Thursday, November 15, 2012

Perfect Failure

I've been planning this retreat for months now, and it isn't quite shaping up in the way that I had thought it would. A series of truly unfortunate events have befallen some of my guests in the weeks leading up to this culmination of my hard work and lunacy, and so our mighty group has shrunken, a tad.

I have braced for failure. In fact, I've meandered all the way through the entire retreat, visualizing the perfect failure at each step. Failure one: terrible weather. Failure two: hungover retreatants. Failure three: verbal diarrhea (this is what my mother calls my inability to hold my tongue).

It was a sweet ol' pity party I had with myself, complete with sulking and a steady amount of dark chocolate (as it turns out, I'm a great hostess).

Now you know this isn't my first rodeo... I've failed in some extraordinarily creative ways in the past. So I started doing the "enlightened yoga teacher dance/grumble" which went something like this: "Where is the lesson?" "What is the lesson" "Can I please fast-track through the lesson I'm supposed to learn from this so that I don't royally suck tomorrow?"

(this does not work, in case you're keeping score at home).

So I went about packing as though I were Cassandra boarding the Titanic when the lesson hit me in the back of the head (at the same time as the cupboard door, in fact).

Seven months ago, in April, I was in conversation with the retreat center about booking the venues for this retreat. We were going back and forth, and right in the middle of a forth, I got some pretty scary news from my doctor. All of a sudden putting down a deposit on something months in the future felt impossible, because I stood on unsteady ground and couldn't see beyond my toe tips. At the time I remember thinking, "what if I'm stuck at home, undergoing chemo or recovering from surgery in six months? What if the future ends before November?"

And so, kittens, my revelation is simple: I have stepped beyond the edge of what I thought was possible, through dark waters, and tomorrow I head into a day that I am grateful to have. Whether or not the retreat looks as I expected it to or not, the fact that it exists at all is a sign. A gift. And if it is a failure, then it will be a perfect failure.

And I will hope for the opportunity to do it again.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

O Whole-y Night

I'm scared for Tuesday.

Last election I was too busy to focus on the mud-flinging, and too detached from Facebook to be hit in the face with every third post. Also, I think the world was slightly less crazy four years ago. Or maybe the crazy is just relative... I was closer to totally nuts, making the world seem sane. Sane-er.

It seems that even in my media-deprived state, I have become the monkey in the middle between opposing forces who throw my sanity (and theirs, too) over my head. Back, and forth. Back. And. Forth.

In Texas last week I visited a small town diner where the "community table" forbade "commie socialist Obama loving expletives." The community table. My parents (who had both already voted, as had I) had a rousing debate about economics and reproductive rights while I sat wide-eyed and horrified at the other end of the table. My parents never argued while I was growing up, and rarely debated. Part of my terror came from my realization that they both wanted the same things, but had somehow landed on opposite sides of the fence.

Has this happened to you? Have you forgotten the goals we share? The COMMON good? You don't have to be a socialist or even believe that everyone has the inborn rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness to know that if you and your neighbor both want the same thing, it makes sense to work together for that thing. (or you can kill them and TAKE IT, in which case I strongly recommend season four of Dexter).

I believe that there is a disturbance in the force. A short in our circular logic that fools us into believing that there will never be enough, that there is only one right way, and that the right way happens to be my way. We take on the superhero mentality and assume that the other guys are therefore the bad guys.

Yoga can offer some perspective here. First, aparigraha. Non-grasping. Think you have all of the answers? If you're holding onto them tightly with your teeth and two hands, then there is no room for any more answers, even if they are better. Second, satya: telling the whole truth about what you know. Do you know how many jobs have/have not been created by this or that person? Is what you are saying YOUR truth, or the truth of some other person or entity. Have you thought critically about why you are speaking the truth that you are, or whether or not you believe it fully? Third, saucha: cleanliness in body, mind and thought (which I'll also interpret as clearing out the mental garbage of grudges, real or imagined).

As my friend and teacher Jessica Patterson says, "You are already whole and perfect." And so is everyone else, regardless of their political affiliation, voting history, fundamental beliefs and $#it flinging.

It isn't easy to be the Yogi in the Middle, and it isn't easy to watch two people who love each other yell across an arbitrary fence about something they agree on. But it is our role as yogi(ni)s, as yoga teachers, to hold up a mirror first for ourselves and then for our friends and flingers. We must speak our truth and we must hear the truths of others. Never would I suggest that we compromise our values or allow others to decide how we must live, but I will suggest (and am suggesting, I suppose) that we always do so in a dialogue. Which involves as much listening as speaking.

Be cautious, dear friends, as you sit down to watch the country turn red and blue. Be aware of your tendencies and aggressions. Remember that on this night above all nights that all people are whole. And perfect.

(and apparently you have to have a completely unusual name to run for president)

Do what you can. Do what you must. Keep one ear open. Isvara pranidhana.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Borrowed Time

For the past fifteen years I have relished the extra hour that came with the loss of daylight. I have spent this hour sleeping in, taking a nap, or gazing softly out the window (for sixteen seconds until I was overcome by The Sleep).

Since my retirement eleven months ago, I've slowly but surely caught up on sleep. I've learned to nap without regret, to sleep later, and even to go to bed earlier. Sure, I still pass out on the couch or the patio occasionally, but I'm no longer compelled to lie down wherever I happen to be (the floor of the airport, the backseat of my car, the line for Space Mountain).

So this year I will use my extra hour for good. I will (try to) transition myself to an earlier schedule, enabling myself to explore the world of early breakfast appointments and the fabled 7 o'clock hour.

I have this vision of waking before the sun, taking my time to get ready, reading or practicing yoga before I leave in the morning. I've heard of people who go to the gym, come home, shower, and eat a full breakfast before going to work. Some people wake up without alarms. I do not know how this works, physiologically.

This sacred hour that we are about to receive is a cosmic gift. We are about to travel through time simply because we agree that time travel is normal, possible, and expected. We may be more hesitant in six months when we travel back, but for now we are all on board.

It is so strange to me that we can argue on concrete issues like foreign policy, reproductive rights, human goodness, and the errs of our leaders and so quickly agree to take a leap of faith and relive an hour of our lives, or jump full-speed into the future. Perhaps we disagree, argue, and even fight because we know that once an idea becomes law, it quickly becomes the norm, accepted by everyone.

Adopted without question.

Even when it defies the laws of basic physics.

Be careful this weekend, dear friend. Use your hour and your vote like both are borrowed from the future.