Five years ago on this day, I wake up early in my dorm room at Kripalu, fascinated with the sun that, thanks to Daylight Saving being over, is beginning to rise as we do, too. I see it the minute I wake up, a fine line of orange outlining the mountain tops to the east. It grows deeper and stronger as I get dressed, like a fire is burning just beyond the hilltops. It looks like an oven, hot to the touch. It’s hard not to hum “Circle of Life” in your head as the sky grows pinker, shafts of light hues injecting the dark blue sky. Over the lake, the clouds hang low. Thin, wispy clouds so low that it feels like you could touch them if you were out boating.
After Roger’s delicious spinal-soaking morning sadhana, I step out between the great glass doors. It is bright, blinding, and…warm?! October 31, and I can stand in my flip-flops at 8 a.m. I face the east and do three sun salutations, being nourished by the divine light. I feel like the sun and my breath refuel me, like a car going to the gas pump.
Oh, and it’s Halloween. I only know this because some people dress in costume and there are jack-o-lanterns on the front steps.
Stephen Cope, one of Kripalu’s main men, talks to us during our morning session. We discuss dukha (ill at ease, suffering, pervasive unsatisfactoriness), the roots of dukha (craving, aversion, delusion), and raga (greed, craving). My notes include things like:
3 Characteristics of Afflicted States: (a) Disturbance (restless, distracted, mind heated up); (b) Obscuration (capacity to see things is obscured); and (c) Separation (the mind separates subject/object).
Wanting/pleasure = OK. Craving/attachment = not. Craving increases dopamine levels in the brain, and thus we need more and more to be satisfied.
To overcome craving/aversion/delusion, we must engage in meditative absorption. The mind is no longer caught in the afflicted state. Burns the roots of the affliction. Mind becomes profoundly one-pointed. Kripalu yoga focuses on subtleties–breath, prana, etc, in order to make the mind razor-sharp.
Investigate dukha. If your practice is not softening craving and aversion/delusion, you need to look at your practice.
We are prompted to fill in the blank: My passion (right now, currently, not yesterday and not three years from today) is _____.
Movement! Shadowbrook and Shiva taught me again, brought me back to my roots.
The nature of today’s lecture has me struggling so much, trying to find “me.” Who am I? What brought me here? What has yoga done for me and how can I spread that beyond Kripalu’s walls? What is my passion? What kind of passion can I bring to my yoga, my classes? Who do I look to for inspiration? Do I look to anyone for inspiration?
I am obsessed by and with movement. Dance. Yoga has refueled my passion for movement and dance, the singing of the physical body. I have never danced as passionately as I have after practicing yoga.
I feel so crappy today. I ate so much, I felt like I was going to burst with emotion and confusion. Who the hell am I? Why am I here? Why Kripalu, this mega-huge institution, with so much weight and importance attached to its name? So.much.responsibility. These people here are phenomenal. How can I even think of striving to be like them? But I want to be like them. I want their passion/compassion, dedication and bursting, overflowing love. But how?
I eat like a demon here. I am obsessed with food. I think about our meals all the time. One morning during savasana I saw everyone’s heads as hard-boiled eggs. The day before, I saw a vision of me scooping up lasagna. I think I have become more obsessed with chocolate here than I did in China.
The teachers take our afternoon session outside for an anatomy/physiology lesson. What troopers–they all dressed up for Halloween and put on a “play” about the different systems of the body. We sat on the east lawn and watched Helga play the circulatory system, Jurian the nervous system, Leila the respiratory, Megha the digestive, Rudy the lymphatic, and Roger (dressed in wooly fur pants) the endocrine. How these people got Helga to wear wings is beyond me.
So there we were, spread out on blankets, avoiding dog poop (which J got on her pants), dodging worms, and lying on our backs very vulnerably in supta baddha konasana. Megha got us chanting one of the “forgotten” sutras (“I digest, I absorb, I eliminate!”) and talked about poop and farting in class. Roger talked about gonads, and Rudy allowed us to stand up, face the mountains and lake, and soak it all in. Visually. Audibly. Sensually. It was just absolutely stunning, our whole group standing there, staring at the scenery, awed and amazed. It must have been in the mid-60s out there in the sun. We each ate one raisin and cherished it, contemplated it. One raisin, under the perfectly blue sky.
I just noticed that my toes have separated and spread out more. I guess walking around barefoot and not having my feet constricted in shoes all day helps. My right piriformis/glute/whatever pain has been steadily going away. I can kick without that usual twinge of pain.
Afternoon sadhana was with Micah. He was intense. We started with shoulderstand, bridge, and utkatasana. Nadi shodhana, kapalabhati, and bhastrika. I was exhausted. We ended with supta matsyendrasana, and I started to cry. I cried during savasana. And then some. I stayed after class to curl up in a fetal position and cry some more. At that point, I didn’t even know why I was crying.
I stuffed my face during my silent dinner, ate a second rice cake with jam, and then bought and ate a whole package of those fake M&Ms. [Made a voice post on my old blog] and vented. Left a message for [yoga teacher from home], because she is great and could be a Kripalu teacher without even coming here. I admire her, love her.
I got my period, and that made me feel better. The hunger, the emotions, the pimples.
I knew I needed to dance tonight. Movement was calling for me. Even though I wanted to go to bed after my 8:15 shower, I put on my headphones and went to Shadowbrook. The doors were still open into the lobby, so I sat in the corner and slid around on the floor to Indian music. I stayed planted on the bamboo floor until prana spoke to me, and then I leaped up without warning and was soon dancing in front of Shiva.
Janitors poked in, but I kept moving, especially when “Beating Drums” from Winged Migration came on. I flew. I soared. I danced like I was in my living room at home, in private. But I was not alone. I was at Kripalu, with passersby and custodians. I knew this. This is why I love yoga. It gave me passion again, in dance. I dance more soulfully than I ever have. Yoga shows us our true passions. Yoga doesn’t change us; it re-connects us with our true selves. I have to remember that within the postures; there is movement, liberation. I trust that. Now I have to express that to others.
Everyone talks about yoga here. You’ll see people on the couch, in a deep conversation about yoga, asana, pranayama, whatever. There are always conversation about yoga going on here, even from people you’d never expect.
I try not to think about the future, about post-Kripalu life, but it’s hard. These people–these faces–these smells and sounds and songs…how can I study aparigraha with such sweetness surrounding me?
It’s 9:50 p.m. and I am dead tired. I am so old, so exhausted.