Monday, August 19, 2013

Samskaras

The classroom is simply the arena in which we can witness our deeply ingrained habits in all their glory.

I stumbled upon this article and couldn't stop myself from realizing how appropriate these words are for me to read.  Even down to the "Devil that you know" quote which is an old line from a co-worker.  Samskaras are very real, and nowhere are they as obvious and on display than on the mat.

We all have patterns and we all repeat ourselves.  It takes an extended period of interaction to identify these samskaras and I believe this is one reason why relationships get harder post-honeymoon, when partners begin to really see each others samskaras.  Whether the cause stems from a previous life is beyond my ability to equivocate, but the reality of our samskaras really does affect our daily lives within this physical existence and as such seems very worthy of attention.


Since this blog is all about me anyway, I'll go ahead and make this personal.  Below is a list of some of my most annoying samskaras:
  • Self depracation (for sport or sometimes just because it feels good)
  • Punctuality (despite knowing this is my issue, it surfaces almost every day for me)
  • Written and verbal discipline.  (Talk less, say more)
  • Inability to say no (fear of missing out)
  • Priorities (I think this is one area I've made progress with)
I love the mental imagery of samskaras as dirt on the mirror of the soul.  Perhaps it's the type-A in me who instantly wants to wipe any dirty mirror clear and clean.  I realized today that I've probably regressed in many of these key areas as my practice has slipped due to teaching, work, and a relationship taking up some of the space which was previously available.  I suppose that is yet another one reason why I love to practice.  The mat calms me down.  The mat helps me locate my center.  And the mat helps me identify my areas of growth, the parts of my soul which have opportunity for growth.

The beautiful thing about taking the seat of a teacher is that I've seen this in my students.  Now that I have enough experience to identify certain patterns, particularly among repeat students, I am privileged to see all of the subtleties of their practice which they may not even notice.  From camping out in the exact same spot of the room to how each pose is expressed, personalities are on display and samskaras are on the surface of those mirrors.  Watching all of that, knowing that I am not alone in my quest to transform, help me to dedicate myself to this intention.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Return

Have you ever wondered why the big key on the right side of your keyboard sometimes says "enter" and sometimes says "return"?  This falls into the grey area of computer history, at one point in time certain operating systems had different purposes for these two keys.  Carriage return (aka return aka down and to the left) was a descendant of that same function on the typewriter which sends the cursor down one line and to the leftmost margin.  At it's heart, return is a character formatting key.  Enter, on the other hand, often appears on the number pad and is typically used to tell the little man inside the computer that you're done with your part and it's his turn to do something.  For example, I might type a bunch of numbers separated by + characters and when I press enter I'd expect to know how much they add up to.

For obvious reasons, the lines between these two keys became blurred as certain operating systems cared while others did not.  Just as some filesystems are case sensitive (flavors of Unix in particular) and others are not (VMS and Windows as examples) the confusion creates a drift towards the midline, and basic rules are formed to ensure those with rudimentary knowledge don't get too lost.

In my personal life, at this point in time, both keys seem to be quite fitting.  I've begun to run again, despite having next to no fitness to leverage, and it feels good to bring myself back into the world of hurt.  I don't want to jinx myself, I don't know how long this current effort will last, but I'd like for it to be sustainable.  I'd like to call myself a runner again.  It's a cool feeling to float across the ground.  Especially when you weight 180 lbs.

At the same time, I'm entering new territory.  Both of my roommates have moved out and I live with Miss Sonja and her dog Jack in a house that becomes increasingly ours.  It's become quite peaceful despite the endless stream of home improvement projects we've dug into together.  As I enter a bit more of a family minded lifestyle, I can't help but laugh about how different it all seems than 4 years ago, and yet how similar all at the same time.

I got one of those horrible and yet oddly beautiful emails this morning, from a good friend who recently got married and is now separating.  It's a trip when you are friends with both and there is no real blame, just two people who spent 7 years together and now are drifting apart.  The only true constant is change.

In the meantime, other friends have gotten engaged, some are recently pregnant, and my neighbors are moving away.  All sorts of change surrounds me.

In the midst of it all, I continue to attempt to strike a balance.  A balance between running and yoga, one which tightens and constricts and challenges unlike any other endeavor I know of, and the other which loosens and restores and rejuvenates, nurturing space which I've only recently become quite fond of.

Sometimes I miss my opportunities to attempt to pause and make sense of it all, life just seems to be moving far too fast.  I envy those who have created space to meditate and take life on their terms.  But I know how easy it is to assume everyone else has their s together when the reality of life is that we may drive at times but nobody is truly in total control.  I've never stopped making mistakes, so I'll never run out of learning opportunities.

For now, I think the most dramatic signal in my life is how unique each of my friendships is.  Every person in my life seems so different than anyone else.  Where I used to get frustrated when someone adhered to something other than a social norm, I now look at that with wonder and amazement as it it were a fruit I have never tasted.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Substitute



My friend, mentor, and master of purpose, Mike, told me soon after I started teaching (and I'm paraphrasing) "Congrats!  Now, can you sub for me on ..."  It was meant in jest, but it was an accurate representation of the environment a new yoga teacher is suddenly immersed in once he or she begins to teach.

Illness, injury, vacation, and fatigue, friends from out of town, or multi-person swaps all become reasons why schedules are shuffled.  Those of us who are green and new to the experience are all too apt to pick up extra classes.  Those who have been teaching for a long time seem to be less apt to fall on their swords, perhaps having already done so on many occasions only to reach burnout and exhaustion themselves.

There is a tangible excitement to being a part of something which is growing, even when that growth seems at times out of control.

In the midst of it all, however, true colors are seen.  Some of the experienced, some of the leaders, step forward to help others and take charge.  The intricacies of how words are expressed, of how people help each other, becomes a microcosm of life, of society, of interaction.

It all continues to enlighten me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mom

I had a dream last night.  During this dream, I spoke with my mother.

The discussion centered on weight, how she did not want me to see her thinned down from chemo, how she would have preferred that I saw her healthy and fleshy as I had in the past.

There was also some strange contraption set up to catch rainwater and add lemon juice.  In an attempt to feel a closer connection, I grabbed the container and attempted to pour the contents into my mouth.  I somehow missed and soaked my chest without tasting even a drop.  My mother appeared and demonstrated how to drink for me, as if I never knew how.  It seemed so obvious once she showed me how.  I wondered why I found it difficult in the first place.

Perhaps this yoga fascination, both as teacher and student, has a tie to my lost mother, the mother I haven't been able to speak to for almost 20 years now.  Perhaps the learning and sharing and the exploration of new without leaving the room is exactly what that mother to child connection meant to me back when it was accessible to me.

I'm not terribly sure, as with all dreams, they tend to ask more questions than they answer.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone:  moms, dads, sons, daughters.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

C1

I teach my first official yoga class tomorrow night.  Official meaning this is the first time my name has appeared on the schedule.  I have to say it seems rather strange to me to read my own name when I look at the schedule which is roughly 10x a day :)


I am actually subbing as noted above.  I will be teaching the Tuesday and Friday 7:30 class on a weekly basis and once my training is over I'll be back to the Sunday free class which is something near and dear to my heart.  There is something special about free yoga for me, and as someone who is still fairly new to this experience, it feels safe to be a part of a free class.  I also really like having the bar set nice and low.

Here is the playlist I am planning to use.


I was originally all fired up for my first class on Friday, as a bridge to the weekend, a transition out of the misery of office work hell, but now I'm going to have to be there one day early.

I don't have a theme totally dialed in yet but a lot of thoughts are running through my head.  My broken back from yesterday morning, the loss of my four footed friend, and the beginning of a new chapter of my life all seem to be taking center stage.

I've told a few friends this, but I'm sure it's a fairly universal experience.  When I rehearse in my head, I am this awesome instructor who says all the right words at all the right times.  But when I teach an actual class, I trip, I stumble, and I just plain forget all of the cool ideas I had stored up.  I wonder if the game will slow down, if I'll be able to really start pulling in those nuggets as planned.  It feels like I'm heading in that direction, but I'm still so very far away.

I'm about to attempt to write a bio.  This is one of the hardest types of writing I do.  I am phenomenally bad at writing about myself in a manner fit for general public consumption.  But that's sort of the whole point of yoga in the first place for me.  Doing something I am bad at because it is healthy to challenge myself.  It is healthy to be bad.  It is healthy to fail and flop and fall.  So here I go.

Look, ma, no hands!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My best friend

I don't really know much about dogs.  I've actually only ever been owned by one of them.  Most dog people have at least 2 at any given point in time and typically many more by the time they reach 40, but for whatever reason my number is 1.  His name is Hunter.  I did not get to name him, or perhaps more truthfully I put no effort into changing his name when I adopted him.  I figured why fix what isn't broken even though many experienced dog owners recommend a name change to reinforce bonding and obedience.  I suppose I wasn't looking for much obedience and when it comes to Labradors, bonding with people seems baked into each and every one.


Hunter was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to write a few guest posts for me last year.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Yesterday I got called home from work early for what I feared might be my last visit to the vet.  As it turns out, Hunter spent last night with us.  He is resting semi-peacefully at the moment, not more than one mile from the place I got him roughly 12 years ago.  But he has stopped eating and drinking, he hasn't gone to the bathroom, and he can't really walk more than a couple of wobbly steps.  This is the end, that much is clear.

Having gone through these emotions so many times, I expected a certain degree of pragmatism from myself yesterday and today.  Instead, I am merely weathering a storm of grief, as powerful waves of sobbing consume me, punctuated by long periods of wishing he would drink a little bit, worrying about his pain level, wondering, and waiting.  I watched a tear build up in his eye last night, I did not realize that dogs could cry, and it made me so terribly sad to not know the specific reason for that tear.  Is he scared of dying?  Does he contemplate his own death?  Is he worried about me?  Or was he simply crying for what he once was, perhaps what he wishes he still were?

2/27/2013
I took off his collar last night for what I assume will be the last time.  He cannot wander on his own anymore and I don't think I can leave his side until this is over.  I had hopes we might reach his 14th birthday together, that we might have a party and invite all of his friends over to see him.  That got pushed up to last night and now that everyone has had a chance to say goodbye, it seems like the right time to do so myself.

I knew this day was coming.  I've rehearsed it in my head countless times.  And yet, I still sob, I am still overwhelmed with grief at the loss of my first and only true pet, best friend, loyal partner.

Goodbye Hunter.


Friday, January 25, 2013

A new way to HURT

Me, Brian, Miss Sonja.
Instead of a boring weekend recap, I decided to ask Miss Sonja a few questions about her first exposure to ultra racing at the 2013 HURT 100.  The following is a view of HURT through her eyes.

1. You recently paced Brian Recore at HURT, covering just shy of 26 miles on trail both overnight and the next day.  This was your first ultra experience.  What did you know going into the race.  Describe your expectations and your preconceptions.  

This was my first experience with an ultramarathon, and actually my first race experience. For those who don’t know, the HURT 100 course is 5 twenty mile laps of the same trail. Each lap is divided into 3 sections. Each section connects the 3 aid stations, which are in valleys. So each section starts with a climb out of the valley up to a ridge and a descent into a the valley and aid station.

I really didn’t know anything about this kind of event except what I picked up when we were crewing Brian for the first 50 miles of the race. Since I’d been sick and never run more than 10-12 miles, I thought I’d do one section at night and another in the morning to give Dave a break, depending on how I felt.

I really liked the casual small-event atmosphere. People were usually friendly and it felt low key. Once I got over feeling like I was not nearly bad ass enough to hang with these people, I had a great time. I showed up to switch with Dave and pace Brian at 11:30pm, which was about an hour before they showed up. So I schmoozed with the other crazy ultra runners who weren’t running and were volunteering or pacing, and cheered the runners coming out of the jungle in the middle of the night.

Every runner seemed to be handling it differently. Some were laughing, some were exhausted, some had their game face on, some were just going with the flow. A few just stared mechanically, downed some food and water and took off again. I set off with Brian up the trail after midnight, hoping that I wouldn’t totally blow it.

Brian at the finish
Brian was great. He pointed out the rough parts of the trail, where the rocks were slippery, or there was mud or roots. He was probably laughing at me because I couldn’t get over how cool it was to be going up this mountain through the forest. Blue and orange glow sticks hanging from tree branches marked switchbacks, low lying branches, or tricky parts of the path. The forks in the trail were marked with a bunch of tiny blinking lights in the trees. I felt like I was in Avatar, or some weird alien place. Every once in a while we’d cross paths with another runner or two, you could see the light from their headlamp bobbing in the distance. I learned to be nice to people and shield my headlamp, but I probably blinded a few people in the beginning when I was just staring around at everything like an idiot.

Pauoa Flats
We got to this place where the trail is laced by a network of roots, you can see a bunch of HURT 1000 pics from that part of the trail. You had to step carefully through the roots and trying to avoid the mud, and make sure you picked up your feet to avoid tripping, all in the pitch black and us just with our headlamps, me following Brian. The bamboo forests were something else too, spooky. Brian said it’s really nice to have a pacer coming through those. It’s totally quiet except for the bamboo rising up dense and dry on either side of you, creaking, snapping and knocking in the wind. Then there’s the descent near Manoa falls, with lots of slippery rocks to worry about. And there were a couple times where you could easily just put one foot wrong and you’d fall off the side of the trail. That’s it for you. At least if you have a pacer there’s someone to know where you went missing. Coming into the Paradise Park aid station was pretty awesome, the trail there is wide and paved just at the end, and they had lined either side of the trail with lanterns in paper bags. It was nice to see lights after a few hours in the forest.

2. You had seen the trails only once before, how did race day compare to this training day?  Were you adequately prepared for the terrain?

I didn’t really feel prepared but we thought I might not have to run much since more people were probably going to help out. But they ended up not being able to help so it was just Dave and I pacing Brian. We ran part of the course back in December and I’d been doing more trail hill runs in San Diego. I learned that I’m a decent climber. And a fast walker so I could take breaks from jogging and just walk for a bit. I hadn’t run for 2 weeks since I just had the worst flu I’ve had in years, so aside from still being a bit sick, my legs were fresh. I think that helped.

Easa's feasting pre-race

3. Were there any big surprises?  Anything unusual or unexpected?


The biggest surprise was how much I enjoyed it. Getting up at 11pm to go run through the jungle doesn’t seem like an awesome idea, but it wasn’t that bad. Getting up again at 11am the next day after 5h on the chilly trail the night before, only a couple hours sleep, a hacking cough and headache started to seem a little dumb, but once I arrived at the aid station, I was ready to get back out there. Plus, Brian had already run 85 miles, how the hell could I complain?

Post race dinner with Ray Sanchez

4. What was your favorite aid station and why? 

This buckle is a reward for 34 hours of movement.
They were all different. I really liked the Paradise Park aid station. They had a cute pirate theme, there were colored Christmas lights up and the lanterns lining the trail. The volunteers there were also really on top of it, getting stuff for the runners and making sure everyone was taken care of. I was pretty impressed. The Nature Center aid station was neat too, they had a lot of glow sticks and the lights on the bridge were hooked up to a motion detector so when a runner came down the trail they got brighter. Nu’uanu aid station was the smallest, but it was kind of fun because you had to cross the creek by jumping over the rocks—a little crazy at night—and for some reason they had a skeleton floating in the creek on a little inner tube. Whatever, I love it.

5. What did you notice about the other competitors?  Did anyone stand out to you? 

The other runners were all supportive of each other. Instead of saying hi, everyone we passed said things like “You got it” or “you’re doing great” which seems nice and encouraging but starts to feel like when people say “how are you doing” without really expecting an answer, kind of fake. But who cares? Better to be positive and encouraging. So I started saying my own little rah-rah stuff to the runners. Especially in the middle of the night. Cause yeah, you are doing pretty damn amazing, you’re still running through the jungle in the middle of the night. That’s freaking awesome. And by the next day, people were almost done with their 100 miles, so everyone really was totally rocking it.

6. How has your perception of distance changed as a result of this event. Do you feel any different about the numbers 26, 50 or 100 now? 

It’s hard to tell since this event is so unlike the shorter distance events or a road event. The trail is very steep at times and there’s a lot of it that’s almost un-runnable, unless you’re a freak, which I’ve heard there are guys that run it. It’s also muddy, rocky, and slippery. Parts of the trail are latticed with tree roots or rocks and you really have to pick up your feet and pay attention. There’s no opportunity to go on autopilot. It’s gotta be tough for the people who are out there all day and night.


Pre-race, circa 5:45 am

7. What methods were effective while pacing Brian.  Did you try anything which did not seem to help?

Brian is an experienced ultra runner and also had done the HURT 100 course before so I just followed his lead. I mostly tried to stay positive, chat when he was talkative and quiet when he was in his own zone. There were times when he was hurting and tired, I just stayed behind him and kept moving. I think he just liked having someone else around. When he stepped up the pace we kinda got a little goofy and I shouted encouragement or just that it was amazing to be running around all day and night, how gorgeous it all was and that he was doing awesome. Cause he was.

Manoa Aid Station
8. Did you pee on the trail and if so was this at all difficult being a girl? 

We actually talked about how your pee can turn brown from running all day and dehydration. He stopped to pee a couple times and I just went on ahead and waited for him to catch up or in the middle of the night I shouted that I had to pee too. He asked me if I checked for brown pee and I said I was more worried about his ass and did he check his pee? But it was night so neither of us knew.

9. What went through your head as you approached each aid station? 

I’m hungry, or yay I get to take a shower. I’m so glad I don’t have to keep going like Brian. I was also worried that Brian was getting bored with me and whether he’d prefer Dave but Brian seemed happy either way. It was pretty awesome to pace the last two sections of the race. We were counting down the miles and guessing cause both of our GPS watches were out of batteries. Brian found some more steam and pounded out the last couple miles with me hooting and hollering behind him. It was pretty awesome to follow him to the finish, even though I barely did anything, just to share in that was fabulous.

10. You had a number of conversations with Brian throughout the night and during the day.  Were there any that were particularly amusing or entertaining that you'd care to share with the vast readership of Irrelevance?

[[Editor's note, apparently not]]



11. Do you feel any increased understanding of the mindset behind someone who competes in 100 mile races?  Or does it seem just as looney as it might have before?

It’s totally nuts! But I guess I see more of why people do it. It’s the whole question of how far can I push myself? What are my real limits? I’ve found out I can go further than I thought I could go, so the next question is, how much further can I go? And how much faster? But I’m not one of those people who really likes to push myself to the extreme. And I like sleeping. So I don’t think ultras are for me. But I certainly enjoyed pacing this course. You get some of the fun with less of the mindnumbing hours and insane mileage. This course is also more in line with my idea of fun. It’s in Hawaii, so its absolutely beautiful, I remember pointing out some crazy flowers and trees. The views were gorgeous, and the technical trail keeps your mind busy. I’m not sure I’d like pacing a hot sweaty road marathon as much.


12. What did you like best about pacing? 


All the fun, none of the pain. Maybe just a little.

13. Which shoes did you wear and how did they treat your feet?

Adidas Boston 3. They were great. They’re not trail shoes and they’re nice and light, but they have a stiff enough sole to protect from rocks. I had no problems with my feet. Even though I shattered my navicular bone a few years ago and was told I might never run again. I thought that might to bother me or the screws would start to make my foot ache but it wasn’t too bad.

Nu'uanu Aid Station
Jackass Ginger




















14. Would you do anything different if you pace the same race again? 


I would have been more prepared. I wasn’t expecting to race at all since I had been so sick and I wasn’t sure Brian and Dave would even need me to help out. So I didn’t bring warmer clothes for running at night (I would have brought a long sleeved shirt and a t shirt), it was a little breezy on the ridges at the top of the climbs, and being sick made me colder. But it was still Hawaii and cold here is not too bad.

The view from Tantalus
I would have been generally more ready to race, I probably would have enjoyed having a pack to stash my cellphone and maybe a bit more water. This isn’t a good trail to carry water in hand since so much of the climbs and descents are technical, you need your hands, I just put the water bottle between my teeth, plus there were a couple times Brian almost went over the cliff in the dark. Running downhill you also need your arms for balance and a bottle is annoying. Having hands free would have been beneficial. But with aid stations every 5-7 miles and relatively cool weather, you don’t need to pack much.

15. You ran a lot more than planned, why did you choose to continue for extra sections?
Banyan tree (aka banging tree)

We thought we’d have more pacing help but I also felt like I could handle it, and I wanted to see what I could do. Pretty much I was enjoying the experience. When I woke up from 2 h sleep after my first sections, I was coughing up all sorts of fun stuff and I felt awful and I was all ready to tell Dave and Brian that I’d crew at the aid stations but as far as running was concerned, they boys were on their own. Then after I had coffee, I started to feel a little bit better. I thought, I’m in Hawaii, I might as well be out there enjoying it, so I decided to do a couple more sections and give Dave a break. Plus, Brian seemed like he didn’t need much other than a little company and I was pretty sure I could hang. Had we been running more, I would have had a harder time I think. But on those steep climbs and descents, I found I felt pretty good. Also, if Brian could do 100 miles, worrying about 5 or 12 seemed stupid in comparison.


16. There are a number of spectacular views along the course, any that you remember specifically? 

Post race
The night views were the coolest. There was one view on the second leg at night, I think it was 3 in the morning, and the moon was over the city of Honolulu. I’d been pacing Brian already for a few hours through the jungle and bamboo and whatever, and we come to the top of this ridge and have these amazing views of Honolulu or Pearl Harbor. How many people get to see that? It felt pretty special.

17. You were sick going into this and sick after.  Did you notice feeling sick during?  Did you think about that? 


There were some times when I felt pretty awful. I probably shouldn’t have run, but the only thing I was concerned about was keeping up with Brian and keeping him happy. This wasn’t about me. I felt bad that I was coughing a lot, and then right at the end I couldn’t stop sneezing, I think something just got to me. But at least that was only the last mile or 2.

18. How do you explain your experience to friends or family members who don't run more than 10 miles at a time?

This wasn’t really running. It was more hiking up and down some pretty crazy terrain and running where the trail was good. We did less running at night because the visibility wasn’t great. But there were some times when Brian totally turned it on during the downhill and I was pretty impressed that he could find that kind of speed after all that he’d already done. This course is really hard on your knees, hips and back. Brian predicts that I’ll get into this distance stuff, we’ll see.