Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yellow & White is the New Orange (is the new black)

Yellow & White is the New Orange (Is the New Black)

Two weeks on Paradise Island, and I feel just a smidgen like I'm writing to you from Alcatraz.

Don't worry, the food, the weather, the company, and the beds are better.

Before I left, one of my prenatal yoga students joked that it sounded like I was going to prison: two meals a day, clothing provided, nothing to think about but the task at hand. The running theme for the following weeks was which contraband items I should bring.... like a suitcase full of tampons and chocolate (I should have... chocolate is $8). Then when we arrived, our instructor actually referred to the program as "having many similar qualities to a stay at a minimum-security prison." 


So now I will recount for you the ways in which it is prison-like and the ways in which it is not, based exclusively on my experience watching season one of Orange is the New Black.

- Wake up bell and role call at every session (both in and out).
- Unflattering uniforms you're not allowed to alter in any way, other than rolling up the pant legs for the mandatory beach walk meditation (<- this is both categories). Mine is appropriately sized for an extra small elephant.
- Metal table service. Although this may just mean it's like camping.
- Discipline as asserted from the outside, consequences, and reprimands for things like being 30 seconds late or texting in temple (<- not me, mind you, and totally reasonable unless you are texting Ganesha).
- Quirky nicknames. In this case, all staff and YTT faculty have spiritual names (so you could actually be texting Ganesha and that would not be appropriate).
- The food is good, although some foods are completely off limits and we currently don't know why. Even if we go into town, no eggs, onions or garlic.

- Everyone wants to be here (or want-ed to be here before they got here).
- We can leave any time. Or at least any time the boat leaves the dock, which is four times a day, and we don't require a pass or a shiv or an escape plan to do so.
- There is a lot of chanting. A lot. A LOT. When we're not actually chanting, I'm still chanting in my head, despite my complete inability to memorize the one chant we're actually required to memorize.
- We're here to attain some sort of personal mission for self improvement or spiritual growth or enlightenment.*

*Is this true of prison, too?

The hardest thing for me so far has been the sleep deprivation, followed closely by the discipline. I'm not accustomed to external discipline. And I think it has to do with the lineage-based approach. I'm a liberal artist in a school that adheres strictly and stringently to lineage, and that's tough for me. I've heard many times the analogy of the well. You know how if you want to dig a well and get water, it makes more sense to dig one hole and keep going until you hit water? (I'm sure you've dug a well before, right?)

Well, I haven't. I don't know what it's like, but I imagine that sometimes you hit bedrock and it makes more sense to shift six feet to the left and start again. But again, liberal arts.

So far I'm feeling very much like I did as a child in Catholic mass. I used to feel like it was so unusual that hundreds of people would show up and sit in the same room and pretend to believe the same thing, which we all surely knew wasn't true.

Now I feel like it is strange that hundreds of us gather twice a day to pretend to meditate. Digging the same well.

At least I get to walk on the beach.

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