Vinyl sand dune

Yes, I’ve heard the advice over and over: “Go practice dropping back on the beach. Use a sand dune.” No beaches to speak of here in the desert. There are some man-made lakes and reservoirs, but they are surrounded by rocks and cacti, and I don’t want to drop back onto cacti.

Here’s what I got just before I got sick (see picture below). How hard was it for me to resist trying it out? Mentally, it was excruciating. Physically, I couldn’t get off the couch. So it was kind of a moot point.

This morning, though, out came the vinyl sand dune. It’s incredibly fun! I am mightily uncoordinated and there’s lots of yelling going on in my head (“Breathe, Karen! Breathe!”, “Breathe in going up!”, “Stay in your feet! Stay in your feet!”, “Woohoo!” — stuff like that), but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

The plan, obviously, is to keep moving lower and lower on the dune, and eventually I’ll be on the floor.

The dune was shipped just wrapped in plastic material, so its cushy wedge-ness was not hidden from the mailman. What does the mailman think, I wonder? I get packages like that, The Cop gets gear from a police tactical store, and My Gift recently had a shirt for the Renaissance Festival shipped to the house from a company called Tudor Dressing.

I wonder if he thinks we are a house full of armed Renaissance acrobats.


Slowly, slowly

Ugh. Still coughing. Everyone at work is treating me like I’m returning from a year in a sanitorium — I feel like a Thomas Mann character.

There is hope, though. Did half primary and the intermediate backbends this morning. Felt all ethereal and light — binds were easy, but I tired pretty easily. Still, it’s instructive to approach the practice with softness.

Savasana was marvelous. The magical learning process of physical-practice-then-be-still. It’s like having answers whispered in your ear.



Finally decided to visit the doctor yesterday. Bronchitis. Got some antibiotics and a narcotic cough suppressant. Woohoo!

I’d been working, even though from home and rather slowly, but the plan for today and tomorrow is to simply sleep as much as possible and just lie around.

Luckily, Ty seems to be in a sleepy mood, so here we are on the couch, him snoozing and me watching more of season 1 of “Heroes” on the iPhone. Or reading the second book in the “Twilight” series on the iPhone. Or blogging on the iPhone. Or sewing new curtains on the iPhone. Okay, not so much the last one. The iPhone IS really good for invalids, though.

Realized today that there are things I only eat when I am really sick (when I’m healthy I don’t have ’em at all), and when I am really sick, they’re all I want:

  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Orange juice
  • Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable soup
  • Okay. Back to “Heroes.” Did I mention how cool this show is?

    Mind/Body problem

    As it turns out, I’m finding it’s not a “problem,” nor even a distinction.

    I’ve been sick all week, with the symptoms getting worse and worse. Usually there’s an uptick by now, but it doesn’t seem to be kicking in. Bleh.

    Okay, so one interesting thing: I am gauging my condition via how my mind feels as well as how my body feels. You know, like it’s ONE system. 😉

    I was brought up hearing “listen to your body.” This always baffled me, because my mind has always been a LOT louder than my body. That was my karma (habit). How in the world could I make my mind quiet down so I could hear my body? How could I be convinced it was my body talking and not my mind pretending to be my body? Gah!

    I took up lots of physical practices to try to sort this all out: zazen, weightlifting, tai kwan do, climbing. Note a progression here? Yes, the “sport” got progressively more scary. It had occurred to me that the only way to circumvent my loud mind was to scare myself enough that my mind couldn’t fool me. If I could freeze my mind, I’d see what my body did on its own. Climbing was definitely the apex of my scare-yourself-until-you-can’t-think experiment.

    But I don’t think that experiment worked, at least not the way I intended. I didn’t manage to turn off my mind, as distinct from my body. All that happened over 100 feet was that my mind didn’t noodle around with extraneous things. So my mind never shut up or went away. But what I did get was an opportunity to pay lots of attention to my system (body and mind) under different stressors. At least 10,000 hours, I’m sure.

    So now Ashtanga is in the picture. The zen practice has had time to kick in. And I am sick as a dog.

    What’s interesting is that I can feel “how I am” in the moment as a MUCH more integrated system. This integration is super-obvious at work (and yes, I do think of work as a sport and as a practice), where my body has to be still so my mind can see what’s going on in different situations. Kind of like zazen, where it’s really cool if the body can kind of pipe down and the mind can get really light. But it’s not a denial or disappearance of the body, so much as a coordination of body-mind. A specific configuration that doesn’t blot one out while favoring the other.


    What got me thinking about this is a story on a friend’s blog, about a yoga newbie who was watching him do dropbacks. She watched carefully, then arched back further and further until she dropped back (one-handed, no less!).

    Reminds me of my climbing buddies. Advanced climbers, natural athletes. Ex-gymnasts and martial artists. I say mind/body, they say body/mind. They definitely were super-gracious to lay out the path for me. All I had to do was exert myself and not allow my mind to freak out and doom everybody else.

    In my next incarnation, I would like to be a body/mind person.


    I went into work for one meeting yesterday, and it was utterly fascinating. Every single person I spoke with (and these are people outside my department, who did not realize I’d been out sick or that there was anything unusual about my state) reached out at some point and touched me on my shoulder.

    I’m seen as a friendly, warm person at work, but I am not seen as a “touchy” person, so this touching was very unusual. I assume people were just subconsciously aware of my system being weakened, and they reached out to share some energy. (Oh my, I can totally see The Cop rolling his eyes when he reads this post!)

    Okay, I’ll buy that

    Check out your blog’s personality type at Typealyzer.

    Is this lame? I don’t care. I’m sick. About all I’m good for is entering my URL into a text field and clicking “Typealyze.”

    Here’re my results:

    ISTP – The Mechanics

    The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

    The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as driving race cars or working as marrying policemen.

    Dreaming about my heels

    Last night I dreamt I was in urdhva dhanurasana and walked my hands in until I touched my feet. It was nice. The end.


    Okay, it’s… um, 3.5 years into practice and I am losing the inclination to pine for poses. Is this why people quit around kapotasana? Because the pining, driven feeling diminishes and it’s confusing and you figure it means you’ve lost interest?

    Luckily, I’ve had lots of practice carrying on with projects regardless my immediate feelings about them. The project of raising My Gift, certainly. I always loved her, but the day-to-day (and minute-by-minute!) requirements and logistics and ups and downs, etc., etc., etc., taught me to carry on regardless whether it seemed possible to carry on. [Moment of single-Mom self-pity. Okay, that’s done!]

    Writing, same deal. I focused on it as a daily practice (i.e., was madly driven) for a good 10 years. Pined to publish. Published. Was happy. Published more. Was happy some more. Realized I was just going to keep writing, regardless publishing or happiness. All my worries, all my ups and downs over progress and publishing? Uh, yeah, didn’t make anything happen or not happen any more quickly or slowly.

    It’s all about the means, not the end. I’ve learned that lesson over and over in a variety of situations. Good karma, I think — it’s a very pleasant, freeing lesson.

    Alrighty, so I keep practicing. And I’ll use the vow I used for writing and zen practice: In 20 years, I’ll take a moment to consider whether it was worth it.

    That seems reasonable.


    I’ve not practiced since Sunday. Have a pretty awful cold. Used the usual gym rat rule for exercising while sick: once it goes lower than your throat or gives you a fever, you knock off (i.e., okay to practice with head cold or headache or sore throat, but not with a chest cold or cough).

    Woke this morning and lay in bed, feeling like a log. My brain has been cut off from my body! LOL! Seriously, that’s what it feels like. Like my body is opaque to my mind. Like on “Heroes” when the Haitian is around and the mind readers can’t read other people’s minds.

    Yeah, I’ve been watching “Heroes” too much.


    One hilarious thought when I signed up for Matthew Sweeney’s workshop in July. “What if I’m still not dropping back?” (said in horrified tone). Because, you know, he’s been travelling the world teaching hundreds and hundreds of people, and in July he’s gonna travel to Minnesota and single me out to say, “Really, Karen? You still haven’t figured this out?”


    Binaural Report, Sweeney Returns, Heroes

    If today wasn’t a moon day, I’d repeat my experiment with the binaural track before I said anything about it. But moon day it is, so my report will be based on just one use.

    What did I find? Well, I guess a little context is in order: I am on the waning side of a deep, easy yoga phase. I imagine this happens to everyone — phases where asana feels very clear and easily accessible? They come and go for me — generally practice is comfortable, so I can’t complain, but the deep phases are particularly marvelous.

    For the past week or so, that easy accessiblity (where I just lock into tristhana automatically as soon as I raise my arms for the first surya) is diminishing. Not too sad — I know it’ll be back. But it makes for a good time to experiment with the binaural track.

    So what did the track do? Well, it seemed to help me wipe my mind clear really easily. If something about an asana wasn’t what I wished, I just went on. When something went really well, it didn’t cause much internal celebration. I felt like I was experiencing everything, but not “sticking” to any of the particulars of the experience.

    I know this idea makes non-Buddhists nervous. What, no highs or lows? No vividness to life? No desires? Whatever. I’ve had my fill of vata sensibility: flying off into fits of inspiration, getting jangly with too much energy, rebounding into judgment and loud inner monolog, etc., etc., etc. Sure, those things still happen, but to a much less intense degree. And I’m happy for the smoothing out, which I definitely attribute to practice, both zazen and Ashtanga. You know what feels really freaking good? Peace. Stillness. Presence. We are enculturated to desire thrills and joy and drama and all kinds of emotional acquisitions. Sheesh. Who made that decision?

    So binaural practice was… meditative. Just as promised on the package (6 Hz for theta waves & meditation). 😉


    Well, Matthew Sweeney starts his half-year of continuous world travel (seriously, look at this schedule!) in March. And he will be in Minneapolis July 10-16. As will I! Woohoo! I’d been mulling over the idea of going for a while (would it be too repetitive? should I go somewhere else? would it be better to experience a different teacher?), but when I got a note from Gracious Yogini, who lives in MN, that 9 of the 15 Mysore spots were already spoken for, I decided to go for it.


    I can’t read on planes, trains, or in cars. For my recent flights to and from DC, I entertained myself with TV shows on my iPhone. At My Gift’s suggestion, I watched the first few episodes of Heroes. And was instantly hooked.

    The Cop laughed and noted that I am now an iPhone addict — I watch TV shows on it, and read books via ereader in bed at night.

    Remember those big huge “entertainment centers” people fell in love with in the… was it the 80s? the 90s? Anyhow, the entertainment center is now handheld, which amuses me no end.