Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do Your Yoga and All is Coming

“Do not think you must have something extraordinary to show people. [The fruit of your yoga practice] has to come naturally, not artificially. So work, and let it come or let it not come, but continue your practice. Then, even if you have a family life and family commitments, there are no problems.”
-B.K.S. Iyengar, from the Tree of Yoga

So work, and let it come or not come.

This idea is a balm to my mind. My crazy mind usually can’t forget about all the things I have not achieved. It reminds me almost every day of the job titles I have not held, or the people I’ve met who didn’t respect me, how I haven’t earned the right to call myself anything but a female human, aged 36, sucking resources and stinking up the planet like every other ordinary person. It asks me what I have got to show for myself.

It’s ironic that my mind offers me this thought so often, because at the same time, I really am not an ambitious person. I have been reckless when attempting to write novels that had no purpose, foolhardy when I took jobs for which I was woefully unqualified, and arrogant when I overtook projects because I didn’t like the way someone else was doing them and thought I could do better. But really, truly, ambitious in the way we think of it? No.

I am playing with yoga very carefully now as I tread the teacher’s path. I do not want to become ambitious with yoga. I do not want to become greedy with yoga. Ambitions, when they come to me, tend to be short-lived. Then I become so disappointed with myself. At the same time, not having enduring ambitions to, say, become a famous writer before I hit forty, saves me from so much grief! With ambition comes attachment to outcome. If there is one place in my life that I do not want to be attached to outcome, it’s in yoga.

Once my best friend asked me, if I loved yoga so much, why didn’t I become a teacher? I made a face. “I don’t want to have too many goals in yoga,” I said. “I don’t want to worry too much about getting my heels to the floor in downward-facing dog by next month, for example. I enjoy the way my practice serves me right now.”
Then I went crazy and found a new purpose in life, which is to support the mommies of the world. One way I want to do this is through teaching yoga to pregnant ladies. Now that I am training to be a teacher, people ask me, “So you want to open your own studio?”

We’re funny creatures. We’re always thinking of the next step. Anne Lamott, in her great book Bird by Bird, says she writes only as far as the headlights shine, which is to say, she goes a little, looks, goes a little farther, looks, goes a little farther. She doesn’t run ahead where there is nothing. I like this approach in general, and especially in what I’m doing with yoga and my “supporting mommies” vision.

As to the “family life” part of the above quote, I must admit it’s comforting to hear the father of yoga in the West, also a father of six children, believed that one could have a meaningful spiritual practice even in the midst of family life. I have often wondered about this. Often I have wondered about this while doing yoga poses in my living room with my children crawling all over me. But, says Mr. Iyengar: “The yogis of ancient India were householders, and reached the zenith of yoga while living amidst household activities.” Here I must respectfully point out that the yogis of ancient India were not personally bearing children. They were all men. Even so, this doesn’t discredit Mr. Iyengar’s following statement: “You have to find out your own limitations. This is what yoga teaches: first, to know your limitations, then to build from them.”

Oh. So what I’m doing with my struggle to balance my responsibilities to myself and my family is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Maybe there’s not some other, better, easier way to do it.

What do you think, readers? Do you ever feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Can I Get an Early Dismissal?

“Go away.

No, really.”

This is what I’ve been telling my children all day. I woke up mean. The meanness was inspired by my daughter’s every-15-minute disruptions last night, between the hours of 9:30 and midnight. “Mommy, I have a tummy ache. Mommy, I need to be tucked in. Mommy, I want the light on. Mommy, I need some medicine. Mommy, I want you to sleep with me.” Worse were the moments when I was ripped from dreamland by Audrey’s raspy breath at my ear. She just came in to breathe and stare at me.

To be fair, her behavior was probably induced by the cold medicine I gave her at bedtime. Decongestant reacts with Audrey’s blood roughly in the same manner as a stimulating street drug might; such as, say, cocaine. Even though it wasn’t her fault, technically, I fell asleep so full of unexpressed rage that when morning came, I rose from bed with a great urge to kick the shit out of something.

On top of it I feel absolutely no creativity or interest toward my little wards today. I look at them and my mind offers nothing.

There must be something.

Is it too early for a drink? I thought, at nine a.m.

Later, an idea came. I will finally send out thank you cards for Christmas presents. Audrey can put stickers on the envelopes. Yes. Expressing gratitude is exactly the antidote for my foul disposition today. But the “Curious George” movie was on TV, and setting Audrey in front of it afforded me the opportunity to clean the entire house. For that time at least, I wasn’t growling at my daughter.

Here is the central problem of parenthood for me today: I’m in a crappy mood and I don’t have any patience for anyone’s nonsense. Yet my daughter is also in a crappy mood. She’s been in a crappy mood for about three months. She looks at me having difficulties and says, in so many words, “Like I care! Get my freakin’ juice.” Absent of motherly love, I perform my motherly duties with all the enthusiasm of a hungover 7-11 employee with irritated facial piercings.

There’s a great line in the book, “The Big Rumpus” that describes parenthood perfectly. It’s something like, “Being a parent is like getting off your job at Burger King just in time to start your shift at the coal mine.” When approached with the right attitude, such a life doesn’t necessarily have to be miserable, but there are days when I just want to be a three-year-old. When I want someone else to put up with my nonsense.

After the office lady at Jonah's school called to ask me sweetly if I had forgotten that today was an early dismissal, I pretty much gave up. I took the kids to Vios, set them loose in the play area, and ate a hummus plate I didn’t want. I kicked back with a weekly newspaper and read about all the upcoming shows I won’t be going to. It wasn’t exactly grace. And on the way home, Audrey threw a tantrum about some bullshit, and then she knocked Jonah over on the sidewalk.

There are two more hours until dinner and Audrey keeps trying to touch the keyboard.

Now is it too early for a drink?