Return from New York

Whirlwind work trip to New York. Flew in on Wednesday evening, work all day Thursday and Friday, fly out Friday evening. Home, finally, at almost 2 AM. Not even enough time in the city for a cup of chai with Rew, who, apparently, needs a new Stradivarius. I wonder if it’s on her bridal register? 🙂

For my trip, I stayed at a Hilton hotel in the financial district. I lived in Manhattan years ago when I attended grad school. Did my hanging out more in Chelsea and SoHo and really had little reason to hang out in the financial district. One of the folks I was traveling with asked what I wanted to do when we were there. The only thing I could think of (aside from visiting Eddie Stern’s shala) was to go to Ground Zero to have a look around and say a prayer. She, too, wanted to visit the site, so we had that as our only plan (aside from work).

First evening there, I pulled out the map and tried to get my bearings. I am a terrible map reader, and I am generally lost almost anywhere I am, regardless how long I’ve lived in an area. After a few minutes of trying to figure out where I was located, I got up and looked out the window. Where I was, as it turned out, was 25 stories up, in a building that borders Ground Zero.

I can’t really do justice to how the site looks, even now that it’s been cleared of debris, and I am not even going to try. It was quite an experience each morning to see the sun rising over the buildings that surround the site, with the waters of the Hudson visible just beyond. Such beauty and such sadness.

***

My favorite story of the trip: Thursday evening, I rounded up my colleagues and we took a walk across Canal Street and then into Little Italy. This is a terrific short walk for folks new to the city, and they just loved it.

Outside one restaurant, a very old Italian man was waving a menu and trying to lure people into the restaurant. We stopped to chat and then decided to try the restaurant. After we’d finished and were getting ready to leave, he came in and was telling me a bit about some tough times he’d had when he was younger, when suddenly his eyes lit on my tiny gold Buddha necklace.

“What’s that?” he asked. “It looks like a genie.”

“It’s the Buddha,” I said.

“Can I make a wish?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

So the little Italian man in the crisp fedora took the Buddha in his hand, closed his eyes very solemnly, and made a wish. When he was done, he made a sign of the cross and then kissed his thumb and forefinger.

“Thank you,” he said, and went back outside to trawl for customers.

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Mysore Tuesday. When supta kurmasana rolls around, I think, I’m gonna just be entirely passive and see what happens. Well, passive with my legs, anyhow. As per usual, I bind my hands on my own, then Volleyball Guy pulls them tighter. Usually I then put my feet sole to sole, and he adjusts them however he likes, but this time I just lie there. I also decide not to watch via peripheral vision. So basically, I pretty much am out of the loop of what’s happening. Until he picks up my feet and I realize they are behind my head. Rock on. Well, sorta. I have a distinct feeling of a shifting in the deep tissue in my lower back.

Luckily, I am relaxed enough that I don’t respond physically (i.e., tense up); instead I kind of think, Hmmm, I wonder if that’s bad. Up we go into the dwi pada part, and then back to chaturanga. My back definitely feels like it’s been altered, but I’m not really clear about it in terms of goodness or badness. Just differentness.

I know I have a misalignment in my sacrum. Been there for years. Every chiropractor finds it, adjusts it, adjusts it, comments on it, adjusts it some more, blah, blah, blah. I guess we’re at the point where it’s time to unravel it via practice.

So practice goes on and things feel okay. On to my portion of second series. Everything is a-okay, and I’m loving laghu vajrasana, which I finally managed to pull off quite unexpectedly yesterday morning during home practice. One of those “something clicks” moments, when it all coordinates itself and you just go along for the ride. And then comes kapotasana.

Volleyball Guy does a great kapo adjustment for me, where he squeezes his knees together as he stands over me to help me keep the height in the backbend, then he reaches under my shoulders with his hands and grabs my hands and pulls them toward my feet. Yowza! I gave up any pretense of calm breathing at this point. Supta vajrasana followed right behind, with Volleyball Guy spotting me for handstands in between everything.

At this point I’m pretty much ready to keel over and assume the fetal position on my mat.

“Do you know what comes next?” Volleyball Guy asks me.
“Death?” I suggest.
Bakasana,” he announces.
“I’ve never heard Karen breathe this hard,” Renaissance Man says cheerfully to Sanskrit Scholar.
“Next time do bakasana,” Volleyball Guy says.

Okay, people, I’m not feeling the sympathy.

“Full vinyasana before bakasana,” Volleyball Guy adds.

Uncle! Uncle!

Savasana felt great. I’m at work now, and feel like someone’s been poking in the marrow of my sacrum, but all in all, I think everything’s just fine.

Weekend

I’m happy to find myself back in a normal weekend. Last weekend, the parents were here, and the weekend before, we went to Tucson to see Richard Freeman. So thank God for this weekend, when I can relax, spend time with The Cop, clean the house — normal stuff.

Led class was good yesterday. Very hot, not too crowded. I practiced between The Cat and Crim Girl. Perfect conditions.

I’m checking out the weather in New York, as I head there on Wednesday. Last trip, I was in Chicago, where I looked like someone prepared for a polar expedition. Overdid it a bit in the warm clothing department.

Seems like there is a lot of discussion lately about beliefs. Crim Girl and I chatted a bit about it yesterday — she’d read something about Western religions being high on establishing and adhering to beliefs, and Eastern religions being less concerned with that. I’ve found that most of the zen monks or Tibetan lamas I’ve talked to have indeed been uninterested in pinpointing “the truth” (generally, they’ll laugh at you if you try to go down that road) and simply interested in practicing (whatever the practice might be). The whole “figuring everything out” impulse doesn’t seem to factor in for them.

I seem to be heading in that direction as well. Not at all long ago, I was wondering about what would happen if I relinquished my “mind” (i.e., tons of discursive thought) in a corporate environment. As it turns out, nothing “happens.” The world does not disintegrate, all hell doesn’t break loose, and basically, you just end up exactly where you started, but without an impulse to control it all. Just as much gets “done,” and with considerably less pain.

This is all a function of practice, and I’m grateful for it. Interestingly, I feel less and less inclined to write about it.

Mysore this morning. All the usual suspects. Plus a fellow who generally comes to Saturday led. The heat cranked up and spring kind of here in the desert anyway — so quite toasty. Lately I’ve been wanting to do three surya As and three surya Bs instead of the usual five. Sometimes I indulge myself, sometimes I make myself be good and do five, and sometimes I just forget how many I’ve done anyhow and pretty much quit when I feel like it.

Got a super adjustment in dhanurasana this morning. One of the ones that challenges you not to freak out. Volleyball Guy sat on my feet, which popped my upper body up. He’s a big guy, so he could reach one arm around me, his forearm parallel with my collarbones, and pull back on my shoulders. With the other hand, he squashed down my waist. In a big way.

“Good,” he said (which made me happy), “You’re looking backwards” (which I kind of had to not think about too much because it made me feel a little panicked).

The Cat helped me out in kapotasana. What’s the deal with my arms? They don’t fold up for the first part of the pose (though The Cat helped push me a bit more in the right direction), and they don’t straighten for kapo B.

The primary plus second to supta vajrasana practice is fun. An endurance event. Challenges me to regulate my pacing and my breath. I like having something new to work through. As I was leaving the shala, Volleyball Guy asked me how my practice was. “A long haul,” I replied. But that’s not a complaint.

Home practice this morning. I had coffee. I couldn’t stand it any more. I need to hear the happy beeping of the coffee maker as it completes the brewing of my wake-up coffee. Then it makes sense to get out of bed. Otherwise, I have no reason.

Holy moley, does coffee help my motivation! I feel kind of bad about this, because it’d be nice if it was all me, but apparently a good bit of my energy and focus at 4:30 AM over the past year and a half has been chemical.

So, a lovely practice this morning. I forgot utthita hasta padangusthasana and ardha baddha padmottanasana. Did notice that my knees felt unusually tight in ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana, but didn’t realize it was due to the skipped poses until almost the end of practice. Duh.

See? If Volleyball Guy wasn’t around, I’d end up with some kind of mutant practice.

Email discussion yesterday with Mysorians about the change to Mysore days. I think, as a group, we will get through this and end up in a better situation. At least, I hope.

Practiced up to supta vajrasana, which is both fun and feels good. The Cop is amused that it requires me to get up from my mat, go into another room, and jam my lotused legs under a piece of furniture.

I’m happy I can provide him some entertainment.

When I got to practice today, Volleyball Guy was in the hallway. Mentioned that he will be out of town for two weeks, leaving at the end of next week. And next week, instead of a Monday / Wednesday / Friday schedule, it’ll be Tuesday and Thursday. I told him that I would be in NYC at the end of next week, so will only see him on Tuesday.

“And when you get back from your vacation, Mysore is back to Monday / Wednesday / Friday?”

No. Apparently not. Just Tuesday and Thursday. Not enough people to make three days worthwhile, I guess.

Obviously, this gave me some things to think about during practice.

1) Why do I feel abandoned?
2) Maybe I can get more people to practice Ashtanga.
3) Other cities can support Mysore practices — where are the Phoenix Ashtangis?
4) Hey, now I can drink coffee before practice, because if I’m mostly practicing at home, I can feel sick during backbends, and if I barf, well, I’ll be at home.
5) I wonder if this is all very discouraging to Volleyball Guy.
6) Why do I feel abandoned?
7) Why am I so wound up about this?

I spent a good bit of time thinking about whether this turn of events is good or bad. I knew we had the Volleyball Guy vacation time coming up, and I was ready for home practice. But changing the Mysore schedule is something else again. I have a weird attachment / detachment thing with Mysore practice: just driving over today, I was thinking how good it’d be if we could have it six days a week. On the other hand, when I am off from regular Mysore practice, I really get into home practice, and it can be hard to go back.

In the end, I just told myself that I’m gonna have to wait and see what happens with all of this. It’s not like I don’t have my marching papers: primary and then intermediate to supta vajrasana. Five times a week. And on the sixth, primary.

Not like that isn’t enough to keep me busy.

I do, though, like to have Volleyball Guy around for moral support.

Free

New toy: iPod shuffle. Holds enough Coldplay tunes to get me through practice, and clips on unobtrusively. (Note to self: Coldplay obsession may be slightly unhealthy.)

Yesterday parents were moved to a hotel closer to their new home. Got ’em a rental car. Now they can spend two days getting everything set up as they wait for their furniture to arrive from Florida. I will not feel guilty for being so happy to have my house back. I will not feel guilty.

Actually don’t feel guilty at all. Generally speaking, I only feel guilty about not feeling guilty. Always been that way. I made a very poor Catholic.

Stayed up late last night because the old TV broke, so The Cop needed a new one. On the double. It’s March madness.

We rearranged all the furniture. A chance for me to find the really well-hidden dust bunnies. So I was tired this morning, since we went to bed late. Scary late. Like 10 PM 😉

Home practice day. Stood on the mat and thought: “Maybe just do standing and second series poses through supta vajrasana.” My psoas muscles were still screaming, my shoulders were sore, blah, blah, blah. “Really,” I asked myself, “What should you do?” All of primary and then second through supta vajrasana.

So I did. And feel much better now.