Finish your breath, Part 2

My body is happy for the Moon Day, but my mind is really wanting to practice. I don’t usually get this clear a split on the issue, so it’s kind of amusing. I had a feeling this was going to happen, so I got up late, in order to thwart my rebellious nature 😉

Saturday’s post-led lunch was great fun. A very good turn out–twelve people, including Crim Girl, Sanskrit Scholar, Volleyball Guy, Renaissance Man, Returning Guy and New York Chick. Girl with a Red Mat brought her boyfriend. It’s always fun to meet significant others. And The Human Puddle joined us. He doesn’t do Mysore, but is a pretty consistent participant at led class. I like practicing next to him, and always remember the first time I did: during chanting at the end of practice, as we stood in tadasana, I kept catching sight of a motion in my peripheral vision. Turns out it was the constant drip of sweat onto the puddle on his mat. LOL! Seriously. I’m usually quite Howard Hughes about these things, but on that day I was just impressed.

***

Back to the ayurveda story. When we left off, I was at the ayurvedic practitioner’s place, getting more and more restless because I needed to get back to the office.

Interestingly, the more revved up I got, the more slowly the ayurvedic practitioner seemed to move and speak. She gave me a leisurely lecture on sesame oil massage, actually miming the way the oil should be applied over my body (elliptical motions over the muscles, circular motions over joints). It started to feel vaguely hallucinatory, the way we were going so intensely out of sync, but I kept pulling myself back to the funky room.

As I was paying for my session, I asked for directions back to the main road. She explained the route to me. Then she map-quested and printed a map, which she highlighted as she reviewed the route. Then she used a pencil to do a line drawing of the route in the margin of the map quest page, and reviewed that. Then she added an R in a circle or an L in a circle on the line drawing to indicate right and left turns. “This is a remarkable amount of time to spend answering someone’s question,” I thought.

Ah, but it didn’t end there: she had a book she wanted to show me, and she also wanted to give me a card for an ayurvedic practitioner in Phoenix who did medical treatments, in case I ever needed those kinds of services. She was very clear about the fact that she could give me an introduction to the principles of ayurveda, but if I needed medical intervention, I should see this other woman. But she couldn’t find the card. Not where it usually was. But perhaps it was over here. Or here. Or perhaps it was in a drawer. Finally, she found the card.

Was this slow, thorough interaction the answer to the question that brought me here? Perhaps. I was aware that my mind was already heading back to the office, and I kept bringing it back to my current situation as well as I could. Still, it was a split consciousness. I couldn’t seem to just be present in the ayurvedic practitioner’s office any longer. I was too torn by what had to happen next (Get back to work!) At the same time, I was feeling envious of this environment where people could go as slowly as they liked–pausing to think and to share thoughts. Yes, this really is what I am trying to figure out lately–how to bring that to my own life.

Of course, the afternoon ended with me going back to work, but not until I picked up some food for lunch. And when I got back to my desk, a couple of coworkers happened by. I invited them in, and had a nice chat while I ate lunch, instead of diving right back into emails and voice messages.

The results of the experiment so far have been quite good: since my visit, I’ve slept more soundly than I’ve slept in years. I’ve been able to keep more centered at the office, though there is still work to be done on that count. I really feel like this is currently my most significant question: how can I bring, sustain, and promote centered consciousness in my workplace?

So far I only have a few ideas about how I can get this going: 1) keep centered via yoga practice and zazen, 2) laugh as much as possible at work.

Oh, I should mention how the ayurvedic session affected my Ashtanga practice. The first Mysore practice after the session was very grounded and strong. I was going along happily, when the thought came to me: Finish your breath. Sure enough, I suddenly recognized that I often don’t finish my exhale. It felt quite revelatory–I saw that when I am stressed at all (even quite subtly stressed, like by a shift in my attention), I hold some of my out-breath. No idea why that is, but it felt really good to make a point of finishing each breath.

Maybe that’s what the ayurvedic practitioner was modelling for me when she did her slower-and-slower wrap-up of our session?

I am, of course, amused. Here I am, decades into my life, and the biggest project I have going on is trying to remember to exhale all the way…

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