I decided these types of posts needed a new home :-) If you read my other blog, you’ve seen this one before.
Being in a long distance relationship has afforded me an exorbitant amount of “alone time” where I’m forced to find comfort of the soul and heart simply by being satisfied with myself. NOT an easy thing for me to do. I moved to Savannah and left behind all the friends I had worked so hard to make in Alaska; I faced the daunting task of starting over again. New home, no friends, and no girlfriend to provide intimate comfort. Nakedly alone. But I have learned from this experience in the past – I once had let the courage this takes overwhelm me. I ended up an overweight smoker who cried every day when she got home from work because she was so unsatisfied with her life. I don’t ever want to be in that place again.
But the task of starting over is still never an easy one even when you’ve learned how to pick yourself up by your American boot straps and kick your own ass into gear. It’s still tiring; I still get lonely. Here in Savannah there are no mountains to be conquered, no ice to climb, no salmon running through the streams. So what now? What could I do here to push my limits and keep teaching myself about myself? If there’s one thing I’ve discovered from being with my girlfriend, it’s that you should never turn down an opportunity for new things even if you think other people will think you are silly or because it’s different and therefor daunting…you’ll miss out on A LOT. Experiencing life is seriously tied to state of mind, so when a co-worker mentioned that she and her husband were going to try a yoga class and why don’t I come along…well I paused… yoga? Isn’t that some sort of hippie love past time? Wasn’t I too cynical and sarcastic, cooly jaded to take up a pastime so foreign to my upbringing? Didn’t the practice spring from philosophies and gods I knew nothing about? yes. But I went anyway.
Bikram, despite the 110 degree mouth-of-hell environment, blew me away. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so exhausted…or so free. And I certainly couldn’t have been anymore drenched if I had dove into a swimming pool with my clothes on. Holy sweat, Batman. And holy is right – but that part wouldn’t dawn on me until I branched out to try more yoga at the Savannah Yoga Center. This time I tried a Hot flow yoga (which would more accurately be described as moderately warm compared to the Bikram). The flow class had a very different feel; I was told to set an “intention.” An intention? Yes, I intend to get through this class without dying. I intend to blend into the wall. Strangely enough, the instructor mentioned these as acceptable intentions. Along with world peace or healing. I had to “Om” in this class – I felt silly and awkward letting a mono-syllabic word come humming out of my mouth in unison with others. (Did I mentioned I was also sitting cross-legged with hands in a prayer position in front of my heart?) Yep, here we go. hippie love. Childish giggling lingered at the corners of my mouth. This sound was apparently about bringing ourselves into harmony with others, ourselves, and with the universe.
As if I wasn’t already rocked out of my normal axis of rotation with “om”-ing and placing my hands in a position of worship, the instructor started touching us. Now before you start yelling in outrage, get your minds out of the gutter-ish or violent area which it has probably automatically gone. This was not a touch of violence or violation; in fact, it was hardly there at all. It was light and guiding. I was floored by the trust. The trust that this instructor must have for us – that we will allow this entrance into our personal comfort zones without the reviling or stiffening one would normally show to a stranger. And the trust that immediately forms for the instructor; the hands of a stranger can have growing, good intentions. Intention…hrm….there’s that word again.
Speaking of words – both the Bikram and the flow yoga instructor ended by saying “Namaste!” Um, god bless you? What did that mean? So like any word nerd would do, I went home and googled it. Here’s what I got:
“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”
“That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.”
Um, whoa. Did you just tell me the Universe and God are inside me?…I’ve always been amazed by human beings, both honored and enraged by them. But I’ve been told over the years in direct and not so direct ways that being in awe of life’s spiritual beauty was a liberal and lofty ideal that lacked practicality and produced nothing useful. An unfortunate byproduct of Capitalist thinking. But I say, why can I not combine these philosophies? As with science and spirituality, I do not accept that they must be mutually exclusive. In fact, tonight my teacher mentioned something about yoga being about balancing the light and dark. I think I missed what she was talking about because I was probably busy trying to get myself out of the pretzel-like pose I managed to tangle myself into…but I’m sure it was probably relevant to what I’m talking about now.
A state of mind… Did I dare to believe in my own divinity? When I said “Namaste” in return to my instructors, was I recognizing the divine in them as well? Was I speaking from the place of love, integrity, and peace?
It turns out, this idea of the divine within isn’t only found in the philosophies of yoga. Call it coincidence if you must, but I randomly pulled a book off my shelf tonight called “The Heart of Emerson’s Journals” and flipped open to this passage:
But when he who worships there [church], speaks the truth, follows the truth, is the truth’s; when he awakes by actual communion to the faith that God is in him, will he need any temple, any prayer? The very fact of worship declares that God is not at one with himself, that there are two gods.
What I cannot deny is the good feelings I have about myself and about others after yoga. I cannot express how much I want to see the divine then, to connect, to be in harmony with others. I don’t want to be afraid to be friendly to strangers, to be open, to touch lightly for growth and connection. And how much I wish it didn’t end when I step outside the studios and return to the world of apprehension, suspicion, and distrust. What if we bring all of that intention out into the world on a regular basis? This is one of the goals of yoga that I haven’t achieved. To live consistently in a place of love – I think that takes a tremendous amount of strength knowing that most of the people you encounter won’t be moving from the same place, from divine recognition. But I have found a tiny sense of peace. It doesn’t last; I haven’t mastered that yet. But I do keep reviving it in myself with each class.
Maybe you should try it too Namaste.