The New

I have plenty of my own words but not the time at the moment to relay them. Instead, I’ll close out the year with this quotation from Robert Pirsig’s Lila; I find it very relevant as I look forward.

“If you want to drink new tea you have to get rid of the old tea that’s in your cup, otherwise your cup just overflows and you get a wet mess. Your head is like that cup. It has a limited capacity and if you want to learn something about the world you should keep your head empty in order to learn it. It’s very easy to spend your whole life swishing old tea around in your cup thinking it’s great stuff because you’ve never really tried anything new, because you could never get it in, because the old stuff prevented its entry because you were so sure the old stuff was so good, because you never really tried anything new….”

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Ujjayi

With every breath, I am learning.

I close my eyes, turning inward. The thoughts that have driven me here — the worries about injury, the cares in my personal life, the stresses of the work I just left behind — begin to dissipate as I breathe deeply. Words recently spoken lose the great momentum their continual revolutions have been keeping in my head.

I am sorry. This one will assert itself many times before it really drops away, I know, and so I put it down for now to recollect my strength. Will I always be sorry? I have asked myself; based on past experience, it seems likely. Even forgiving myself for my failings does not mean I do not feel the responsibility. These are things I think about before I arrive on the mat. Even if I did nothing wrong, even if I only caused pain inadvertently — even with the best of intentions — I am aware of the weight of my steps, of what they can accidentally crush. This is not the same as guilt, although I know it might look similar.

With a soft sound like a distant, gentle ocean, my breath leaves me. I rest in the gap between this and my next inhale. My intention is set: clarity, in this moment. I want to do the right thing; not just the thing that I want, but the thing that is right.

I have been impatient. As a constitutionally patient person, I’ve found this perhaps easier to bear than one might otherwise expect… but I long to run again, swiftly, to put miles beneath my feet and control my breath in that more familiar context. The similarity in breath control is something I find comforting. I have grown impatient lately with my heart, too, not just the other muscles that need time to recover.

All of this I peel off like the outer layer I wear and set beside me as the practice begins. I look forward to doing so, to letting my mind empty itself as my lungs fill with air, my body with a deep warmth. I love how quiet a thing this is. In this quiet, I am able to see how I can be my own support system; another healthy reinforcement replaces a self-defeating one. I think that when I’m finished and don both the garment and the concerns, I am better equipped to handle them. I hope it, too.

At the end, I roll up my mat and let my body relax in the warmth it has generated, even as my mind begins to turn to what I need to do and the courage I will summon for the task.

At every step, I am learning.

Rainy-Day Ride

I heard the first patters of rain on the skylight as I pumped up my bike’s tires. I was feeling a bit low, myself, but I thought that getting outside for a bit in the quiet of a Sunday downtown would do me some good. A little light precipitation wouldn’t be so bad.

As I turned off the street onto the bike path, I thought about the things that have been going wrong lately. Frustration and discouragement have been hanging about; more than a few things haven’t gone as planned….

Then, the splash of the rain on my face, bicycle, and the asphalt reminded me of the sprint duathlon I raced in this summer. (Fortunately, it didn’t rain during my bike ride then — things tend to get very slippery with bikes and rain — though it did before the race and again while I ran the last 2.5 or so miles.) Who do you personally know who has done that? a voice inside prodded. It was tough and insistent, like a coach trying to revive a discouraged player. No one, I admitted to that inner coach.

That’s right. You’ve done something no one else you know has done. And those are the kinds of things you do now. You’ll do that again, and even better, or move on up to something else.

When I got back home, I felt refreshed, my spirits renewed. That duathlon will always be a part of my journey now. But it’s not a laurel to rest on; it’s a foothold to help me keep moving. Having achieved something like that, some challenge I simply set my mind to, makes me feel more confident about what I’ll be able to accomplish from here.

The Dachshund Dream and American Insularity

I’m not typically a disclaimer sort of gal, but if you have an active imagination and especially if you love dogs, this one will be a bit disturbing. I know it was for me.

Last night and this morning, I dreamt that I was with a group of people whose Dachshund had a compulsion to cut himself open. In a routine that was artificially clean in the dream, he flipped himself over on his back and made a vertical cut starting in the middle of his chest and ending low in his abdomen, after which he would pull the two sides apart and poke at his clean, pink insides.

I was bewildered and disgusted, then deeply troubled, as his owners dismissed this as just “something he does.” “He’s fine!” they said, in that unconcerned voice one hears from an overly permissive parent when her child appears to be about to wander into traffic. Moreover, not only were they uninterested in doing something to stop the self-destructive behavior — take his knife, dull his claws, put something on him, stop him from flipping over to do it — but they also actively dissuaded me from stopping him when I instinctively tried to. “He’s fine!”

This happened a few times before I woke up, and each time I could see more bruising and lingering damage from the dog’s prodding on his insides. I appealed to his people again, to no avail, and that’s when I managed to wake up.

*          *          *

I immediately thought about what the heck my subconscious meant by that one and was a little surprised that immediately I seemed to know, since the dream was pretty metaphorical, more so than what’s usual for me. There was something that felt very American in their lack of caring, in their dismissal of and ignorance about what they were allowing to happen. Things happen around the world, around the country, in front of our very eyes if we have eyes to see, and we’d rather prattle on about silly things than take notice, let alone try to do something. I’ve been a little saddened of late to see how insular some of my friends are (and, let’s be fair, how insular I have been in the past and sometimes still can be when I get busy). What gets me is how much we shore up the dam of ignorance and pretend we bother staying informed, with our morning-show pseudo-news and fluff we read on the Web. We scan news-type links our friends and pseudo-friends post on Facebook while the real problems happen, the real shit happens — while the real world self-mutilates right in front of us.