Monday, July 19, 2010

the day the sun rose twice...

That title sounds beautiful, right?

Well, I wasn't around 65 years ago when that statement meant something altogether different.

Get some popcorn and go to the bathroom. This is a long one. I tried to edit it down, but so much needed to be said, so suck it up, prepare and hunker down for a good blog.

There's no commercial break...are you ready? Ok.

Today marks the 65th year passing of the bombing of Hiroshima. The day the sun rose twice. Once with the sun, the second with the first nuclear attack, from our country to that of Japan. One of the greatest projects of destruction destroyed lives for decades to come and we remember.

Way to start a blog, right? You should see me at cocktail parties.

How 'bout this...

War is like sex, it ignites such a blushed conversation of fervor and passion that can exhaust both parties involved and if lucky, might result in freedom and release.

I tried.

I mention this tragic moment in history, IN CLASS, so we can process, as yogis and just plain regular people, the idea of war and peace, hatred and acceptance, pain and pleasure and mentally mend our attachment to those polarites, moving forward with the intention of balance and YOGA.

Mistakes have been made in history. Mistakes are made every day. The best thing you can do is learn and move forward.

How many times have you come to a class after having a fight with someone or an altercation on the road or with a co-worker? Just me? Yea, I didn't think so.

And, as soon as we get to the studio and lay our mats down, we are prepared to digest that moment or move on, shake it off and let it go.

There is war. There is peace. But there is the middle path which is choice.

It's the space between where we can find the decision to act in right. The space between breath, the pause between action and the moment between flow postures in a class are all lessons to find the balance between war and peace, muscular constriction and stretch, challenge and letting go, you and me and find the balance.

So often in life we live in these extremes. We are in summer time when heat and sun is in full bloom. We rush to the beach for fun in the sun, but also feel the opposite polarity of the heat which breeds anxiety, anger and frustration. It is in the summertime, when the sun has made its full circle around the earth, that we are forced to reflect on our own path around as individuals and a community. We long for the lunar, moon side of our beings to kick in and balance us out. Reflection, meditation, all key. That and eating light, hydrating, you know the drill. I digress.

I'm back.

I look at history, both tragic and celebratory as a way to gain perspective on the practice of yoga.

Let's explore as we cross another deep anniversary of something that happened so long ago. We might feel removed from history and that's fine, but you can't help but revisit the IDEA of it as something that changed the fabric of our country and in turn, our community.

We might not see war so closely beside us like our neighbors abroad, but we feel it with our mates, on the road, with ourselves.

We are challenged daily to decide if we want to act, react or witness.

When I was preparing this very class, I was alarmed at all the symbols making themselves available for me to blog about and discuss.

I took a class at the new studio where I'm working and teaching. It's a HOT studio, meaning they heat the room up to challenge the mind and warm up the muscles in a way that is intense and vigorous, gets you to move through the muddle of the mind and toxins in the body towards PEACE.

This is a relatively new practice for me. But I was so happy to practice with one of my favorite teachers, a fellow New Yorker, tragically cute and immensely gifted.

In the midst of his teaching, a student broke her practice and scolded the teacher for not sticking to anatomical cueing. The guy talks very fast and uses humor and great visualizations to get you into a pose. I actually thought he might have been extra caffeinated that day, but it didn't bother me. It clearly bothered her and in turn, the students around her as we stood still in horror at her out burst. I was impressed with the teacher's ability to acknowledge her outburst, take it in and continue in a seamless way that left us no room but to do the same. I admire this skill. Had it been me, I don't know if I would have run out the door crying or staggered over my speech. But he handled it with an admirable grace. A gift and a lesson.

Cut to, another teacher at the studio. He was signing in students for his class and a bit frustrated that there weren't many people coming to the class. He, too, is gifted, but you could sense the slight doubt in his air that might have made him think otherwise. Never let them see you sweat...even in a hot yoga studio. I don't want to know that there is any doubt in my teacher's mind, period.

And yet, here I am, with ten certifications and ten years under my belt and I have such doubt surrounding my ability to teach this form of yoga that I can't help but try, because, a. I always do things that scare the crap out of me and b. I find this form of yoga, the structure in it and the woman who is training me to be the most inspiring, transformational and important teaching I have done to date. Just sayin'. And I've jumped out of planes, swung on a trapeze, run marathons, lost a ton of weight and lived in China and THIS scares the crap out of me. But, I digress.

I'm back.

So I see this talented teacher and I empathize.

Finally, I was going for my morning run on the beach. It was one of those unseasonably gloomy mornings that hung around all day. As I left my apartment I saw this man coming toward me with anger in his eyes. Just moments later, I saw a woman running towards him, butt and face clenched and she went up towards his face. They both grasped at one another and pushed and pulled. I could feel the rage as I ran past them and shivered at the energy I so clearly took in while in passing.

The idea of a nuclear bombing today, is terrifying. And just as easily as I reflect on the past, do I witness the conflict in others and myself, see the fear, but also the potential to move forward from that conflict and find a resolution that breeds understanding, patience, empathy and love.

Can we say, YOGA!?

I don't think I heard you.

Is this thing on?

We come to the mat with what we come with. We have our own personal reasons and intentions behind why we practice. Sometimes it is terrifying and it is through that terror that we break through to the other side.

We observe war on the news, on the street, within ourselves. It is in yoga where we have the opportunity to work out and resolve issues from a place of calm and understanding, without judgement.

In the observation, if we are present and aware in body and spirit, we can surmise the value of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.

So often we go to react mode. We act on instinct before taking the pause necessary to act right in principle.

We might be attacked and attack back with words or fists.

Or, we might take in an attack and let it diffuse into the ether and earth to regenerate into something altogether different, like I witnessed with the first teacher.

We can't take our actions and reactions back, but we can train ourselves to take the pause necessary to chose the right way, the way of peace to get through our own tumult.

It is human and animal nature to protect - material and emotional grounds. We stand for what we believe is right. But we can chose to protect and stand for things by choosing kindness as the way.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about confrontation. She said she doesn’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. I said, I had no problem with confrontation, because I always try to come from a place of compassion and understanding when I confront. Confrontation is NOT a bad word. There is nothing wrong with confronting someone on how you feel in a moment. How you feel is your choice. If you feel because of the way someone has behaved, it is your right to open up the dialog to discussion of that feeling. The other person's reaction to that, is their choice.

If I feel like I’m being snapped at, misunderstood or met with anger, I tell the other person how I am feeling. I don’t tell them that THEY made me feel a certain way, but that I feel a certain way by what they did or what they said.

9 times out of ten I am met with defensiveness.

It’s scary. I don’t know if it’s the NY in me or the way my mom raised me, but I don’t meet anger with anger. It gets me nowhere. That much I know. It only gives me fine lines and wrinkles and really, I can’t afford botox, even at my young old age. But, I digress.


And, I confront. I tell someone what’s up and whatever I’m met with is what I’m met with. If I let it bottle up, it's like holding in a fart, just plain uncomfortable. Think about that the next time you are met with something that makes you feel uneasy and speak up!!

It can be scary. Not hundreds of thousands of casualties scary but scary nonetheless and nuclear in feeling. Don't underestimate the power of your own war witnessed or otherwise.

The bombing of Hiroshima is insurmountable, but that extreme trickles down to the daily challenges we are met with. These challenges can all build to an extreme if not dealt with and diffused properly in the moment.

We deal with the moment through choice of peace. Others will follow and we change the world.

And that's not idealistic. That's simple fact.

When I was working at the studio, days later, there was a woman who came out of class in the middle of it and sat down at the bench in front of my desk. She said the class was too hard. The person who was teaching was the same teacher that was snapped at days before.

The woman told me that she liked the teacher so much she didn't want to leave the room, but the heat was getting to her and making her emotional. It was her first yoga class ever. I congratulated her for coming to this particular studio, a studio that among hundreds of studios in LA is one of the very special that creates a loving, nurturing environment of support.

I told her that she should feel proud of herself for getting through as much of the class as she did on her first time in such intensity. She said that she had so much emotion in her that she wanted to cry. There was no one else in the room with us. I told her that she should cry and let it out because it had to come out. If she didn't let it out, it would find some other place in her body to take up residence and make her unhappy. If she let it out, she could move on and past her emotion to a better place. I gave her a cold towel and she gave me a thank you. She went back into the room and told me later that the teacher changed her life. She would be back. I saw her the next day.

The teacher did not witness this, but I did. He witnessed the outburst and I witnessed the change.

I shared this with him and I understood the polarity of war and peace.

The student who had the outburst was not bursting at the teacher but at herself. She was dealing with her own war within and it had to come out. Her out burst scared me but that was my choice. To nurture the other woman, in a place of vulnerability was a place I understood and could communicate with. I could now look at the angry woman, days later, with the perspective I had for the woman how cried. I could soften my mind from fear to a place of compassion.

It's just another way of getting it out. And the yoga room SHOULD be the place we feel safe to work it all out.

I told the teacher who doubted himself that it just takes one - one person to spread the word that he is amazing and they all would follow. For him to teach like a rock star with one is a testament to his teaching in a room with many.

I don't know if he understood what I said, because just as his doubt seeped in, the masses showed up for his class. As usual, the students left his class better than when they came in.
It is his choice how he feels with one or with many.

Yoga, as science and philosophy, has been around for thousands of years, through war time and peace time through times of abundance and desperation...AND the space and time between, choice.

Even in both polarities, we have the choice on how we want to respond.

The space between is that time we DON'T talk about. We don't often see and hear about the blissful transition to peace but we should.

It doesn't make the news or our calls home to mom. The savored space of bliss is usually shared individually and sacredly. It's when the shit hits the fan that EVERYONE hears about it and discussion ensues. We make reality shows about the craziness.

Chose peace. Make peace a habit and others will follow.

It takes one smile from a stranger to produce ten more in a day. It takes one grocery clerk to engage you in conversation rather than ignore you to turn a dull, sad, challenging day into a day of hope and happiness.

Do not underestimate the power of being good.

Start good and kind and let whatever ‘happens’, whatever you are confronted with, let it roll off you so you can produce more good. It is so difficult to be angry. It is much easier to be kind. It’s softer on the nervous and digestive system and has a ripple effect that effects hundreds of thousands. Turn casualties in to celebrations.

I taught this class and discussed the idea of working through great tragedy, personal war and finding peace.

I walked home to the happy music on my ipod (Broadway show tunes, of course), arms filled with fresh veggies and fruit for dinner and surrounded by the warmth and light of an especially sunny and fabulous day in Santa Monica. The smile on my face was impenetrable. I crossed the street and noticed this beaming couple pull up to the light on their bikes. I faced my smile towards them. Ahh, love. The were smiling at each other. Their smiled met mine. They looked familiar and I thought for a moment, I might know them. Perhaps they came to one of my classes. Perhaps they were on is LA.

And two blocks later, perhaps and smiles became tears streaming down my eyes.

The beaming love was the couple I saw just days before on that gloomy morning, fighting with each other.

I didn't cry for war, but I cried for peace and the pure bliss in witnessing such a transformation. So many transformations and reflections in one week. And I was beside myself, in both polarities and lessons learned.

And, you can't write this shit. But I just did.

The sun rose twice that day, 65 years ago in tragedy.

The sun rose twice for me, this week, in peace.



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