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I don’t meditate as much as I’d like, especially because there used to be a time when I’d allow myself a solid 15 to 30 minutes almost every night to sit. Nowadays, my meditation is much more spontaneous than it is planned, and it usually occurs after a particularly satisfying home yoga practice or dance session.

As was the case last week.

As the clock struck 5, the evening felt like anything but a time to sit still and meditate.

I stayed at work way too late–I had finished “working” at the usual time but stayed glued to my computer for an extra hour, trying to catch up on everyone’s Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. I got sucked into the social media time warp and was disgusted with myself as I drove home in the cold and darkness. When I got home, all I wanted to do was Eat All the Things! I was especially craving a big, fat vegetarian stromboli, thanks to perusing a take-out menu that had come with the day’s stash of mail. I was already in a funk; I imagined myself just caving fully into that funk, devouring my sloppy stromboli cocooned in a nest made of blankets and soft pajamas and slipper socks, an episode of my latest Netflix guilty pleasure playing on the TV screen.

For a few seconds, that vision felt wonderful. But then I got realistic.

Really? You’re going to feel better after reading stupid Facebook posts all night and then stuffing your face with a greasy pocket of cheese? Really, Jen?

Image source: Flickr, willieabrams

I actually said aloud, “Do some yoga, Jen. Just go upstairs, do some yoga, and after an hour of some deep breathing see if you really still want that stromboli.” If the desire to be a sloth for the rest of the evening was still present after yoga, I knew it was meant to be. Yoga always sets me straight.

I opted to do one of my favorite Kripalu-at-Home yoga classes, an hour of moderate vinyasa flow with Coby Kozlowski.

Coby does these beautiful arm movements during one of the most intense poses, utkatasana, and I find that throwing a bit of upper body flow into the pose makes it much softer. Also, the last time I did this class, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable during Warrior I, which she does in traditional Kripalu fashion, with the foot facing forward, ball of the foot pressed into the mat and the heel up. This time, I moved into the more well-known Warrior I, with the entire foot pressed firmly into the mat, turned out on an angle. What a difference! I felt so much more steady and enjoyed the sequence more than I ever have. Duhhhh. Listen to your body, Jen. Just because Coby does it one way doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same.

By the time we were on our backs for bridge pose, I was feeling pretty good. I felt present, and I was fully aware of my shoulder blades pressing evenly into the floor. I sunk easily into savasana, and when the video ended and the room became silent…

…I allowed the silence to continue.

I wanted to prolong this feeling of contentment and stillness. I felt cocooned, but not in a pajamas/blanket/pizza kind of way, but a cocoon of connection. My mind, body, breath, and brain were all connected, and, damn, it felt pretty good. Strombolis were the furthest thing from my mind.

And like that, without planning it out or setting up bolsters or timers or exotic music, I began to meditate.

I didn’t think too hard about it, and I tried not to force myself into getting into “the zone.” Many of my meditations result in me seeing a beautiful indigo glow that keeps growing and growing until I am immersed in a bubble of bluish-purple behind my closed eyes, but I didn’t want to force an outcome. I just wanted to be. I focused on my breathing, the physical sensation of air entering and leaving my nostrils.

For most of the sit, that’s all it was. My inhales and exhales. There were no colors or indigo pulses. I was OK with this. There was no chatter, and that’s all that mattered.

Then, out of nowhere, a very vivid image of an acquaintance flashed before my eyes. I rarely converse with this person, and our lives hardly intersect. But now this person was suddenly right there, in my face.

This person lives a simple, frills-free life. I know this person does not go home and stare at the computer screen, eyes glazing over from too many hours watching a Twitter feed continue to refresh. This person doesn’t get caught up in celebrity drama, fashion dos and don’ts, and all the mumbo jumbo that bombards our TV screens and radio waves. I’m pretty sure this person keeps work at work and doesn’t mentally carry home the petty woes and whining associated with a day on the job. I sometimes find myself questioning this person’s life because it just seems so…empty? Or maybe that’s MY definition of it, because my life has all these silly distractions and unnecessary, First-World mental dilemmas, like, Oh my god, I already had a Chobani at lunch; I can’t possibly get frozen yogurt later after dinner!!!!

Yet this person has the kindest smile, the softest voice, and always seems under control. Things get done, but not with teeth gritting or exasperated sighs or excessive eye-rolling. That evening as I meditated, it hit me that this person has many Buddhist qualities, a presence and peacefulness that says, “Everything is as it should be.”

Without warning, tears stung my eyes, yet before I could respond to this sudden punch of emotion, they were gone. Images of the person lingered in my brain, and for a moment I found myself wanting to embrace the qualities of this person that I so often dismiss and raise my eyebrow at. In my meditation, this person was a bodhisattva, an enlightened being, and I felt far from ever being considered the same. It gave me a new respect for this person but also disappointment in myself, and yet hope for self-improvement.

When I had first escaped upstairs to do some yoga, I never imagined I’d be coming back downstairs with a satisfying yoga and meditation session completed, a newfound and oddly deep appreciation for a semi-stranger, and a stirring connection with the elements of Buddhism.

The desire for the stromboli and a TV date with Netflix had passed, and instead I made myself a simple egg and cheese sandwich with a side of clementines, and sat down at the kitchen table to read the newspaper.

Five years ago on this day, I woke up for a 6:30 a.m. yoga class led by one of our Kripalu YTT assistants, Roger.

Silly Roger, with the braids

He’s on the silly side, and during spinal rocks along the floor, he tells us, “[This movement] is only called ‘advanced’ because you have to have the mentality of a 5-year-old.” Another quote that makes us chuckle: “Lift your front toes…(pauses)…as opposed to your back toes, that is.” Roger shares some yoga wisdom with us:

• “We tend to tell ourselves that standing on one leg is natural, the easiest thing to do…. When you fall out of a balance posture, explore. Go into a different pose before coming back into balance.”

• Instead of hold utkatasana in its normal form, we do the “utkatasana dance,” holding the intense leg posture but being free in the upper body, moving freely, dancing the arms. It gives the pose a paradoxical feel: the intense, demanding base, but liquid, flowing upper body.

• “Blossom the buttocks” during downdog.

***

Morning. Outside is gorgeous. I feel like I’m in another country. How can I go back home, to light pollution, suburban sprawl, theft, crime, hatred, paranoia? Kripalu is starting the reversal of the mental asylum. The people here aren’t mental–we’re sharing, kind, conservative, conscious, honest, compassionate, yet we’re the ones locked inside this former monastery. The NEW mental asylum is the one OUTSIDE, on the streets, the people outside our enclosed little world. Yes, we’re shuffling around in slippers and wearing our little nametags, but we’re not insane. We’re sane, lucid, in touch with ourselves and others.

Breakfast, to the sounds of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Cereal with walnuts, raisins, and banana; frittata with broccoli, spinach, cheese, egg, potato. Brown rice. Raspberry gluten-free cake.

***

We chant Ganesha Sharanam, “I bow to the remover of obstacles.”

Ganesh, remover of obstacles

We move from slow to fast to hyper to slower to slow and then to profound. After the smiling and laughing, we put on blindfolds and explore our “sacred space,” walking through the room, using only touch to lead us past our classmates. We reach out for the first person we feel, and then we talk with our hands. So intimate, such an experiment in touch as a tool, learning when to touch longer and deeper, when to withdrawal and pull back, determining whether the person responds with “invitation or aversion.”

***

At night, we do japa meditation with our mala beads. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. I honor/make myself receptive to light/great spirit. 108 times.

***

Our teachers demonstrate a Stage 3 posture flow. It is too intimate for words. At times, I feel like I am invading someone’s privacy. It’s sensual, sexual, almost. I watch the loss of control into ecstasy. I cannot write. I cannot sit here like a news reporter and take notes on such a sacred and profane moment. I watched Megha, Rudy, Jurian, and Roger in their posture flow and was nearly moved to tears. It was like watching someone make love. At times I had to look away because I didn’t want to intrude on such a private moment.

When I do the posture flow, I am somewhat inhibited. I allow myself to listen to my body, but I know there is still resistance, the need for others’ approval. Before I even started my own posture flow, I had the intention of pleasing the teachers. So I ended up doing the flow at 98%, doing what my body prompted me to do, but also 2% aware that others were watching and that I had to be conscious of performing for them in the process. However, my experience was exhilarating. I remember lunging into a low warrior–very deep–and doing something cool with my arms. I remember forgetting.

When I finish the flow and become still, something hits me. I feel alone, like a spotlight is shining only on me.

A bit of a background first: Ever since I came here, I’ve had very vivid images dance in my head when I close my eyes. For example, when in a flowing posture, like standing forward bend or bridge, I’d close my eyes and see random snapshots of people–all Kripalu people. I’ll close my eyes at night or during savasana and see quick flashes of people in bandanas, people with shawls, smiling, happy, introspective, compassionate Kripalu people, like I’m looking in a photo album (in fast forward) of all the residents here. However, there are times (usually during chanting, centering, pranayama, and sometimes during certain poses) that I close my eyes and see us all as a unified group. Amazingly synchronized. Holding hands, or arms raised, our mouths open in Om. I see our group, our tribe, together. So tight, as One.

So, that said, at the conclusion of the posture flow, I was aware that I had cheated myself out of the full experience. But my wisdom reminded me of my mistake, because as I rolled up into thunderbolt pose and sat to integrate the moment, a new image came to my head. I didn’t see the group so beautiful as a whole. I didn’t see random Kripalu faces. I suddenly saw (mostly felt, though) ME and only me. My vision was this:

Me in the Shadowbrook studio, under a harsh spotlight, everyone else lost in the shadows, not even there. The perimeter was dark, shadows, cold, and then me, under this judging light. I tried to push it away at first (I wanted my group!), but I Watched and Allowed and explored. The image stayed with me, and suddenly the feeling hit me: You need to work for yourself. You need to stop performing, being on stage. Stop working for approval.

I started to cry lightly. I put my hands to my face and cried more. I went into child’s pose and sobbed. The group chanted Om three times and I sobbed more and more, audible now. Tissue-needing crying. The sound comforted me; it helped me. I saw warm light, a pulsing “movement”in my head. It felt very warm and nice. I felt like everyone was Om’ing just for me. Stop performing. Start being, Jen.

***

J and I were co-listening partners. We were both moved and crying. J talked first about her experiences, and I was not a very neutral listener. I kept crying and wanted to reach out and hug her. When I spoke to J, although internally my feelings were muddled, I spoke very clearly about my experiences. So cathartic. We shared a long, deep hug afterward. (However, now I’m wondering whether the vision I had was a positive one, maybe affirming that my posture flow was for myself and not a group act. Is that why the group vanished? Was my flow an act/show, or a breakthrough?)

***

We all observe that we smell like food all the time. The cafeteria is everywhere, in our hair, on our shirts, in our pants. We are frittatas, we are miso soup and tofu. We are bloated and gassy. Whole grains and roughage and legumes have made us heavy and uncomfortable. We hurt during twists. We are afraid to fart when our classmates faces’ are inches from out butts.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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