True Grit! What is freedom? !tirG eurT

I had another amazing day today after what started lousily. But time and time again—as has been a recurring theme in and out of different yoga studios throughout Los Angeles over this seven-year period of being on the West Coast—I am nearing the conclusion that the business of expanding personal freedom is so far from a given and that to continue and thrive, it must be fought for every day, both outside and in. And it wouldn’t be so tasty if is was easy. In yoga as in many other sports necessitating endurance, this persistence is commonly referred to as ‘breaking through’ or having that ‘second (or third) wind’. Recently, in yoga classes, I have found myself in physically-demanding poses where the burning sensation in my thigh muscles or shoulders felt as if my flesh was burning so hot it would melt off of my body like hot plasma. This pain is what many teachers in one way or another have routinely suggested as a place where one come to terms with whole selves. It is in the middle of these postures where healthy relationships to our edge of limitations are confronted as well as the opportunity to enlarge or expand them. This is done by disassociating the negative stigma that we might attach to physical and/or mental pain while holding the poses. Furthermore, many teachers  suggest that if we worked on changing our attitudes during these postures towards acceptance of discomfort and pain we might start breathing fire! : ) Or just experience extreme joy.

I have come to take up this cause, of observing calm in the midst of chaos both in yoga as is in life. Any storm, no matter how big or threatening, will dissipate, “so breathe” the  teachers say. So, throughout my last few weeks here, I’ve put in concrete terms, that the high and lows happen no matter what, but how we handle ourselves in between is what really is at stake: The present moment, and it begs one to take a position, one that will constantly recur and will always invite a solution; are we the ones deciding or are we being decided for? I trust that in one of life’s greatest questions, it must be worth the pain of finding out.

***

 

 

I know my time has come. I see the ship and I am standing on the foggy port, bags packed, myself readied. The smell of salty and fishy water washes in my nostrils. I breathe it in becoming intoxicated by its wildness as well as by my mind moving in tandem with it. I am in admiration of having been delivered to bask in a deep brightness.

Others move about as if around me, it is a normal and normally-lovely day. I can feel uplift sprouting about as people mill about, as if their dreams and aspirations weren’t trapped and suffocated in only our individual shells but fluid, seeking, wandering and circulating among us all, and what we feel, which is resplendent! The sun has poked through. Amidst haziness, a patch of the ocean shimmers and light scatters about.

To which I feel free is yours as much as mine. Rejoice, for we have arrived in astute fashion from dank and bloodied repositories with vision blinded by betrayal of an epic magnitude. Whatever it was, you’re forgiven, but only because you have paid your dues, put in your toil and turned in your hours from when you were called upon. You were in safe-holding all along, while unbeknownst to you, your mettle was being evaluated and scrutinized. Did you think we’d let you down after all this?

You have fundamentally changed, and have been changed by the world, no longer to be relegated to trivial pursuits. You have been called upon for life’s ultimate journey which is, that it is yours and yours fully. Now take it and make us proud.

***

The smile on his face is one that bares semblance to reality, no longer easy and cheap, but fought for and wrested from compromised hands to have made his own and in his own form.

I had a good day! – An Accumulation of Positive Tidbits

I’ve been generally getting back into step after Spring Break (self-imposed, but also, serendipitous). 

What have I learned after having spent quality time with mom, dad, brother and brother’s gf? Mmmmm. .. Definitely that there is quality; Such high quality. Quality of experience, and of connection. So what do I do now that I’m back to my usual without their guiding influence? Here’s goes some notes to self.

***

I was up early. Incredible drive up the PCH. Eventually winding our way up the the Hindu temple. The large windows framed views of the mountainous valley while we sat in still calm for fifteen minutes taking in the experience of going to temple as well as doing it for the first time (myself) on the West Coast. Clusters of clouds rolled over the mountains that at their deepest distance shone a shadowed and saturated blue-violet where they mingled with the mountain’s peaks. We sat on the red and gold rugs covering the entire floor. The smell was familiar, like that of used agarbathi, hot coconut oil and other natural accompaniments. It was a morning to go up to this somewhat remote location and just feel gratitude for being alive and for what life has so far made of us.

We visited the farmer’s market down at the base of the mountain before zooming past the vast Pacific Ocean shimmering a blue I had never ever seen before as light rippled a billion melodies simultaneously off of crisp, crashing waves. It was the start to a day that declared its unequivocal intensity of perfected-dom with each wave of its own unfolding.

My boss was glowing, certainly not because I was twenty minutes late, but because I was twenty minutes late and was coming from temple, this signifying a new fold in what can safely be said from her perspective is my sheer and utter mysterious quality of developing. She has always been of the position in favor of people who have grown up with a religious upbringing. Very old school. Very school indeed. It seems she feels that people who practice religion are morally superior. As offensive as this has always been to me, I cast that aside for now and can say I don’t even know how I feel about religion personally. I would say though, that the sound of Sanskrit chants being performed in temple, when done well, have the potential to bring out something fundamental about myself- as if I become witness to an ancient tomb of heredity experience unspooling from within me into my cultural past. It is something mysterious, like I must be to Lydia: A true curious specimen.

We packed my mom’s paintings up. Over the last two days, Lydia and I have been clearing out the storage area. We have done this in stages over the last seven years. You can’t even imagine how impossible it was to move around in that place. After this morning, it was a work of art in and of itself, something to be exquisitely proud of. But more so, this pride of accomplishment is the first we have shared in seven years. It was like, all of those seemingly lost years of hating each other, hating life and generally being miserable had somehow reversed its momentum, halted periodically, and now we found ourselves deep into the sixth or seventh iteration of this storage war—I had been the gopher, wheeling out stacks of overstuffed and yellowed boxes that looked more like gnarly and epic sandwiches in another world—For while she more easily moved about this time around, I caught her becoming decisive and sure to let go of that that had bore its administrative weight on her through both the ugly, the gloried and the dark years of her non-profit organization. I piled the boxes on top of the dolly and eventually filled the newly-emptied dumpster well above its brim. Sometimes, it’s sad to see the entirety of one’s life being thrown out as surely as that, but noticing Lydia’s effulgent disposition, I couldn’t help but see someone who at eighty-four years old, was looking toward the future or at least, letting go of the past to some degree. Is it possible that the unknown, the end of your life, can also be a new beginning?

The Thai artists arrived with their works of art in suitcases. I had had the walls freshly spackled, sanded and painted as I do before the beginning of a show that is about to be hung. We hung the show easily, but only because I sensed a certain shift in my attitude that in recent times had become one of letting go also. Moving forward was the key now to which the root of this actual moving forward begins consciously, with the breath, and letting go of it. Though the conditions are most of the times never ideal, learning to breathe (something my yoga teachers have been repeating forever now) is the key to operating out of love rather than out of selfishness. So that when the day is ideal as this one today, operating on this basis transforms it into a killer song.