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Five years ago on this day, I wake up to a non-YTT guest in our dorm room, right above me. Her name is Donna, and she is fine. She woke up at 6 this morning, but after she crept down the bunk ladder and hit the floor I was already asleep again. I woke up at 7 to the sun bright as all heck shining in, a huge cloud of mist hanging over the lake like I was in Narnia. I noticed that the bright yellow and red trees outside our window are almost completely bare. Their once luscious, vibrant leaves of fire now make a huge puddle around their bases.
I am sick. I could feel the congestion building up over the past 2-3 days, and last night I went to bed with a sore throat. All during the night I kept waking up, trying to swallow. I wonder how often Kripalu cleans those purple and white blankets and yoga mats.
I look at myself partially naked in the bathroom mirror and notice although I think my butt has gotten bigger, everything in that area is more toned and muscular, especially my thighs. My inner thighs are solid, and stuff doesn’t jiggle as much. My abs are more defined. I have the biggest sleepy circles under my eyes, but my face feels glowing, flushed, radiant.
I realize how much of an impact music has on my memory. In the cafeteria this morning, a song was playing, the techno/dance version of “Simple Gifts” that Megha and Rudy played on opening night. A sudden feeling of love and warmth wash over me.
After breakfast, I hope to catch the “walking train” of people that decided to head into Lenox, but I apparently missed the group by 10 minutes. That’s OK. I went off by myself, backpack in tow, and set off past the gates of Kripalu. Real World. The sign at the entrance of Kripalu is so small and humble, our little safe haven. Our little secret.
There is a “Welcome to Lenox” sign, and now I’m on the open road. I notice lots of noise, cars, trucks…it’s loud. I realize I haven’t truly been “on the open road” in about 3 weeks, and hearing the sounds of speeding cars is a little bit of a shock. I walk and walk, uphill, downhill, kind of knowing where I’m going but also not. Where is the monument [in the center of town]? How far ahead are the other girls? Will I see society soon? I walk past houses, some with pumpkins on their front steps, some with Christmas wreaths hanging on the doors. Christmas. Holy crap, it’s November 11, and that means the stores are probably bursting with Christmas stuff. Where have I been? What a time warp.
Where am I?, I think, continuing with my walk. It’s so much different than walking around my hometown or other familiar places, when I know precisely where I am in relation to the county, state, and country. But where am I now? I have a vague feeling of it being in Massachusetts, but it feels like a different planet. I know nothing around me, and in a way it feels good. Not knowing. Living in the inquiry. I feel like my trek on this foreign road is like the journey of a college student–I know I want to do something in communications, but what? TV? Radio? Film? Print? No idea where to go or what the destination is, but enjoying the journey, the walk, the various classes and lectures and teachers and books and friends. Being OK with not knowing the destination.
When I reach downtown Lenox about 45 minutes later, it feels like Disney World. There is a bank, a pharmacy, a book store, a health food store, cute little shops, a gas station. I’m tickled with delight but also worried. Choices. Decisions. Learning to control the urge to hoard and want and possess. I find the Lenox coffeeshop, and D. and M. are inside. Soy hot chocolate. We talk a lot about Kripalu, the people, our staff, how we are overcome with gratitude and love when someone reaches out to us. I am not the only one falling in love with love.
Twenty minutes after returning to Planet K, it’s DansKinetics time. I try not to think about how this may be my last DansKinetics class with Megha, to just be there in the Main Hall, in front of the stained glass Om symbol, to enjoy and participate, to dance and just let go. It works, because I see the transformation around me. I see people around me smiling and singing and laughing and sweating, and I know it is partially Megha’s influence that has made everyone open up this way. Her energy is boundless, and it is fascinating to see how it rubs off on one, two, three, four people, and how that energy rubs off on more people, spreading until the whole room is ALIVE, like really ALIVE…living. How one person and five drummers can create that openness is a marvel to witness, and I knew then that (for the 1,000th time) that is was my duty to take this energy, cultivate it in myself, and spread it to people in my life.
I keep telling myself to remember, remember, remember. It is my new mantra. I remember the wood-paneled ceiling, I remember smiling at my fellow classmates, I remember standing next to the drummers and hearing their beats, moving my feet to their sound. I remember standing at the edge of the circle, letting my body succumb to Stage 4 (another dimension), my hair loose and all over my face, thrashing on the floor, dying, dying, alive, alive, a birth and death cycle over and over again. I was 150 different Jens that afternoon, coming and going. I was a banshee wild woman, raw, terrifying, peaceful, sexual, dying, breathing, living. A tiger and a dove. Sweaty. Gross. Sweet. Sweat. Remember.
During class I realized that what A.M. said about silence is right–you can’t have music without it. There were times during KDZ’s intense drumming songs when they threw in a pause–and the release, the notes that followed that hold, were thrilling, wild. You could see the effect on us; everyone loved it. Those short little pauses that gave us two seconds of craving, anticipation, mystery–then gaining it all back again. You can’t have music without silence.
We trickled to the floor as the music slowed, a graceful surrender and death. The musicians padded around us, their delicate music lulling us into relaxation. A little blonde girl named Roberta played her rain stick over my head, and I smiled. I felt emotion, tears. Grateful. I Jai Bhagwan’ed with appreciation and rested. When I saw Megha in the doorway, I immediately zeroed in to hug her, even though she and I were both saturated. I did not care. I embraced her and my voice trembled, and I thanked her. She called me “My dancing sister,” something she’s probably said to thousands of other women, but that melted my heart then and there.
Mexican for lunch, and I overeat again. Burritos, tacos, beans, rice, salad, corn soup. I go overboard and now my tummy is not so flat anymore.
I shop in the Kripalu Store of Doom for over 2 hours, buying more than $150 worth of lovely yoga stuff. 2+ hours. M. and I are practically employees in there, listening to CDs, looking at clothes, yadda yadda. Dinner in the cafe, then an in-depth discussion with E. about her talk with Angela Farmer, who talked with her for 45 minutes about how yoga is meant for men, how it’s angular and rigid and masculine. The story, says Angela Farmer, is that Shivo witnessed his wife Parvati bathing while doing really graceful, flowing, organic postures. Fascinated, Shivo went into the woods to mimic her postures but ended up doing very rigid forms, militaristic. His followers copied his movement and thus yoga became a “movement.” So, what was “supposed” to be fluid, feminine movement was transformed into masculine warrior postures. So Angela Farmer is all about bringing the feminine quality back to yoga, and E. was purely fascinated. And it was fascinating to listen to her fascination!
Where did learning about yoga go? I’m so concerned about dancing and poetry and woman issues that I’m completely forgetting about Practice Teach #3, anatomy, and our test, whatever that may be. But I’ll never forget that sitz bones = ischial tuberosities and that the digestive system–sing it with me now!–“Digests, Absorbs, and Eliminates!”
Two nights ago, I crept into bed and was able to see the new moon from my pillow. I stretched out in my bunk, watching the clouds cover and expose the moon, and I was completely content. I shower in flip-flops every night, smell like cafeteria food all the time, get 6 hours of sleep, but I am content. So f***ing happy.
Lately I’ve been discovering that some of my best workouts happen when I’m just winging it, when I leave the house for work in the morning with not a clue of what I’m going to do for that evening’s workout. I’ll always leave with a bag of random gear in hand–yoga mat, sneakers/socks, shorts, combination lock for the gym. Sometimes I use ’em, sometimes I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, structure is great. In fact, it is somewhat scary for me NOT to have a solid plan, because I am normally a very.structured.person. I like to be home by 8 on weeknights, ensuring me enough time to stretch before bed, get the next day’s outfit together, prep the coffee maker, make tomorrow’s lunch. I wake up by 5:30 every morning so I can do my “routine”–more stretching, some breathing, a little yoga, a few hip exercises before hitting the shower. I have difficulties being spontaneous, because in my mind, I already have a plan.
When it comes to working out, though, I’ve been finding that I get discouraged if I start the day at 8 a.m. thinking, “OK, tonight you will ride the bike for 30 minutes and then do 10 minutes of abs and an upper-body workout.” My body doesn’t respond well to repetitive motion exercises like biking or the elliptical, so the instant I tell myself that’s what I have to do, I already start hating it. Nine times out of 10 I’ll still follow through with it, but I’ll leave the gym feeling meh instead of yeah!
As I mentioned in this previous post, sometimes just tossing a medicine ball for a few minutes sparks a spontaneous and exhilarating workout. So this week I’ve been making an effort to just wing it, or–to tie in with my blog’s mission statement–to go with the flow. Here’s what happened:
• I woke up early last Saturday because I thought I’d go swimming before my friend’s pool party later that evening (hey, what’s wrong with a little double dipping?). But as the morning wore on, it was clear that I was never going to get my butt to the gym; also, it was beautiful out that day, and I hate wasting sunny skies and summer weather by being inside. So instead of a bathing suit, I slipped into some shorts and sneakers and headed out for an aimless walk. Two bathroom stops, one organic juice purchase, a red iPod Nano on the fritz, and 7 miles later, I arrived back home, in just enough time to clean myself up and change into that bathing suit for my friend’s party. There, I played around with a kickboard in the pool and treaded water in the deep end for a bit. Long walk AND some light swimmy-swim. Score!
• With my hair still heavy with chlorine from the previous night’s party, on Sunday I headed back into the pool for a lap workout. But because I got a decent night’s sleep and had coffee recently infused in my system, my body was primed for anything but light swimmy-swim. A huge burst of energy came out of nowhere, and my normal ho-hum out-and-back lap routine turned into fast-forward, high-powered workout. In my workout log, I actually termed it the “Woah, Speed!” swim.
• Monday was probably the most satisfying of winging-it days. It was the day before the summer solstice, the weather was warm, the sun was brilliant. I felt like I had to honor this day and soak up as much daylight as possible (aaaah, the bittersweetness of summer solstice, the commencement of my favorite season yet also the beginning of the end of what feels like round-the-clock sunlight, happiness, and rainbows). I drove to the nearby Red Bank Battlefield, which is ever-so-gradually becoming my go-to spot whenever Mother Nature is dressed to the nines (Side note: It’s a national park, so there are rangers on site. Rangers, with government patches on their shirt sleeves, wide-brimmed ranger hats, and official-use golf carts to drive around the property. I love rangers! It makes the place feel so official. It reminds me of Ranger Rick magazine!) There, I threw together an impromptu workout of walking around the many winding pathways, climbing the steep steps several times, doing some triceps dips on park benches, and attempting to do a chin-up on a tree branch (FAIL, because the branch ended up being a lot higher than it looked).
The sun wasn’t ready to set yet, so I set up camp (plopped down my yoga mat) on the big lawn that faces the Delaware River.
I did some basic yoga stuff (lots of sun salutes), but I had on my iPod and the music was calling for me to dance. I did stand on my yoga mat and do a lot of dance-inspired asanas, but the sprawling lawn, glowing sun, sparkling river, and overall beauty of the day were just begging me to bust out some free-form moves. I’m ashamed to admit I was held back by fear of what others in the park would think of me, this girl dancing in the grass. My body ached to express itself in such a picturesque environment, and even though I felt insulated by the iPod ear buds that separated me from any passersby’s comments, I held back and did not dance how my body was requesting to. I moved and grooved with reservation; it was nice, but not 100% fulfilling. How come I think it’s acceptable for someone to sit on a park bench and play the guitar while singing along, but I fear that dancing is totally weird? Argh. Still, a pretty decent combination of random stuff that made me sweat and get my heart rate up.
• Tuesday morning, I was listening to my otherwise chill Grooveshark playlist as I did my morning stretches when Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” clicked on. Suddenly, I was on my feet and dancing. Hard. What was supposed to be a few minutes of gentle yoga postures turned into a spontaneous dance party, and by the end I really needed my morning shower. (Note: This happened again this morning as I was listening to Florence and the Machine’s album [Lungs] for the first time. Seriously, how can one NOT be moved to dance to “Cosmic Love”?! Note II: It’s the song they’re playing with the trailer for Elephants for Water.)
• Thursday night is supposed to be my non-negotiable hot vinyasa class. The studio is 2 minutes from my office, I love the teacher, and it’s one of the few studio class I get to take each week. I had my mat and change of clothes packed, but when I left the office I suddenly just didn’t want to go to class. It was insanely humid outside already. I wasn’t looking forward to getting home no earlier than 8:00 p.m., missing the group number of So You Think You Can Dance as I showered, and rushing to make dinner. I still wanted to do yoga, however, so instead I came home, took the laptop upstairs to my yoga room (which, given the weather, already felt like a hot yoga studio), and did a 75-minute Jivamukti podcast. I love that the classes are recorded live, so when I Om, other students are Omming along with me! (Many thanks to all the yoga teachers out there who record their classes and put them online; taking a “live” class is so much better than listening to someone speak into a microphone in a recording studio.) I still feel like I’m getting that community experience…plus it makes for a wild experience when the music the podcast teacher plays during savasana is the same as what my hot vinyasa teacher would have been playing at that time!
I was winging it, but that security blanket of familiarity was still rolled up under my knees, supporting me along the way.
There is something especially sacred about 4th Friday 5Rhythms that sets it apart from classes on other days, in other places. Maybe it’s the fact that it takes place in the evening, after dinner. The sun is lowering as I drive to the studio, and when I emerge two and a half hours later, I am surrounded in darkness and guided by moonlight. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the work week, and what a great feeling it is to leave the office, kick off my shoes, and dance the night away, sweating away the stressors from Monday through Friday and freeing space in my heart to welcome a wonderful weekend. Or maybe it’s the physical location itself–a yoga studio tucked away in the basement of an office building, our little secret dance hangout. It’s invisible from the outside, but once you go down those steps there is a warmly lit, womb-like space with beautiful wooden floors and Sanskrit words with English translations decorating the wall trim: peace, light, breath, space. This is the spot where transformation begins, where the week ends and something new begins.
Maybe it’s because I did a powerful meditation yesterday morning on the concept of flow in the universe, about being a conduit of energy between everything and everyone, or maybe it was just the fact that I had off of work yesterday for Good Friday and spent the entire afternoon on a girls’ day out at the mall with my sister and grandmother, but I felt *charged* last night when my feet hit that studio floor, even though physically I felt somewhat drained from being on my feet all day. New students showed up; people whom I thought wouldn’t ever return came back. One of the new students had the most satisfied smile on her face the entire time, her eyes closed, her face beaming. I couldn’t help smiling in return whenever I looked at her; she looked like she was at the best concert in the world, grooving along to the music and swaying to the sounds around her.
I paired up with another new woman a few times, a Nia teacher actually (I think I may try her class!), who, I would hope as a Nia teacher, really felt the music and was such a powerful partner to work with. At one point, during a staccato number to very primal Native American drum beats, we must have looked like natives calling out to the sky or Mother Earth or dancing around a fire pit. It was so earthy, filled with passion and intensity. She flung her arms up as I threw mine down, and we alternated back and forth, a silent but dramatic language between our bodies. We were still in the rhythm of Staccato, but I’m pretty sure Chaos was banging on our rib cages, demanding to be released. Luckily the teacher’s next song was something a little less intense, because had he changed the track to something full-blown Chaos, that woman and I would have turned into banshees for sure. The fire in our eyes…it was like that transition in 28 Days Later, going from a regular human being into a red-eyed, blood-thirsty maniacal zombie.
Two hours later, during our final moments of Stillness, I found myself sitting on the floor, my hands in Vajrapadama mudra, a gesture to cultivate cosmic consciousness, believing that through connection with everything around us, we will find the trust within ourselves to do what needs to be done.
After that, my hands closed into Anjali mudra and I drew them closely to my head. As my hands approached my face, I sensed an amazing warmth coming from my third eye. Or maybe it was warmth from my energy-charged hands radiating toward my head. Either way, there was a strong attraction, and class ended with my prayer hands resting between my eyes. During the silent moment of rest between class ending and the beginning of our sharing circle, I nearly fell asleep, but I think it was just a kind of savasana, a way of absorbing everything that had just transpired and “waking me up” for the next stage of the evening.
Because once I got in my car, I was ON. I was a new Jennifer, and every song that came on the radio in that 20-minute drive home felt like it was playing specifically for me. You know that feeling–when you’re in a good mood, maybe it’s a Friday night, you just had a great date, you got a raise at work, whatever–and suddenly every song in the world is the most rockin’ beat ever, and you become enamored with whatever the DJ plays? That was me last night, blasting the stereo, bouncing in my seat to Alanis Morrissette (“You Learn”), Van Morrisson (“Brown-Eyed Girl,”), UB40 (“Can’t Help Falling in Love”), Adele (“Rolling in the Deep”), and even Pink (“F–kin’ Perfect”). I came home and just couldn’t sit still–needed.more.music. I escaped upstairs to our iPod stereo and scrolled through our music library, playing more Alanis, singing along to “The Couch” just to prove to myself that I remembered all of the disjointed lyrics, feeling totally in agreement with “One,” rocking out to “So Pure” (IT’S ALL ABOUT DANCING!!!!), and then switching over to U2 for “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” followed by “Beautiful Day,” at which point I was truly in some other zone and changed the lyrics to “Boo-tiful Day,” because I was holding my stuffed animal pug (Boo) and making him “dance” along with me.
And then I finally got tired for real. Just like that, my body said, OK, that’s enough for now. And I went downstairs, checked some e-mail, washed the dishes, foam rollered a bit to work out some muscle kinks, and went to bed at 1. Just another 4th Friday/5Rhythms kind of night.