Yoga, Yoga, Yoga and the Truth about Yoga

Well, first of all, yoga is a way of life.  It’s part of the Hindu religion, and the Sutras spell out a path to nirvana and peace (since the Sutras were written about 500 years after the Buddha lived, some scholars claim they would not have been possible without Buddhism and are heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy as well as the atheistic Hindu system of dualism).

Of course, here in the West, yoga’s rep for sweaty hot rooms and twisty bendy postures has caused us to forget that it’s part of Hinduism at all.

And face it, I love the twisty bendy everything.  I have recently fallen in love with the investigation of the philosophy (just as I fell in love with Buddhism last year), but the twisty bend everything still claims me, tests me, makes me face so many things.  And not the ones you would expect–not aging, stiffness, the limits of my body.  But who I truly am.

I go to the mat.  And wherever I go, there I am.

I’ve written that my worst case scenario was to have an eruption of back pain while doing yoga teacher training, and that, of course, the worst case scenario happened.  And here’s the thing–I get kind of sick of turning worst case scenarios into AFGO’s (another f&*#ing growth opportunity), but what else is a girl to do?  I’m not allowed to lie down, wail and writhe in yoga teacher training.  So, AFGO.

I might add that the AFGO keeps honking its horn because I’ve had flare ups in three separate weekends.  I went back to the lovely Dr. Martinez to re-charge my John Sarno-I-am-insanely-homicidal-and-don’t-want-to-know-it approach to back pain.  I went to Thai massage and shiatsu, even though what I’m really supposed to do is examine my unconscious rage (and other feelings).

And I’ve returned to the mat.  If I wasn’t in teacher training, I might not have.  Weight lifting significantly changes the pain equation (when paired with examination of homicidal tendencies) in a way yoga does not.

Anyway, so I’m on the mat this Saturday, sweating my brains out after 2+ hours of incredibly strenuous yoga.  And satya (truth, a yoga yama): I’m getting angry.  I’m starting to have intense inner conflict, because even though I can continue to do the asanas (postures), I know from the other weekends that when I do, I reach over-exertion, my mind fogs out, I get triggered and unhappy and overwhelmed and I really just want to cry.  I mean, past two hours it’s just not fun at all.

At the same time, I have my lovely conditioning from my Irish father, a stellar athlete who was offered football scholarships to a million colleges and played halfback for Notre Dame.  We played sports all the time growing up, and he admired only fight, only never giving up, only trying no matter how much it hurt.  So I’m on the friggin’ yoga mat, knowing that yoga is a way of life and starts with ahimsa (non-violence, with self as well as everyone else), with this never-say-die tape running in my head, and the really great teacher, who I genuinely like, giving us instructions and assists, and it’s like a pressure cooker, because I’m totally overwhelmed and I really, really, really want to just stop.

On top of that, Saturday was an introduction to inversions, so I was excited to do headstand, handstand and stand on the forearms because they are really fun.

I didn’t stop.  And by the time we got to the inversions, I was in a black mood, and unable to concentrate, knowing if I did go upside down I’d likely have back pain because the point in every training where the back pain descends is just then–the overwhelmed, over-exerted point.  The point of intense inner conflict.

Though I didn’t do much with the inversions–I went up in handstand once, knew it was enough, and stopped.  But then I got triggered and tried again…and the back pain descended with FEROCITY.

I lay in savasana (corpse pose) crying a little, because I was so frustrated and disappointed.  I mean, I am often a 5 year old and not getting to go upside down was a big let down.  I decided, while lying there, that when everyone else went to lunch, I’d just hang upside down on the rope wall in 3 or 4 different ways to make myself feel better.  Which I did.  And it kind of worked.  The black mood lightened a lot.

Then, AH-HAH!  The light bulb, the explosion, the-I-did-notice-but-was-too-embarrassed-to-admit-it moment.  The back pain descends when I’m overwhelmed.  When I have internal conflict.

Earlier Saturday morning, I’d been struggling with wanting to go to Pride.  I’d been talking about it with my partner all week–our 25th anniversary on Pride weekend, Obama coming out for gay marriage (I’m back in love with him, which he no doubt intended)–I mean, it was too much to miss.  But a make-up for a day of yoga training is like $200-$300.  And I’m not teaching.  So, INTERNAL CONFLICT.  I woke up with back pain, and then did my Sarno writing (and some meditation) and decided to do one Pride event–not the parade, which I’d have preferred–on Saturday.  And the pain went….whoosh!  Gone.

Of course it came back at the overwhelm point in the training.  But I’m starting to get that these intense moments of internal conflict can be addressed or avoided and then NO BACK PAIN.  It’s more than my lovely homicidality (give me a break, anyone who meditates gets to find out they resent everything).  It’s when I go to war with myself and my conditioning and the pressure builds and I don’t know how to resolve it that I get back pain.

Yesterday, (Sunday) more intense yoga.  I sat out for part of it.  I didn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I’d walked in to class with a ton of pain, I was down to minor twinges after an hour.  AND, I went up in both handstand and headstand (I’ve always been able to do shoulder stand with no problem).

The truth about yoga is wherever I go, there I am.  And meditation teaches me to focus on myself.  It doesn’t matter whether anyone else is overwhelmed.  What matters is that I am, and managing my internal world in a kind and skillful way brings me peace.  I get to decide how much physical yoga is too much–that is something I have the power to do.

On the mat, it’s not about back pain.  Back pain is the teacher.  It’s about admitting I get overwhelmed, that lots of instruction can be hard for me to process, that whether the over-exertion is physical or mental (holding concentration for so long), doesn’t matter.  I get to say die.  I get to just stop.  And be with what is.  Until being with what is becomes peace.

Once a woman I had trained on a job I used to have told me the first time she saw me, she immediately felt intense resentment.  She said I seemed so confident, and she thought, “Nothing bad has ever happened to that woman in her life.”

Then she became my poetry editor.  So she read about my family.  She actually apologized for completely misjudging me.

Satya is finding a way to honor the poetry.  The truth and the beauty, the dirge and the psalm.  And really, who wouldn’t want to do that?

My Beloved Irritation OR 1 day and Counting

You know, it’s not just anyone I would let drive me crazy for 25 years.  I mean, I looked around first.  I did some searching.  There is a certain resume involved.  She had to pass many, many tests.  (I say this as she grinds her smoothie for tomorrow morning.  On her best behavior, no doubt, given what day it will be.)

Okay, seriously.  There’s this cliche that relationships are a lot of work.  It’s not that it’s not true, but work is like, effort, time, thought, whatever.  Intimacy requires that you open the closed doors of your heart and witness the shadows and the scurrying for cover, all the while not moving, not running, not letting the pain make you forget that this is love we’re talking about, this is about becoming someone more pure, more capable of generosity.

This week, I looked at my partner.  I listened to what she was telling me about her experience and I very reluctantly let go of my own perspective to hear things I hadn’t known before.  I gave up the idea that I was smarter or right, or accurate, and I listened.

If you think this is easy…well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this blog, because you’re crazier than I am (hard as that may be to believe).

The conflict we had this week–predicted by me, even though no one took the bet–isn’t an easy one to work out.  It’s not like, “Hey, sorry,” and then, “No biggie.”

My partner is very disappointed that the blogging and humor didn’t save us from ourselves.  I’m just sitting in the non-reactive moment meditation has provided, admitting I don’t know how to do anything but sit in the non-reactive moment meditation has provided.

It’s so powerful, not knowing.  I mean, it’s powerful not knowing when you admit you don’t know and don’t need to know in order to survive.

Tomorrow is 25 years of me not knowing.  Of course, most of the time I thought I knew everything.  (That was on my partner’s resume of qualifications to drive her crazy for 25 years.)  The fact that I didn’t know squat the whole time comes toward me now that I possess a soupcon of humility (and not much more than that unless I’ve just meditated for a really long time).

It’s 25 years.  We stay together because we laugh, because we care about the world in the same ways, because we believe in goodness, kindness and trying to learn to be loving a little bit more each day that passes.  We stay together because we are both completely insane and what sane person would even get half these jokes?

We don’t know.  We are writing the next chapter as we breathe in and out, as we go back to the Stork to fire him for the second time and he delivers a phenomenal session, making me wonder if he reads this blog just to beat me at my own game.

We love.  We hurt each other.  We open the closed doors of our hearts to each other, then run away screaming.  Or, on a good day, we sit, holding what light there is, letting that light be us, for each other, on each other’s sides, until the next struggle begins.

3 days and counting….

So.  It happened.

The fight.

Not a blowout.

Unclear who started it.  I mean, you could trace these things back to the caves, if you know what I mean.

Also, I suppose I kind of started it, but only in the vaguest possible way.

We had just returned from interviewing the new couples therapist, and she had a scented candle we were both allergic to, so really, it’s her fault.

Anyhow, it looks like year 25 is still going to happen, fight or no fight.  We’re being all mature and talking about it.

Does this mean I can no longer text, “i hate u 4ever?’

I think it does.

I may lie down and die.  Because those texts really get me through the day.

Also, I am considering starting a whole new business.  Like, I plan new web pages in my head when I’m meditating.

I’m just a whole bunch of enlightenment in one body, let me tell you.

5 Days and Counting!

Mush, mush, mush, mush.

That’s what it’s like around here these days.

Though there was some talk about whipping someone with wet spaghetti.

And we have two, count them two couples therapy sessions this week, (Final sayonara to the Stork and trying out someone new we can’t afford because she wants us to do our own insurance billing…what is WITH these people?).

Yesterday my partner texted me: “I love you.  OMG, intimacy!”

I texted her back: “Me 2.  I mean I hate you 4ever.”

She reported later that she laughed very loudly in the middle of a silent writing exercise in her how-to-do-therapy workshop.  (My partner texts during her therapy workshop!  There may be hope for her yet!)

I would also like to state, for the record, that I am very disappointed that not a single person voted on whether or not we’d have the big blowout fight.

But I bet you could guess who it was that brought up the wet spaghetti idea.

5 days and counting.

I think it’s now just a question of how creatively neurotic we become as the 25 year mark inches its way toward us.


6 Days and Counting until June 8, 25 years

We should have a party.

As my partner says, no matter how crazy we are, not that many people make it to 25 years, especially if they met in their early 20’s.

But how can we have a party on Pride Weekend, when I’m also in yoga teacher training until 8pm on June 8?  I mean, I don’t exactly have time to cook.

I’m considering just inviting the universe to descend upon our condo with ethnic take-out food to say hi.  And, “You made it.” And, “Don’t kill each other.”

I haven’t mentioned today’s thoughts to my partner yet, because she’s sitting with a bunch of therapists talking about her parts.

I’m going to eat some chocolate and then go to the gym because for some reason this makes sense to me.

Party.  It really does have to happen!

A Good a Reason as Any OR Almost 25 Years and Counting

My partner and I have been really getting along.

I am going to say the word now.


Excuse me while I go writhe on the floor and then puke.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.  Afterward.  In a minute.  Or an hour.  Or something.

This closeness, this utter tenderness, this fierce desire to make sure she’s okay, this affectionate, wry amusement, this moment of knowing, this listening, this seeing.  Her beautiful skin.  Her utter boyness in boy clothes.  The way she wants to be touching me all the time.  This history, these twenty-five years, the way we’ve hurt each other and then mended, or not.  This person who is my family, who holds the knowing of me, who is trying to let me hold the knowing of her.  The way she is so afraid I’ll leave her, stop seeing her, or just disappear.  The way I’m so afraid she’d take advantage if she knew how utterly, utterly I love her.

What I call the above paragraph is as good a reason as any to have a big blowout fight.  Because you can only stand the intimacy word for so long before you want to run away screaming.  (Sometimes I run around the house screaming preemptively, which my partner either tolerates or finds amusing, because she hopes it will prevent the blowout fight.)

By the way, though I’m using the word “you,” meaning, “me,” I would like to state for the record that my partner is every bit as likely to blowout as I am.  Although publishing this blog may tip the scales slightly in favor of me being the exploding firecracker.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Perhaps we can take bets on whether we can make it the next 7 days until the 25 year mark without having the blowout-I’m-more-afraid-of-intimacy-than-you-are fight.

Of course, here’s the thing: if we do have the fight, we’ll have to forgive each other.

And another thing:  we’ve gotten relatively skilled in saying, “Bet we’re fighting because we just can’t handle the closeness.  Let’s  pretend we’re on different planets.  You go in your room and I’ll go in mine and then I’ll call you from my cell and make space sounds in the background to make the other planet thing realistic.”  (That’s not what we actually say, but I may call on it in a pinch.)

I love my partner so much because our relationship is one in which being f-ed up and afraid of intimacy is liveable.  I mean, she sometimes asks me to be more emotionally available, but the fact that I sometimes have to throw in an insult when I’m being all romantic is as much a cause for humor and rolling around laughing as it is for conflict.

When we got married the first time, 15 years ago, before it was legal, I said to her, “You’re a controlling, kvetching, passive-aggressive jerk and I’m going to marry you anyhow.”  This made her very happy.  It took away all the pressure of pretending to be perfect, or my knight in shining armor, or any of that absolute bullshit.

In this reality of neuroses and craziness, of grief and hilarity, that is our life, I am truly happy that we are returning again to the acceptance of all things.  I still believe, as my character Reverend Alex says, that love is a practice.  I think it is a practice of accepting my partner for who she is, of sitting with my own discomfort instead of trying to control her (or making jokes until she makes me stop) when she’s irritating me, of letting her be herself as much as I possibly can.

I think this is love–this fear of intimacy, this need for too much, this knowing the fight may come in the next seven days, this forgiving, over and over again–and the refusal to take shit, when that is, in fact, appropriate, as it has been on both sides at different times…the complete and utter imperfection we bring to each other…this is the real thing.  My partner has always wanted to be the one who saved me, who healed me, who helped me…but the truth is she’s the one who’s driven me crazy, who’s forced me to become better, to look at myself in my deepest darkness, who’s held me when I felt weakest so I could stand up and go save myself again.

I celebrate love as completely imperfect.  I celebrate love as freedom from trying to be good enough.  I celebrate the laughing at neurosis and knowing absolutely it’s never completely going away.  I have learned this with one person above all others.  In and out of couples therapy with Oingo-Boingo, Niminy-Piminy, the Sheepdog, the Poodle, and the Stork-Man (among others), cartooning our way through the careening diagnoses and the how do you feel about that questions.

I celebrate that the fight may come though I don’t want it to, because I am not in control.

I celebrate that I will try not to fight, and I may anyhow.

I celebrate.  This madness.  This daily life.  This one person, who gives me back to myself, sometimes roughly, sometimes with the utmost tenderness.  As I give her to herself.

Metta for us, in our almost 25-year insanity.

I honor the light in her, and in myself.

And I still wish she would let me give her a wedgie every other day or so.  What’s with that boundary?

PS–Don’t forget to bet on whether or not we’ll have the fight.  And who will start it.

PPS-I’m betting we’ll have it, that it won’t really be a blowout, and that she’ll start it.

PPPS-Or maybe I will start it.  If I plan on starting it, does that count?  Or is it throwing the game?