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YOGA NEWS YOGA NEWS YOGA NEWS SEPTEMBER 2008
Dear Students, Friends, and Colleagues,
Another summer has slipped through our fingers, and this week I faced the annual jolt of what the French call la rentree—the return to city living after les vacances. Looking at the French word for “vacation,” it strikes me that to vacation is to vacant oneself from ordinary life. As many of you know, I have been doing just that every summer for almost two decades. Of course, no sooner do I decamp from New York, than I recreate my teaching life out in East Hampton. Somehow I doubt the French have a word for “working vacation.”
In any case, back in the city I was this week, alive, awake and attuned to the rush of activity as only someone who has dwelt in calmer surroundings can be. Every strange new face, every screech of breaks, the insane variety of smells wafting out of restaurants and delis, boutiques, subway tunnels and alleyways—each impression registered, processed, identified, judged, commented upon and deposited in the fathomless depths of my memory bank. Once again I find myself in awe of those who live in the city, of the ways in which we adapt to this constant barrage of stimuli while not coming unhinged.
While my hinges held, an afternoon this new world left me drained. Curling up with an old paperback copy of Watership Down, I took heart in the author’s description of rabbits. Apparently, bunnies know only two responses to anything: to startle or to bolt. Finding themselves in new surroundings, rabbits can startle themselves to exhaustion. That pretty much describes my first afternoon back in the Big Apple. I hope my wider range of coping strategies drops into place soon, or I will never make it through September! Thank God for the stabilizing, calming, and rejuvenating power of yoga. While yoga in the country feels expansive and celebratory, in the city it is at times simply a matter of restoring equilibrium.
As for the summer, this was one of the sweetest yet. Out here by the sea, we were blessed with one gorgeous day after another. I think it rained twice—at night! The only signs of global climate change were a handful of startlingly(!) intense electrical storms. The power went on, the power went off. Shocks of lightning lit up whole rooms, the yard, the sky. During the last storm, lightning struck our cars and house, toasting one car’s inner wiring to a crisp, debilitating another, and cracking a windshield on the third. The house and inhabitants, though rocked with the impact, made it through unscathed, though one of my housemates had a troublesome tingling in her forearm for days afterward. We talk a lot about energy (power) in yoga, but it’s another thing entirely to feel the immense power of Nature in turmoil.
Again, I was blessed with a harmonious gathering of old and new friends sharing my home. Two took breaks from their day jobs to devote themselves to writing. With me at home as well, churning through the more mundane daily onslaught of emails, afternoons at the house took on the feel of Yaddo or the Macdowell Colony. If only we had a staff preparing lunch and dinner while we toiled! All of this creative energy inspired yours truly to take the next step toward a long-time vision of staging some site-specific yoga-art-theater events on the East End. More on that as things unfold . . .
ONE FOOT IN TODAY, ONE IN TOMORROW
“Be here now” is such a familiar yogic refrain that, like most cliché’s, it’s been almost drained of meaning. But the phrase echoed through my mind repeatedly this summer, as I constantly felt myself pulled out of the moment and into the future. The life of a self-sustaining yoga teacher is a high-wire act of incidental encounters leading to protracted negotiations and eventually (at least in some cases!) to gainful employment. Hence all of those summer afternoons spent in my inbox. Like my students in the fashion world, I am always a season or two—sometimes a full year—ahead. I can tell you off the top of my head, and with unnerving accuracy where I will be on November 23 (flying home from Mexico City), December 6 (leading a women’s retreat in rural Georgia), October 1 (packing for my tour of the Far East). Even activities on the home front require this leap ahead: who will sublet my city apartment next summer? How will we fill the East Hampton house come October? Did anybody remember to place an order with Fresh Direct?
Tantric philosophy, while invested in being as conscious as possible in all circumstances, does not prioritize the present over the future or the past. Instead, Tantra asks us to step into the fullness of time: to know where we have been, where we are now, and thus where we want to go next. I remember being floored when my teacher John Friend told me that he and philosopher Douglas Brooks sat down periodically to envision where they wanted Anusara Yoga to be in five years, in ten. I have never taken this kind of long-range view of things, but I now see its value. Having our sights set on great things can move us through the trying moments in each day; without a master plan, we are much more likely to veer off course, to startle and bolt at the least upset.
So, while I missed a few sunny hours on the beach this summer, I am gratified to report that I am on the verge of my most exciting (and ambitious!) season yet! Two long trips, one to Japan and China, one to Costa Rica and Mexico, mark the next phase of my “world service”—carrying the yoga I love to folks who’ve had only a glimmer of its riches. Closer to home, I’ll be leading a Teacher Training here in the city and co-leading another in Kentucky. I’ll be enjoying my third retreat with the Atlanta goddesses. Along the way, public classes and master classes here and in the Hamptons, as well as private lessons, will keep in me in touch with you.
All the best