my twinny’s voice — which funny, sounds like mine… “you can do it steffi, you’re almost there”) and the pranayama comes and then we die…

the end… you’re dead “did you do.. did you do all you could?” (sings Ani Difranco)







Thumbs up

ok, so no fooling… i’m freaking out to a small degree regarding money and finances in general and I keep reminding myself to trust in the universe, to have faith in my being provided for each day, each moment. I keep going about daily business even after I work out some financial details and blatantly face the fact that after I pay my mortgage I will have $300 with which to pay other bills, eat, buy gas, and essentially live for the next two weeks.  After teaching I received a call from my sister, Staci, and after chit chat she informed me that she has $1000 for me!!! Yeah! no shit! I wanted to cry and sing and dance all at once! My faith in God is absolutely blaring and flashing like a vivid neon sign. I have been praying about my financial situation and here it is! Yeah! Turns out I previously lent her a little more than that and she’s just paying me back! Rad! And then! Handsome coffee man gave me a free coffee! HA! I’m so grateful! I’m so supported and so taken care of, as long as I’m tending to me and my highest self, as opposed to my lower self that is needy, codependent, and addicted. It seems as though I’m making the best decisions, even as I face the discomfort of being alone, of being anxious, uncertain, and troubled with an inordinate amount of empathy and self-doubt. Lately I’ve been experientially realizing how necessary the discomfort is. By this I mean that like most human beings, I tend to want to avoid discomfort at all costs via alcohol, drugs, food, sex, tv, video games, drama, etc…and it’s precisely that avoidance that prevents the lesson from taking root. (I think of that Ani Difranco song, “Marrow,” she sings, “The answer came like a shot in the back while you were running from your lesson, which might explain why years later all you could remember was the terror of the question… and I can’t believe you let the moral go by while you were sulking in the product placement…” i checked; I didn’t remember the exact lyric)

So i was dorking out yesterday thinking about how Pandora is like life. (cuz isn’t everything simply a microcosm for life?) I thought it’d be a brilliant yoga theme and blog entry, but then I didn’t make time to write my blog entry yesterday, my day off, cuz i was busy walking my dog, meeting a few friends, getting coffee, hula-hooping (yeah!), roller-skating (uh-huh!), running with my dog in what seemed like the tornado in Wizard of Oz, making kale chips, grocery shopping, checking Facebook… …. ha! there’s always something, no?.. so i taught it as a yoga theme today and realized it would have gone over much better had i spent that time writing about it yesterday… yeah… so anyway. i’m here today… and i blog…

On Pandora there’s the thumbs up symbol and the thumbs down symbol. Right. So you pick your artist, Pandora plays similar things within that genre and a person can specifically tailor a radio station to their liking with these two icons. It took me a little while to figure this out. I know, shoosh… Initially I listened to whatever was played just like I would listen to a radio station. I would tolerate the annoying songs and just deal with agitation or press the forward button to skip to the next song. In retrospect I see I was avoiding responsibility for creating the station the way I wanted it. I have this tendency to feel bad, like i want to give the song a chance, so rather than thumbs down it, I’d just move on. Soon I realized you can only skip ahead five times… (yeah, funny. I wonder why it’s only five)… (maybe i’m overanalyzing this)

You can create your universe by the was you interact with what is presented to you in the moment. If you like it, embrace it, affirm it, engage it. If you don’t like it, it’s important to cultivate the skill to assert yourself and to choose something else. Otherwise you keep listening to songs you don’t really like; you experience a world that just happens to you, aggravates you, and you tolerate it passive-aggressively rather than manifest a moment of your choosing, a life of your dreams… sigh…. (drift off in la la land)…. …

With regard to yoga poses though, we face a little bit of a dilemma. It’s not as though you can “thumbs down” a pose and you don’t have to do it. rrrrrrright…. Some people do, and you absolutely can in your own practice, but that’s surely not how you get better at the challenging poses or how you cultivate virtues such as perseverance and patience (i’m up to ‘P’ in the dictionary, ha!). (and this may be a whole separate issue, but often by pracicing poses we don’t like we get better at the poses we do like.  For example by doing dreaded core work our backbends get better.) The teacher has a plan, and we, as students might not know the bigger picture and/or don’t dig this plan.  It’s her plan, not ours. Being a student in the class, in fact, choosing to be there, we are choosing to work on what is presented. The plan is for our benefit, for our upliftment. Thumbs up.  That is the challenge. Discernment within yoga practice would be discerning what is pain from what is intense sensation. Rather than avoid that which presents intense sensation, (viewing it as pain), we can delve into it with our breath, explore it and feel it… feel it… feel it… and consequently learn and grow… evolve, get bigger because of the challenge. The option always exists to see it as pain, to complain, avoid, justify, distract… and stay small, or even to contract further in the face of challenge. We always have a choice…

Dr. Douglas Brooks says, “What a difference a difference makes.” While choosing thumbs up or thumbs down on a Pandora station seems inconsequential and trivial, even silly… (like come on, where are we going with this? ha! I know!), this is what we do moment to moment by the way we interact with our surroundings, by how we engage with what is presented to us in the moment. So that what is presented becomes that which we choose. With discernment we choose to affirm, maintain, or further cultivate that which we like, that which enhances our experience of life. In many cases, the thumbs down option just happens because by saying yes to something, you’re necessarily saying no to other things. However certain things require a thumbs down. In this “relative” world of manifest things not all things are created equal. It’s not all the same. Some things are better than others. You like some things and not others. In order to fully say yes to oneself and one’s life, we must enact the thumbs down option… without feeling bad… (errrrr i suppose it’s gotta be ok to feel bad, cuz it just happens and we can accept that too. We’ve got to be ok with feeling bad, being in that discomfort, because like yoga asana, that’s how we evolve.) I hope this is helpful to more people than just me. As beloved Manorama teaches, look to the metaphor.