Monday, October 17, 2011


It's 5am and my mind is racing, processing a myriad of thoughts from the weekend.  At this point, I don't believe there is any chance of falling back to sleep.  Hunter is snoring at the floor next to the foot of the bed, exhausted from an evening of affection, foraging for food scraps on the floor, and meeting a new guest (a maltese) brought by a friend.  The roommates are also quiet, although as I write this, Trevor stirs and gets ready for his 6am group workout.  There is a stillness throughout the house, a peace and calm that I haven't felt for days because I packed this weekend as full as I possibly could and as a result I got so much more out of it than I ever expected.

The fabric of the next few pages will touch on some of the concepts that have been discussed recently in yoga tt class and also some of the thoughts that have been stirring in my head.  I will describe my dharma, the impact of acknowledgment, how I experience gratitude, and most especially for me, the joy I feel for the friendships I have been blessed with.  I don't expect anyone to be able to read this entire block, it's simply too long and convoluted to make any sense to anyone other than myself, but I write it so that I will remember, and I offer it in case there is any piece worth taking.  There is no discussion of racing in this post, just endless ramblings of thoughts about common and ordinary events.  In the interest of organizing these thoughts, I'm going to proceed chronologically as I recap events, and while doing so, intersperse my angles like a garnish.

Friday was a highly anticipated day for me.  I was giddy with excitement and expectation as I counted down the days and then hours until my first meditation session.  It was lead by a woman with life experience that greatly surpassed her meager years, someone who has lived and experienced situations and intensity which makes my own life experience seem like a sanitized and bubble-wrapped version.  There was no immediate epiphany from this first meditation session, but as I get closer to understanding some of what I am learning, I am realizing that the process of embracing yoga and eastern "philosophy" if I am willing to use that term, is more about the development of my long term "health" than it is about any individual moment of shining brilliance.  More on that later, but let me wrap up Friday with a description of my mood.  I felt completely at peace, softer than I had felt in years, perhaps ever, and so calm I had no interest in anything but returning to my cocoon and attempting to "just be."  I drifted off the sleep feeling utter contentment.  So maybe there is something to that whole meditation thing after all.

Saturday morning came quickly and I was so relaxed I burned up every last minute of sleep before heading off to coach my group of runners.  Roommate Trevor made a surprise visit to lead the stretching and I felt another huge wave of gratitude for his willingness to be there for a team he isn't actively working with, and on such short notice.  One of the other coaches was getting married that day, so I was flying light and I was so happy to have someone else to lean on.  In my moments of need, Trevor has shown up and given freely, and for that I feel genuinely blessed.  We had a great workout, perhaps better than I had hoped for, with lots of positive feedback, and a few "I just did the longest run of my life" proclamations at the end.  It was a completely satisfying experience.

After coaching, the plan was to knock out the marathon bench press challenge attempt #2, but Jeff was forced to reschedule and I didn't want to attempt it solo, so I wandered over to the nearest yoga studio where I saw my friend's car.  I hadn't seen her in a week and I wanted to bask in her glow, I told her this weekend that everything she touches seems to turn to gold and it's just absolutely true.  After climbing the steps, I realized I had missed her class by 10 minutes, too much time to jump in late, and so I headed off north, grabbed an acai bowl, spent 20 minutes catching up with my dad, and found my way to the carlsbad yoga studio for the noon class with a different friend, someone with completely different energy, but yet someone who's class always inspires and challenges me.  I got everything I wanted out of that hour, in 60 short minutes I felt back in tune with the pulse of life from that studio which I hadn't been to in weeks.  As I left, I longingly looked through the cracked door at the teacher training session going on, the original teacher training that had started the gears turning, and eventually put me in training I am doing at a different studio.  I felt the warmth from one of my friends who I knew was in that room, even though I did not see his face directly.  I smiled all the way back to my own class.

Teacher training on the weekends is apparently lead by 2 of the 4 instructors.  This was my first weekend session, having missed the last two with trips to San Jose and Chicago to indulge in running.  We started off with one of the instructors leading us through the beginning of the flow we are using as our framework, and paying special attention to her word selection, tone, movement around the room, and the buildup she uses to set the stage.  I felt my heat building as it always does in her class, a mixture of admiration for what I cannot yet do, both in terms of execution of asanas and in terms of clarity and inspiration of verbal guidance.  The gratitude I felt manifested in beads of sweat that dripped from my limbs in the unheated room.  Next, each of us received a chance to lead as we repeated that same flow twice more.  This was my first "round robin" experience, the first time I would be on the hot seat, along with everyone else, and I greeted it with the same eager anticipation I had felt for the meditation session, knowing I was completely unprepared, but feeling an openness to experience the richness of catastrophic failure with untainted naivety.  

The beauty of the next 20 minutes is hard for me to describe.  Hearing everyone's voice come through was a complete delight, not unlike the experience of finally enjoying an entire cup of coffee (a process that came with a few false starts for me).  Sure, we all need practice before we are ready to actually teach, but just like a child developing his or her personality, we all began to grow in that session.  I was sad that it had to end, but what followed was a lecture on Ayurveda which tore my attention back into the present and captivated my thoughts for the rest of the afternoon.

I must take a quick side-trip back to Shane, my Tue/Thur morning yoga instructor, who actually introduced me to ayurveda before I even knew what he was talking about.  Shane mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that he felt I expressed a strong Pitta, and this analysis proved entirely true as we took the dosha quiz, although I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of Kapha and even some Vata in the mix.  One other thing Shane had mentioned to me rang out especially relevant as we neared the end of the Ayurveda lecture and we were reminded of our homework, to show gratitude to someone in our lives.  One of the students told us his story, which he had written up, about connecting with an elder of special importance in his life and how the gratitude wound up coming right back to him.  This struck a chord with some of Shane's words from past conversations.  Shane described how he had cared for another man through his final months and how this man had wept tears of joy at how blessed he felt throughout his illness and eventual demise.

Saturday's sun set as the buzz of life washed over me, and my altered state of consciousness caused me to visit 3 different locations before settling in on dinner.  I wound up gravitating to see my friend who is taking the other yoga tt, in a misguided attempt to share time with him, at a time when he was so busy we barely got a chance to knuckle bump..  Unknown to me at the time, because he was so busy working, was a minor foot injury that had developed for him on Friday and was causing him substantial pain over the weekend.  More on that later too.  After dinner I managed to meet up with Jeff and cross off the marathon bench press challenge attempt #2.  Despite the failure to achieve the stated goal, I was invigorated.

Sunday morning was a chance for the weekly ranch run with the group, except that the group this week consisted of only one, Luc, who took me on a long and easy tour of flat dirt.  It wasn't a typical Sunday ranch run, but it was extremely pleasant, this man who I've run with for a decade now has recently changed his training plan and for the first time since I've known him, he's running easier.  Of course easier is relative and he took the opportunity to leave me behind on the last few hills with a lightness that erases the 20 year age gap between us.  We shared coffee and gatorade, and then parted, as I had to take care of shopping for dinner before teacher training.

I got the groceries into the fridge/freezer just in time to jump in the shower and jet to class, arriving perhaps 30 seconds late, but able to immerse myself in the pool of other students as we gathered in the lobby.  A short discussion of Breaking Bad ensued, and I felt strangely normal for talking about a tv show in a yoga studio.  I guess it really shouldn't be strange, but I was surprised that it didn't feel unnatural.  We gathered in a circle and started with some group discussion and that is when a mountain of a moment revealed itself.  Or perhaps it was more like a rogue wave that splashed over the deck of our ship and caused us all to stop our own mental chatter and sit at attention.  It really seemed to come out of nowhere, I remember blurting out something silly and mundane immediately prior.  Somehow the sharpness of intellect or intuition guided one of the instructors to ask the right question at the right time and the clouds lifted revealing that beautiful mountain which had been there the whole time, I just wasn't paying attention to it.  I don't know how that moment affected anyone else, but it spoke volumes to me about humanity, about how beautiful it is to be alive and to have sentiment, even if we frequently feel pain and disappointment.  Time slowed to a halt and empathy flowed freely.  I still get shivers thinking about it.  The raw expression left a mark on my heart.

We moved into a discussion of crescent lunge, one of the asanas which started out as a favorite before I knew or understood all of the work that I wasn't putting into it.  It has since become one of the more difficult poses for me, perhaps second only to warrior I which I think is only easier because I simply can't do it right.  Spiraling my legs is a skill I feel I am only scratching the surface with, and watching our instructor demonstrate flexed, pointed, flointed, and karate chopped ankle/foot position was one of the most enlightening and also depressing moments I've ever had in the studio.  It is fantastic to know and understand, to have the details presented and revealed as the covers are drawn back.  And yet, with the loss of innocence comes a natural feeling of desperation, that there is so much to learn and attempt to master, it becomes easy to feel helpless because my foot can't do any of those 4 motions very cleanly, I can't lift my 3 middle toes, and my foot actually looks more like road kill than my most important connection to the earth.

The Sunday class ended with part 2 of our anatomy lecture, where we got to see the passion of Dr. Ian on full display as he discussed his views about medications and the definition of health.  Just as it had been a real joy to experience the meditation session on Friday, it was wonderful to see the passion dripping from his lips as he made his case.  When I pay attention, I can see so clearly how different people are when they are doing or talking about something they love and fully embrace with all of their heart, as compared to doing or talking about something they are knowledgeable of but feel no special fondness for.  The energy is much higher, and the excitement is invigorating when part of their heart is in the game as well.

There wasn't much time to gather my thoughts after class, because I had to attempt to prepare food for my guests.  It wound up being a large gathering, for some reason everyone who was invited showed up and a few extras even managed to make it.  I could feel the stress rising as I realized my own limitations regarding food preparation.  And it is at precisely this time when the lessons of the weekend and the past few weeks really started to kick in and hit home.

My first guest arrived and explained the sequence of events surrounding his foot injury, how it had so quickly started hurting, and how the pain had seemingly disappeared 48 hours later.  His teacher training has involved an extended discussion of all the points in the foot which affect the entire rest of the body, and he also has some anusara background which he shared with me, describing the toes and fingers and what their meanings are, why we close thumb and forefinger in a ring to combine the Self with the universe, and all sorts of insightful angles on the injury.  I had to tear myself away to shower up, and when I came back, many of my friends had already arrived.

Sharing my home with the people who are dear to me is one of the greatest joys I feel.  It's an opening of myself and my space to those I trust with my heart.  What is especially wonderful about these evenings, which may just be my take on the experiences, is how all of my friends pitch in to make it happen.  I don't ever ask anyone to do anything, but each and every one of my friends always asks what they can do to help.  That kind of inspiration overflows my cup of gratitude.  One friend asked what was planned for dinner in order to pair the right wine to bring, and my reply of "nourishment for the soul" didn't deter her from her quest.  Other friends asked what they can bring and didn't even seem to mind when I responded with "your warm heart and pure soul".  OK, so, yeah, I was definitely a bit overly-zen, and yet these friends, the ones I love, respect and admire, are totally content with that, completely accepting and embracing of all of my funky silliness.

I did precious little food preparation myself, as an army of friends descended and conquered the task, including the dish washing, wine pouring, introductions, and keeping the mood enjoyable and upbeat.  If I had taken a moment to absorb everything, I would have felt like a completely soaked sponge.  It was one of those magnificent moments that stretched on for hours, where everyone and everything seemed harmonious.  And then the sink clogged and backed up.

Yeah, so, that last sentence really doesn't fit with the rest of this entry.  It was a bit of a mood killer.  I have to admit that, when it happened, it snapped me back to reality.  I felt instant panic.  Then I went through the mental checklist of options and workarounds as I evaluated my predicament.  It didn't seem possible to get through the evening without the sink, especially with it full of soapy water.  I had to take the drain apart and find the clog, there really wasn't an alternative option.  As I approached and then dove into that effort, I was reminded of my purpose, for the evening, and for life in general, what is known as my dharma.  I have gradually understood, over the past 36 years, that I am meant to be the foundation upon which others stand up and reach for the sky.  I am not especially good at greetings, at making people feel at ease, or introducing, and I struggle with general social graces, expressions of gratitude, being appropriate and tactful, and all of the social skills in and around most human interaction.  I'm not sure how much of that deficiency is genetic and how much is my fault for not paying attention earlier in life.  I am severely stoked to make some general (and slow) progress to improve in those areas.  But where I excel currently, where I am in my element, is the unglamorous problem solving and infrastructure that enables everyone else to live, to enjoy, to prosper, and to ignore the mundane "work" that has to be done to support life.

My Dharma is to support.  The truth of that has been revealed to me over my lifetime.  In high school, when it came time for everyone to receive a part for the "variety show," I was in heaven working behind the scenes along with the "trenchcoat maffia" crew to build out the set, cue the actors, and ensure the production went flawlessly.  I loved every minute of that experience, I was completely content to avoid any hint of visibility from the audience.  In college, my social role was much the same, if there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it.  I carried as many tools to my dorm room each year as I carried books, and I built a few elaborate lofts, one for a friend of mine who cursed me loudly as he attempted to disassemble it at the end of the year.  Since then, I've slipped even deeper into the role of the concrete beneath other's feet, the foundation upon which structures can be built.  When I reach for the sky myself, it's not often pretty, but when I enable someone else to reach, I feel such an incredible sense of self worth in their beauty.  This drives my passion for pacing, and most of my friendships and interactions, the desire to please, and the act of encouragement and enabling others to be their best.

OK, so, back to reality right?  I have this clogged sink of unknown origin, and I'm not actually a plumber, though I did install the disposer and I've done my share of tinkering.  As I disassemble the drain pieces, bit by bit, one of my friends gently heckles me that I'm not showing nearly enough plumbers crack.  I think of my plumber who I last saw when his band played at a nearby bar, a night that was just as perfect and fun as Sunday night.  I know I can't call him because he lives too far away and he's got a wife and kid, and really this is just a simple problem, a clogged drain, it's time to man up and deal.  I uncouple the pieces of 2" ABS which include the section from the disposer to the 2nd sink, then a connection for the RO unit, then the trap and finally the section feeding into the wall.  For some interesting reason, I start from the ground and work my way up, perhaps this is the yoga TT speaking to me about life.  I loosen the trap but it's as if there is no clog, no water emerges.  I continue up and find the source of the clog to be the top of the connection for the RO wastewater.  I find this out rather forcefully as water filled with garlic and soap sprays around inside the sink cabinet.  My friend quickly helps out as we pan away the water, and attempt to contain and clean up the mess.

In the end, an hour is lost playing under the sink.  Sure, it's an hour I would love to have had to be with my guests, and it was probably a completely preventable problem, either by design of the drain pipes or by being a bit more cautious about running the disposal or using the trash can for garlic bits.  But as my friend leans in and asks me "did you enjoy that" I have to respond with "yes".  It is my calling to tackle life's challenges when I am not prepared, when I'm not ready.  Just as I received the call to lead the yoga teacher training group through our round robin after 30 or 40 minutes of practicing for everyone else, at a time when my body was dripping with sweat that stained my eyes and altered my ability to concentrate, so too was I called upon, Sunday night, to unclog my own drain, in the middle of a gathering of my friends when I wasn't remotely ready.  It makes total sense.  It's who I am, it's what I do, it's how I am meant to be me.

As the guests left, one by one, I found my heart was full and my soul nourished as I had predicted.  Each one of them enriches my life in ways I cannot do for myself, and they all do so without needing me to ask, or without expecting anything in return.  I prepared less than 10% of the food and did none of the dishes, all of the normal "work" was all taken care of for me, by smiling faces willing to do it all over again next time.  My gatherings aren't remotely by the book, but they fill my heart and they teach me about myself and about life every time.

I didn't cry this weekend, but I felt like virtual tears of gratitude were present the entire way as I watched and observed, soaked and absorbed the wonder of the world around me.

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