Sunday, December 22, 2013

More dispatches from Mysore: Patrick sensei, or, Concerning Authorization Redux

Right.  So, I received Authorization Level 2 with permission to teach the full intermediate series on this trip.  After four weeks of hoping I'd be tapped unsolicited, as it were, and months of gentle but insistent prodding from Kino and Tim, I finally broke down and went into the office to ask.  The whole thing played out as a series of anticlimaxes...

Some students here are quite comfortable talking to Sharath.  They can just go into his office and hang out, asking him about this and that, and what they can do to make their asana practice better.  Me, I wouldn't want to approach him to trouble him with my issues if he were watering his lawn and I were on fire.  This is out of respect, mind you, not contempt or fear.  Maybe some fear.  There are pros and cons to each of these ways of being.  On one hand, as my mother-in-law might say: no llora, no mama (the baby who doesn't cry doesn't suckle).  It's good to be clear about your wants and needs and to be proactive about getting them met.  On the other hand, there's the perspective that spans cultures in which the teacher (priest, sifu, rabbi, imam, etc.), while, yes, ultimately being just a person, is on a different level than the student.  If not above (always risky), he or she is at least apart.  In a life-long undertaking involving great transformation, trust, etc., why would you want to commit yourself to an ordinary schmoe for a teacher?  This the vibe with which I'm in tune, for better or for worse.

That said, imagine my discomfort and aversion to inquiring about such a Big Thing as authorization.  I think what finally got up my guff enough to go in, the straw the broke the camel's back, was when my friend and colleague Daylene received her authorization during my third week here, give or take.  At that point I was pretty well aware that I wouldn't be denied if I asked,  and Day's having gone first broke something in me.  I just wanted to get it over with.  The first day I went up to his office was a Thursday, and it unfortunately coincided with a massive influx of new students.  A shift change, if you will.  I had to make an appointment.  That Monday was a moon day, so the earliest I could get in would be Tuesday.  I felt like Frank Pentangeli being forced to wait to see the Don.  So Tuesday came.  I put on my formal wear, which means jeans and knit shirt, and went in.  I began by thanking him for his patience with my practice in the previous weeks, my pesky shoulder thing was forcing me to modify and take various short cuts.  Then, I started in on pleading my case:

Me: Sir (I try not to address Sharath directly if I can help it, and when I do I just call him sir), as I think you know,  I run a Mysore program for Kino and Tim in Miami and I've come to ask for your blessing to teach.  I want you to know I will honor the lin--
Sharath: How many trips you make here?
Me: This is my fourth trip, sir.
Sharath:  Mmm.  Take that form from the printer and fill it out.
Me:  Yes sir.  Thank you, sir.

I filled out the form and brought it back.  He wrote down how much it would cost on a post-it and gave it to me, and assured me there was no rush on the payment.  Then I touched his feet and cut out. And that was that.  There was no pricking a drop of blood out of my finger, or letting an image of the Virgin Mary burn in my hand, no cigars were passed out.  Later, when I got the money together, I thought there might be a photo-op with Sharath, Tim, Kino, and me and the authorization paper.  But no, payment first before the paper gets made, so that didn't happen.  And then, when I went to pick up the authorization certificate, Sharath wasn't around.  Honestly, it's just as well there was no hoo-ha as far as I'm concerned.  Not my style.

Just to be clear, though, despite the low key way things went down I am enormously relieved and satisfied.  This marks the achievement of a goal which was very very far off when I first started all this Ashtanga yoga business.  Much work and sacrifice was involved.  It settled in a few days later at lunch with my new, but now very close friend, Barry.  Barry has been living in Tokyo for the past seven years running a Mysore program there.  We bumped into some Japanese women he knew and he introduced me as Patrick sensei.  I would have bashfully shirked that before, but I just accepted it now.  Patrick sensei.  Teacher Patrick.  One door closes, another opens.  Time to step up.  Time to honor the title and keep doing my best to be true.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dispatches from Mysore: stages of the experience

Practice-wise, at least, there are several stages in the Mysore experience.  They comprise an arch, if you will.  In the beginning, in the first week, all cylinders fire.  You are doing primary series, chances are your start time is at least around 8am, and due to jet lag, you are getting up around 1 or 2 am.  You've been up and on your feet for several hours, doing an easier practice, and your mind is saying "Fuck yeah!!! Fuckin Mysore, man!!! So happy to be back after all the preparations and I'm seeing all the stuff I remember I love about this place!!!!"  So there's that.

Then, some obstacles arrive.  Maybe it's the first led primary class, which is something of a chore.  If you do it, the first led intermediate class is something of a gut punch.  From the second week on, you are in your regular Mysore practice, i.e., the postures that Sharath has given you.  If you're lucky enough to have either started with Sharath or to have come at least five or six times (neither are the case for me), then your regular practice will be quite similar to your home practice.  If not, it can quickly devolve into a brutal waiting and guessing game: so how far am I going this trip, anyway?  Exacerbating this is the fact that Sharath, contrary to many ignorant writings about our thing, has different standards for people.  I've mentioned this before, I think, but it bears repeating that the "why is Johnny on pose C when I'm stuck here in pose A and I'm way stronger, more flexible, more respectful of the lineage, etc?" mindset can come up.  There is potential to make your trip a real bummer if you play these games with yourself.  Don't.  Keep your eyes on your mat as best as you can.

At some point, the body breaks in one way or another.  Maybe an injury resurfaces, maybe food poisoning (ranging from mild to hospitalization-worthy), maybe a simple case of the flu will come.  I actually got the trifecta on this trip, including persistent allergies.  The flu was pretty bad, but the stomach issues mercifully weren't too bad.  If you're like me, and very eager to please your teacher, these somatic issues can open a different can of worms: the one in which guilt at not giving one's all arises.  If this is happening, I recommend seeing Sharath during his office hours.  He may be attentive, he may be distracted, but at least he'll know why you aren't binding in this or that posture, or not doing all your jump-throughs, or whatever.

Finally, hopefully, settling happens.  No more hand-wringing, and you practice like you do at home.   It's great, really. Due to my family circumstances and my allergies I can't imagine staying here for more than six weeks.  But this is the argument for staying as long as possible.  The more you can be here practicing in your settled state, so much the better for going deeper.  Like an experienced meditator, I suppose, the more often you come the quicker you can get yourself into the settled state and really grow.  My last two trips I didn't really get there, but this time I did.  

I find myself in a state of true ambivalence.  To be sure, having reached the settled state is a big accomplishment for me.  I wouldn't mind riding it out a little longer.  But, I'm fucking fed up with my nose running all the time, my palate is well saturated with the flavors of South Indian cuisine, and worst of all, I miss my wife desperately.  I am coming home in six days, transformed again, and most eager to share what I've learned and integrated. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

riding the b train, applying a hadith to yoga practice

Me and my fucking writer's block.  I'd been working on the blog below for weeks-- chipping away at it, walking away from it, coming back to it, etc.  Then earlier this week senior teacher Guy Donahaye came out with a most insightful blog rendering much of what I was writing moot.  Here's a link:

For those unwilling to read the whole thing, this quotation from the blog is a pretty good encapsulation:  

"While the hatha yogins pursue ecstasy as the medium of their sadhana, the South Indian tradition which flourished with Krishnamacharya, was focused on an internally focused path towards stilling the mind. Asana in this context is viewed as therapy - preparation for sitting and the internal practices."

So the practice outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is not necessarily the same as the practice taught in the Pattabhi Jois/Krishnamacharya lineage and as you read below, you will see that this revelation was something of a relief to me.  Now without further ado, and with assurances on my honor that any redundancies between Mr. Donahaye's blog and mine were independent and coincidental, the blog I had been working on:

In an effort to ramp up my practice of svadhyaya (the niyama of self-study or study of scriptures) I recently dusted off my copy of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (hereafter referred to as the HYP) and have been reading through it again.  The Bihar publications edition, translated with commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati is truly fascinating.  Some have called it dry, but my experience is that it reveals more with each reading.  This time around I've been inspired to tackle one particular aspect of yoga practice head-on.

Now, some of the practices described in the HYP range from outlandish to outright nasty.  While I try not to say never, I do not anticipate ever doing any of the following: smearing myself with burnt cow shit, drinking my own pee, slicing the membrane at the bottom of my tongue, drinking salt water until I vomit, swallowing yards of cloth and then pulling it back out of my mouth, pumping my lower GI tract full of air and farting it all out, prolapsing my rectum and washing it by hand, and perhaps strangest of all, inserting a catheter into my urethra and drawing liquid mercury all the way into my bladder by pumping and contracting my urogenital muscles.  I know, I know.  I'm a pussy.  Where's my dedication?  In all seriousness, though, and to be fair to the author Swatmarama, none of these practices were meant to be done daily.  And at least as far as the sucking mercury up into your bladder thing, the commentary posits that Swatmarama didn't mean the actual deadly poison mercury and that he was being allegorical somehow.

No, it is the slokas concerning brahmacharya which have piqued my curiosity.  I've decided to take another stab at it.  For a brief review, brahmacharya is one of the five yamas, or ethical precepts governing a yoga practitioner's dealing with the world outside of himself.  It means that one does not waste his energy, specifically his sexual energy.  In short and as I understand it, the yogic view of sex is similar to the Roman Catholic view:  one may, or one ought to, actually, have sex with one's spouse for purposes of procreation in accordance with the lunar cycle.  Otherwise, all bets are off.  Keep it to yourself, keep it inside.  For the renunciate practitioner this means the grim prospect of never having an orgasm.  For the householding practitioner, it means no more "self-time," or however you wish to euphemize it.

As it turns out, shocking as this may be, self-time is a pretty ingrained habit for me.  Breaking it has followed a pattern similar to breaking any habit.  The first few days aren't so hard, because you've made a resolution and your will is strong.  After a few weeks, though, the samskara reasserts itself.  It's noon, you've come home from a long morning of teaching and practicing, the dog is walked, same old alarmist shit on the news....  Some temptation is there, as Jayashree or Narasimhan might say.  At the risk of revealing too much, I'll only say so far, so good in regards to the temptation piece, and that there have been vast improvements in other areas that were good already.

Now some of my more skeptical readers may be thinking "Oy gevalt ist mir.  Why deprive yourself of this thing that pretty much all humans, even most mammals, do?  It isn't enough all the sacrifices you make already?  Six days a week, going to bed at 830, schlepping to India, not eating your mother-in-law's delicious roast pork on Noche Buena, etc. etc.?"  Perhaps.  But this is it-- a great many things go into practicing yoga, and not everybody can do all of them.  It's ok.  We all do the best we can, and we wade deeper into the stream at a pace appropriate to each of us as individuals.  There is a hadith from Al-Bhukari that I always loved which goes

Allah says, 'I am as my servant expects Me to be, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he thinks of Me, I think of him. If he mentions Me in company, I mention him in an even better company. When he comes closer to Me by a handspan, I come closer to him an arm's length. If he draws closer to Me by an arm's length, I draw closer by a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him. If my servant comes to Me walking, I go to him running.

Through the course of my practice of yoga, I have experienced this pretty much exactly.  Each notch up I've taken, each sacrifice I've made, has yielded great dividends in my overall happiness.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the therapeutic quality of advanced asana, or, how i learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

About a month ago, during my Sunday morning practice, as I lifted my feet off the ground into Badha Hasta Sirsasana D my left shoulder made a sound like fabric ripping, just like when you finally retire a favorite old cotton t-shirt of yours and begin to tear it apart into rags.  As horrific as it sounded, there was very little pain.  Mostly what I felt was a slight loss of stability.  Furthermore, it was a sound I had heard before when I first discovered an injury a little more than a year and half ago.  On that particular day and in that particular instance I had been working on Viparita Chakrasana, aka "tic-tocs."  What I have is called a SLAP lesion. This means that the labrum (a ring of cartilage which stabilizes the joint, not unlike a meniscus)  in my left shoulder is torn from front to back.  Fortunately, an MRI revealed no damage to the musculature or the rotator cuff and, interestingly, it revealed that I'd had the tear for some time before the first acute ripping-fabric-sound incident.

Evidenced by the fact that I went and got an MRI, I am not one of those knee-jerk, "never trust Western medicine" hardliner yogis when it comes to health and medicine.  I believe in ibuprofen, vaccinations, antidepressants, antibiotics, chemotherapy... all that shit, when it's appropriate.  That said, when the orthopedist read my MRI and said, more or less, "when can we get you in for surgery?" I balked.  I got a second opinion from my friend Danny, who is a radiologist at Mount Sinai.  Very nice of him.  I remain grateful.  He talked me back from the ledge by pointing out that since the tear had been there for who knows how long I had probably just irritated and would be fine with rest and physical therapy.  So that's what I did.

On the other hand, I remain open to non-Western notions of the body as well.  Both my teacher Kino and my student Claudia have suggested that the injury and its persistence may have a deeper meaning, one that is not strictly physical.  Kino advised that such an injury was an opportunity to explore, or rather, an opportunity to learn something deeper about myself.  Claudia told me that she learned from her research that a shoulder injury typically means that one is dealing with a psychological burden of some sort.  Lord (along with faithful readers of this blog) knows I have plenty of psychological burdens.  I think perhaps even a little more than most people, even.  Could be anything.  As with the Western medicine stuff, I believe that this line of thinking has its merits to a point and when appropriate.  To say, as some do, that all psychological trauma is stored in our body is a slippery slope to absurdity, though.  If you're not careful, you could be attributing the cramp in your pinky toe to the time your best friend called you fat back in seventh grade.

So, it's coming up on two years now, and the shoulder still fluctuates between periods of stability and not so much stability.  Should the periods of not so much stability persist to a point where they vastly outnumber the good times, surgery remains an option.  When the shoulder is in a bad place I reduce my asana practice drastically (down to Surya Namaskara A and B, standing postures up to Parsvottanasana, and then the three finishing Lotus postures) and do pranayama to supplement.  This is what I did in the immediate aftermath of the most recent incident.  I gave it a week.  Kino and Tim approved.

The next week after, though, was a different story.  Kino was still in town and as I rolled out my mat to begin practicing along side of her she looked over and asked, sweetly, "How does your shoulder feel?  Do you want to try your regular practice?"  I was hip to what she meant.  Kino is a master at making an interrogative statement which is an actually an imperative one.  At least that's how I read it, but then again I always aim to please.  To be perfectly honest, I was quite scared and I didn't feel ready to air it out, so to speak.  My regular practice these days is a little goofy: I practice 3rd series up to Viranchasana A, and then switch back to 2nd series from Pashasana to Kapotasansa.  I do drop-back back bends and half tic-tocs, i.e. from feet to handstand to backbend, but not back the other way.

Fuck it.  I made a leap of faith, surrendered, trusted, opened up... all that. Maybe this is rotten to say, but in making the leap of faith one of the things that gave me courage was the abdication of responsibility.  If something would have gone drastically wrong, I could have put it on Kino.  I think this insulated me from any hesitation which might have, in fact, aggravated my injury situation.  As I practiced my regular practice, my trust was soon rewarded:  the protracted ass-fuck which is the arm balance sequence towards the beginning of 3rd series (depending on how you count it, eight or ten arm balances in a row), instead of hurting my shoulder as I feared, actually made it more stable.  I learned a profound truth:  there is potential for therapy in every asana, so long as your technique is clean.  I think there's a concept that Ashtanga yoga is like a progression of walking on a balance beam, to a tight rope, to a razor blade.  It doesn't have to be that way.  If you focus on clean technique and your bandhas, the potential for all kind of healing is there.  With faith and trust in a good teacher, the sky's the limit.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quarterbacks and Golfers: some thoughts on moving and sitting meditation

 My relationship with sitting meditation practice now is quite similar to what my relationship with asana practice used to be.  That is to say, it fluctuates between periods of earnest dedication to one particular form and periods of not so much.  When it's on and humming, I feel great, feel the benefits, and I resolve that this is the time I stick with it.  Then it fades.  Other shit creeps in, and, having firm and solid dedication to asana practice, I let sitting practice go.  Then my schedule shifts, or a workshop happens, and I'm back in the saddle again.  I feel great, feel the benefits, and I resolve that this is the time I stick with and not let it go.  As of this writing I've resumed a regular practice again.  Feeling great, the benefits, etc. etc.

Now, the goal of meditation, whether sitting or moving, is to attain a state of single-pointed mental focus.  We call it ekagarata.  This focus can be narrow or expansive.  Consider athletes from two different sports: As an example of narrow focus, the golfer on the putting green has only one thing to consider.  He is focused entirely on the ball.  On the other hand, the quarterback in football must be pretty much equally aware of everything happening on the field (a very important distinction, mind you) at the same time. His focus is expansive.  In each case the athlete must have a calm, clear, mind unobstructed by emotions such as fear, anger, or anticipation of victory.  I think this model could be applied to sitting practice and asana practice.  When sitting, focus is narrow; when doing asana, focus is expansive.  Just to be extra clear, for the asana practitioner the body is the field.  There are two systems of sitting meditation with which I'm familiar, each with a different "ball" on which to focus.  One is the Anapanasati style, which I learned from my teacher Kino.  The other is Transcendental Meditation.  I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation by Narasimhan (of Jayashree and Narasimhan fame).

Upon initiation into Transcendental Meditation (hereafter TM) one is given a mantra by the teacher. It is not a mantra in the conventional sense, typically it is a just a one or two syllable phoneme--  "a word that don't mean nothin', like looptid," as the old song says.  As one sits, one continues to bring back the mind, gently, to the mantra.  You don't fight the thoughts that bubble up, you just come back to the mantra.  It has been compared to housebreaking a puppy.  Just keep putting the puppy (your mind) back on the newspaper (the mantra) every time it poops or pees (the bubbling up of thoughts).  You have to be patient and gentle with your mind, as you would a puppy.  The rules, as it were, of TM are quite simple: it should be done for twenty minutes, twice a day, you should begin and end your practice sitting up, and eyes should be kept closed.  You can shift, scratch, lie down-- just keep your eyes closed.  In my experience the effects of TM are felt especially in the somatic field.  A body high, to use stoner parlance.  The relaxation is really really profound.

In Anapanasati meditation practice is done once a day, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour.  The "housebreaking the puppy" principle, basically the same as it is in TM, is there but the object of focus is physical as opposed to conceptual.  One brings one's attention back to the nostrils and the upper lip, focusing on the air coming in and out.  Anapanasati is more rigid, and therefore more physically rigorous than TM.  Once the clock starts you are asked not to move at all.  No scratching, shifting, eye opening, I believe if you're really really doing it you aren't even supposed to swallow.  Sleeping feet, and I mean asleep to the point of paralysis from the knee down, can be a risk.

So, for some basic pros and cons of each system:  TM is great, but it can be really tricky to carve out to separate spaces of twenty minutes daily for busy people.  I find myself in guilt loops when trying to maintain regular TM practice.  Anapanasati meditation only requires one shot a day, but it is a pretty type-A practice.  As Ashtangis our asana practice is already type-A so this system can feel burdensome.  Both systems, I can vouch from experience, function in a way slightly similar to SSRI's (anti-depressants such as Prozac or Zoloft) in that you don't feel the effects really until about a month in to regular practice.  Then one day, you realize you're calmer, happier, and things are a better.

Here's some food for thought.  Sitting meditation practice has helped me see how mentally corrosive popular music is.  There's nothing more hellish than settling down and into a practice with five seconds of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" looping through your head.  I see the point that fundamentalist Muslims have in their proscription of music.

If you can't or don't want to work sitting practice into your daily life that's cool.  I have heard both Sharath and Manju Jois be overtly disdainful of it.  Each has said that the expansive (my term, not theirs) meditation which comes from asana practice is sufficient.  I have heard other senior teachers say otherwise.  I do invite you to try it, though.  It helps me, for sure.

Monday, July 1, 2013

don't confuse the optimal with the possible, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good

It's been a while, I know.  My bad.  I've had a something of a rough month in the mental health arena again, and I just haven't felt like I've had much to Say.  Note the capital S.  I've gotten a little too hung up on the need to say something profound each time I write, so much so that I've ground to a halt.  Mercifully, I had another one of those eureka moments this weekend, so now I'm back in the saddle.  Here's what happened:

Nubia and I went down to Key West, where we spent some nice time together and also with my best friend and his family.  Marc writes for the Miami Herald and his father Phil is an author of some distinction.  They had rented a pair of adjacent condos with a private beach and a deck, upon which they graciously allowed me to practice yesterday morning.  At some point I noticed Phil up on the balcony writing.  It must have been out of the corner of the eye because my drishti is always perfect.  I never under any circumstances look around or notice anything else when I'm practicing.  Bullshitting aside, there he was, at 8am on a Sunday morning, at work.  It all dawned on me a few hours later: yoga isn't the only discipline out there.  There are other endeavors requiring daily practice, regardless if the outcome is good or bad.  This wasn't a new revelation.  Nor was it something I had outright forgotten.  I just had become un-mindful of it, I suppose.  As a teacher I'm always encouraging students to get on their mat even if conditions aren't optimal.  Or to finish practice even though conditions aren't optimal.  Why shouldn't this be applied off the mat?  The thing is, you can apply the lessons of yoga, or boxing, or ballet, or whatever to other facets of your life, but you have to take the time to turn the lens outward.  Take the time every once in a while and examine what you do off the mat, out of the ring, off the barre, etc., and see how you can apply what you learn from your main passion to the other things you do.

In my asana practice, I'm mostly pretty good about not getting hung up on perfection.  Let this blog signal a redoubling of efforts not to get hung up so in my writing.  Selah.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

heat, or, too much sacrifice makes a stone of the heart

Last week my acupuncturist told me I have an excess of heat in my body.  Well there's a fucking news flash.  I'm sure many an acupuncturist has given this diagnosis to many an ashtangi.  For those less hip to the ways of non-Western medicine, rest assured: her diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean I have a fever, which could be treated with some aspirin, or ibuprofen, or in dire cases an ice bath.  No, this heat is more of the metaphysical variety, and it is caused by an imbalance of some sort.  My tone here may sound a little dubious bordering on contemptuous, but let me assure you that is not so.  I think Dr. Liang is great. Here's the thing: we (my lovely wife Nubia and I) have been seeing her so as to help along the baby-making process, and fertility treatment is her specialty.  She has helped a number of members of our Miami Life Center family.  So, at this point I'll just come out and say that according to Dr. Liang my excess heat may be interfering with my ability to produce viable sperm.  I'm on a regimen of herbs and acupuncture now, and am trying all the more earnestly to wean myself off of caffeine, or at least reduce my intake dramatically.

This is all well and good, but there's an elephant in the room here.  The asana practice I do, which is the foundation of my religious duty, my career, my life's work, really, is designed to create heat.  I've said this before in lectures and written it in other blogs, but it bears repeating: in Indian (for sure) and Chinese (I'm pretty sure) conceptions of the body and the universe certain conceptual things can be discreet, superimposed, or interchangeable.  This applies to the purifying heat generated in asana practice.  One heats up the actual, physical body from the exertion.  This makes the body stronger and lighter while toxins are sweated out.  At the same time the metaphysical heat renders infertile the seeds of karma.  With any luck, you won't have to keep repeating yourself over and over and over in this life and into the next.  Unfortunately, though, this heat is also interfering in other aspects of my physical body in this life now.  What to do?

Enter Tim Miller.  He came into to town this weekend and although I wasn't able to get to all of his workshops, the ones I did get to really counted.  This was a classic case of hearing the right message at the right time.  In Saturday's workshop Tim discussed, among other cool things, how Ayurveda relates to asana practice.  Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India and it works on very similar principles to Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  According to Ayurveda,  all people comprise three basic qualities, known as doshas, which are represented by three of the elements: earth (kapha), wind (vatta), and fire (pitta) (which I'm pretty sure is where the magnificent soul band got its name).   Bad health and disease is caused by imbalance of the doshas.  Therefore, good health is maintained proactively by monitoring and regulating the balance of one's constitution.  Now, here's where it relates to my problem:  the three doshas each have a more subtle counterpart, and they are known as the vital essences. In reverse order they are tejas (light/heat) which goes with pitta, prana (breath/life force) which goes with vatta, and ojas (water) which goes with kapha.  In hatha yoga practice tejas is associated with asana, prana is associated with pranayama, and ojas is associated with devotional practice.  If you only ever practice asana and pranayama then you are just adding oxygen to fire, basically.  You will only burn hotter and hotter and eventually be reduced to a dried up smoldering husk.  Or a lump of coal, perhaps.  Too much sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.  Tim exhorted us to take a more balanced approach to yoga practice and to begin, perhaps, to look beyond and within and cultivate spiritual practice.  He also made sure to drive home Patanjali's notion of Ishta Devata, which is, like in twelve step programs, the higher power of your choosing or which resonates best with you.  Nobody says you have to go bang a tambourine and chant Hare Krishna and spin yourself dizzy.  Nor do you have to be dunked in a freezing river and handle rattlesnakes and speak in tongues.  But you should cultivate devotion to something outside of yourself and greater than yourself.  If there's ritual involved, so much the better.  Otherwise you run the risk of getting burned.

I went to mass with Nubia right after Tim's workshop and it felt good.  I will continue to cultivate more Ojas.  As to the other stuff, I will trust and let the cards fall where they may.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

a new venture

For some time now my mother, whom I adore and venerate, has been busting my balls to come up with some way of making extra money.  "You should make a DVD or a book or some kind of gadget," she'll say.  "This running around teaching isn't sustainable, you're gonna kill yourself.  You need some kind of passive income generation."  She typically finishes with the sine qua non of maternal ballbusting: "I just worry about you."  Who could get annoyed with such well-meaning concern?  Me, apparently.  The bad son.  "Sorry I let you down, Ma.  Wish I coulda done (or been) better."  There's the sine qua non of filial ballbusting and we're back to even.

In all seriousness, though, Mother's right, of course.  I mean she may not be hip to the absurd proliferation of yoga-related books, DVD's, and gadgets and how glutted the market for said items is, but the teaching alone isn't quite cutting it for the life I envision for myself.  To be clear, the life I envision for myself is almost exactly like the one I have now.  I'm not trying to be Tom Vu, he of the yachts and the bikini-clad bimbos, or some other late-night infomercial huckster.  I'm pretty unattached to material things. What bugs me is owing money.  I want to pay off my student loans, my home loan, and have some set aside to educate any as of yet unborn children.  It will take a long time to make that happen with things as they are now.

I have a seed planted now which hopefully at some point will bring in supplemental income while I do what I really love, i.e., practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga. Nestled in with the optimism is a seed of doubt.  Goals can be Hydra-headed: to attain one can mean two more grow back.  This can be good, it is good to keep moving.  If it works out, though, I earnestly hope I don't become materialistic, graspy, a hungry ghost.  I will tread lightly, and keep family and teaching at the center, always.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

instruments only

For about three or four hours this afternoon I was quite sure that my wife didn't love me anymore.  She didn't say anything explicit, she didn't even suggest it.  I knew, though.  Or rather felt it in a deeply visceral way.  Anybody who knows her or us will tell you that said conviction is in no way rooted in reality.  For most of this week I have been textbook insane, although I hope (and I have good reason to hope) only temporarily so.  The fact is I have struggled with Depression (note the capital D) for the better part of my life. If you ask my mother, she can tell you about the pediatrician who told my her and my father not to leave me alone for fear of a suicide attempt.  I was in third grade, if memory serves.  It's been coming and going, always.  Simply put,  my hardware, i.e. the neurotransmitters in my brain, is essentially and categorically deficient.  Sufficient wattage, but some crossed and burnt out wires, you could say.  I don't have it as bad as some, thank God, and in the past seven years or so, I've been able to construct a life for myself in which I can deal without the help of pharmaceuticals, most of which I've tried and earnestly hope never to do again.  The tri-cyclics, SSRI's, MAOI's, etc. all come with a price, and unfortunately there are many fellow sufferers who cannot live without them.

Still sometimes, every so often, I slip off a cliff.   When this happens it is a shit sandwich on rye with caramelized onions and russian dressing.  Physically, it feels like opiate withdrawal: I can't get comfortable in my skin and I just want to jump through a plate glass window.  Mentally, I feel like Tantalus in the river: almost every time I try to formulate a thought I can sense it receding away into ephemeral nothingness.  I'm always left grasping.  Such thoughts as do come through are prone to be absurdly self-flagellating with no basis in reality.

Now for the hopeful part.  I have been cultivating a means of protection from episodes such as this, and mercifully it came through for me.  For some time now I've been immersed in a way of life which teaches that all of the  material world is impermanent, and therefore illusory.  I chant "from the unreal, lead me to the real" almost every day.  I take it as an article of faith that despite the illusory nature of our physical world, we are all endowed with a transcendent eternal soul.  The trick is being able to tell the real from the unreal.  This is known as viveka, or discrimination.  Another way to put it is to say that today I decided to fly instruments only.  Experienced airplane pilots, ones with advanced certifications, are able to fly by looking only at the instruments on the dashboard.  Certain weather phenomena can render what the eye sees out of the window completely false.  It is presumed this is why John F. Kennedy, Jr. crashed his plane and died tragically.  He couldn't see the horizon properly and thought he was higher above the water than he actually was.  For me this meant ignoring the input from my heart and gut, however real it seemed, and going by what I knew to be true.  I'm not out of the woods yet by any stretch, but yoga has come through for me today, big time.  I have a plan to keep these episodes at bay, but I want to implement it first to see if it works.  You'll have to tune in next time.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chapter 23: In which an experiment gets off to a rocky start

For all you smarty-pants literary type readers out there, the title of this post is in fact a nod to Thomas Pynchon's cryptic Beat masterwork, V.  That said...

I changed my schedule at the beginning of the year, going from teaching Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga from 630-9pm to a more standard time of 6-830am. [A quick digression: how about replacing the word "traditional," which seems to cause such consternation among skeptics, with "standard" when discussing Ashtanga Yoga?  This way we can retain the notion of a centralized authority, i.e. our beloved teacher R. Sharath Jois, as a reason for doing what it is we do, and sidestep the notion of authenticity and authority rooted in time.  Think about it....]  I quickly realized something that many other teachers probably already knew, and that is that it really sucks to practice after teaching.  It sucks bad.  The first few weeks I just dealt with it. Then I started making some changes.  Changes that seemed to me to be ingenious problem-solving but are actually just common sense.  Bear with me.  First, I started taking a half hour break between teaching and practicing.  Rest and a light snack made for a pleasant improvement.  Then, I brought another change of clothes.  Dry underwear and a dry shirt makes for a substantially more pleasant practice.  These changes helped, but not enough.  Practice still felt as if it were being started a step behind emotionally/mentally/physically.

Two weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and do what many teachers (Sharath and David Robson come to mind immediately, but there are so many more, I'm sure) who are levels above me do: bite the bullet and get up as early as is necessary to practice before teaching.  This means up at 3am and begin practicing at around 3:15 for me.  It also means home practice, another thing not necessarily in my comfort zone.

As with anything, this new system has its pros and cons.   First, it will come as no surprise to those who know me that I do get off on the Spartan, "hard core," if you will, nature of finishing practice before the sun has even risen.  I can practice in my underwear, and throw decorum to the wind, so to speak.  (Get it?  The wind....)  I like practicing in front of the altar I've made in my home shala and checking in with the picture of my late father which adorns it from time to time.  I've come to like practicing alone, I must admit.  Now when I've finished teaching I have time to do pranayama and sitting practice at Miami Life Center before I either go back home or teach my full primary class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That's all well and good, but the fact remains that it's very very hard to get up at 3 in the morning.  Hypothetically it shouldn't be too bad if you can get yourself to bed by 8, but that goal has remained elusive as of this writing.  My wife is seldom home from work before 7, and it's crucial that we eat together and have at least an hour together before going to bed.  Most nights I'm in bed by 9, giving me about 6 hours of sleep a night, which is just barely not quite enough.  The ever-so-slight sleep deficit has done a number on me emotionally.  I've been up and down and all around.  One morning the alarm went off and I didn't get up, having one of those most belittling body trumps the mind moments.  I wonder if this will be sustainable.  Will I be able to get myself to sleep earlier?  Will mid-day naps do the trick?  Lots of extra sleep on Saturday?  I'm open to encouragement and suggestions.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


A few weeks ago I got a text from Coach on a Friday night, asking me to contact him.  It's been about three and a half years since I stopped fighting, and I haven't actually seen Coach I think in about a year, but when he texted me my response was the only one it could have been: "How can I help?"  Coach's name is Juan Moreno, although I'd never call him that to his face.  I think I'd just as soon eat a cockroach.  He is a three-time Olympian in the sport of taekwondo, having won silver medals in Seoul '88 and Madrid '92.  Furthermore, he coached two athletes to bronze medals in the London Olympics last summer, both of whom I am proud to say were my teammates when I trained.  He is, as Don Corleone would say, a serious man, to be treated with respect.  Here's why I jumped to help him when he contacted me out of the blue....

In the spring of 2005 I was scraping along the bottom of a nine-year battle with drug addiction.  Some of the lowlights included an overdose, a divorce, and even a ten day stint of homelessness when my mother kicked me out of her house for stealing her bottle of vicodin (she had recently been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma).  Pretty scummy.  Whoever came up with the old cliche "you only really regret in life the things you didn't do" clearly was not, or never knew, a junky.   By the end of that summer I was just starting to turn the corner.  I had sorted myself out enough to move back in with my mother, I had a job, but I was still doing hard drugs.

So in the fall of 2005 I realized that I wasn't going back to New York as I had originally planned when I left a year ago before, and that I wanted to give the sport of  taekwondo another try.  You see, I had begun doing taekwondo when I lived in New York in an effort to take the reins of my life, which was spiraling out of control.  It didn't really work out at the time, but a seed was planted.  In January 2006 I made the pivotal decision to seek Coach out and started driving up to Miami from Key West (a three-hour drive, give or take) twice a week to train.

Coach took me on, and took me in, and something finally clicked.  As my body got into shape I had a slowly unfolding epiphany: I couldn't keep doing both drugs and this sport. I had to choose, and I wanted to do taekwondo more.  It still strikes me as absurd that none of the other crazy shit I went through, including the lowlights mentioned above, got me to quit drugs and get my life straightened out, but training at this sport did.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear, as the old saying goes.  I eventually moved to Miami so I could train six days a week.  I stopped fighting in 2009 and completed a transition into yoga.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Through Coach and taekwondo I learned tapas, I learned courage, and I learned the unflinching patience that it takes to do a thing for a higher goal week in and week out even when it sucks.  These things, obviously enough, have been absolutely crucial to my yoga practice.  It wouldn't be exactly accurate to say Coach saved my life, but I will say unequivocally that he helped save my happiness, and helped me become an actualized adult.

Giri is a japanese word meaning duty, or obligation, or even burden of obligation.  If you are indebted to somebody worthy, then that debt is an honor.  I have been born under a lucky star vis-a-vis teachers in my life, and I am happy to fulfill whatever obligations to them I can. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

a triptych

Panel One:  No margin for error

In a shala where Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is taught there is great potential for hurt feelings.  We all know this, and teachers get to experience both ends of the equation.  This is why teaching is a heavy responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  Recently I had a student come in for her first Mysore-style practice.  She said she had been coming to Miami Life Center for some time, taking the Saturday morning full primary class.  As it turned it out, the new student didn't really have anything memorized at all so I let her go to navasana and stopped her there.  She left upset, saying she had hoped for more of a workout (she told me she did triatholons) and that she felt rushed.  Now 9.78346 times out of ten I would have vetted a new student more than I did this morning.  For the life of me I don't know why I didn't today.  I wasn't particularly sleepy, the room wasn't particularly busy.  But because I didn't talk to this new student and adequately explain to her how it all worked and what to expect not just for today, but in the overall arc of her experience with yoga, her feelings were hurt.  There's a chance, probably a good one seeing as she was hoping for a "workout," that this student might have been put out even if I had talked to her more first.  People who do endurance sports often feel that if they haven't taxed themselves to their absolute limit then they've done nothing.  But we'll never know. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  This has eaten at me, as you see.  It's a tough hustle, but you've gotta be on point every day.  Feelings and bodies can be hurt, and as a teacher the buck stops with you.  This analogy is extreme, I know, but it's like having an infant in a bathtub or a pool: you only have to look away for a second for something bad to happen.  No margin for error.

Panel Two: An Aikido concept is applied to yoga

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is practiced with a partner.  One person attacks in a given way, and the other practices the technique required to neutralize the attack.  The terms for these roles are uke  and nage, respectively.  In The Principles of Aikido,  Mitsugi Saotome explains: "If you think in terms of attacker and defender, it is likely that you will regard the role of nage, the one who is attacked and executes the technique, as the important role, and the role of uke as merely giving nage a body on which to practice his technique.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Ukemi is the art of being uke, and the quality of nage's practice depends on how well uke has learned his art... In short, uke is responsible for creating the conditions that allow nage to learn."  I've had ukemi on my mind these days because I've taken on apprentice/assistants a few days a week.  Most of my students have been receptive, some have been resistant.  I still remember the resistance I got when I began assisting in my own apprenticeship.  I want to protect my assistants.  I don't want them to go through some of the ball-busting that I went through.  So I hereby exhort my own students and students every where to practice good ukemi with new teachers.  Nobody issues forth from their mother's loins a good teacher of anything.  Teaching is a skill that must be learned through practice.  In practice mistakes are made and hopefully learned from.  We can all agree that it sucks to get a crappy adjustment, in fact sometimes it can be dangerous.  But I think students can help themselves in the long run by helping new teachers learn.  Nobody says you have to sit there and take an awful adjustment, but an opportunity to show generosity and compassion is there.  Try giving feedback in as nice a way as you can.  Try practicing good ukemi.

Panel Three: A eureka moment with Chuck Miller

A few weeks ago I had the great privilege of taking a workshop and then breaking bread with Chuck Miller. I always love being around teachers who spent an extensive period of time with Guruji and I try to soak up as much of the shakti as I can.  (For the layperson, shakti could be thought of as mojo, and it gets transmitted from teacher to student throughout the generations.)  As we talked over dinner on Lincoln Road two things were increasingly apparent to me: Chuck has great love and respect for Guruji, but he also disagrees on a number of issues with how Guruji taught.  He differs as he defers, as my postmodern aesthetics professor from college would say.  My eureka moment came as I realized how parental the guru/student relationship can be.  Unless you were raised by Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, or John Phillips (from the Mamas and the Papas), chances are you're going to, or rather you should, raise your children the way you were raised.  That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't some things your parents did that you'd just as soon spare your own children of.  I think the same applies to teaching yoga, but that doesn't mean you can pick and choose what to pass on and what to pass over higgledy-piggledy.  The discrimination must come from adult experience.  As I conceived and executed this blog I had another eureka moment, a formulation that I will leave you with.  I posit that there is a roughly one-to-one ratio in years of development as a human being and as a yoga practitioner.  By this formulation, relatively few teachers, the Sharaths, Chuck Millers, Nancy Gilgoffs, Eddie Sterns, etc. who have been practicing for twenty or more years are adults.  Even my teachers Kino Macgregor and Tim Feldmann are barely in high school.  This puts me in about first grade.  Sounds right to me.  I have much to learn.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

reflections on turning forty

I'll begin this blog as I ended the last one, with a paraphrase-- "When I was young I was told, 'You'll see, when you're forty.'  I am forty now and I haven't seen a thing."  The super cool French composer Erik Satie (whose ouevre includes prototypes of minimalism and performance art, among other things) said this, but in the original quotation the age was fifty.  But the point is just as salient with forty.  I don't feel I understand this world any better than I did as a child.  The thing is, I think this is a good thing, or at least it can be.  The trick is to attain a balance between keeping a child-like wonder when viewing the world and having a healthy dose of caution which has been earned with experience.  That aside, my big take-away from yesterday is this: events which are ostensibly the most about you are actually the least about you.  You see, I don't like to celebrate my birthday, so I always exercised my prerogative not to do so.   But with this birthday being something of a milestone, my mother made a stink about my grumpy unwillingness to celebrate.  I relented.  I had a little gathering of family last night and it was awesome.  Then the epiphany came which will decode the cryptic statement a few sentences earlier: however rotten and miserable you may be there are other people in this world who are happy you are here.  To deny them a chance to celebrate you is stingy and asshole-ish.  So birthdays, weddings, funerals, those types of things are not really about you but rather are a chance for those who love you to celebrate you.  So from now on, small-scale birthday parties for me.  One more quotation, direct, to wrap this up.  It comes from, the creative force behind the Black Eyed Peas.  In an interview on NPR he said: "Thirty isn't the new twenty, forty isn't the new thirty.  Creativity is the new youth."  Fuckin' a to that.

Monday, February 4, 2013

the r-word

For a long time the term religion would typically conjure for me images that are unsavory at best: pedophile priests, the reverend Fred Phelps, Islamic jihadists,the ritual of sati, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir, etc. etc. etc.  Unfortunately it seems many people, to some degrees rightfully so, also hold religion in suspicion.  In light of this situation, and so as not to ruffle feathers, yoga practitioners often refer to what it is we do as spiritual, or maybe sacred.  However, I've been coming to terms, more and more lately, with the fact that my practice of yoga is a religious act.  This realization has been gradual and subtle.  You see, I come from a family of liberal, secular, intellectual snobs.  I love them/us, don't get me wrong, but we are what we are.  My mother, who became disillusioned with the Catholic church she was raised in, decided to keep our upbringing secular.  So when I began practicing yoga I would bristle even at the notion of it being a spiritual thing, much less a religious one.  I "got" the philosophical aspects of it, but that came from a more detached scholarly and intellectual place.

Then a funny thing happened.  The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said something along the lines of: "sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, sometimes your smile is the source of your joy." Change can come from the outside in, in short.  A few years ago I began a year-long apprenticeship with my teachers Kino Macgregor, Tim Feldmann, Greg Nardi, and Angelique Sandas.  Part of the deal was that I had to buckle down and commit to daily practice and vegetarianism, among other things.  I have stayed mostly true (I still eat fish maybe three or four times a year) to this ever since.  Here I've been, living a holistic way of life, replete with rituals, ethical principles, etc. the goal of which is to experience something which is unable to be verified empirically.  What else can you call that?  In the several months I've taken the final step and self-identified as religious.  I wouldn't want to be like those people who are monogamous, spend all of their time with, and truly like their significant other but if you ask them if they're in a relationship or if the person in their life is their girl/boyfriend they scoff.  It just isn't productive not to accept a label just because it may seem unpalatable when the label fits.  Why waste time denying what is?

I also have to give credit to my wife Nubia for helping me get to where I am now.  She is a devout Catholic. Back when we started dating I was not totally comfortable with that.  I thought it would be a deal breaker, being still in my intellectual/secular frame of mind and all.  Then her faith pretty quickly became one of my favorite things about her.  She remains my moral compass, always.  One of the things she taught me is that when you are part of a faith you try to follow it to the best of your ability.  It's not a one or zero proposition.  You just do your best and accept that you will fall short because you are human.  I learned, or rather really experienced, that not everybody who is religious is a proselytizing hypocrite.  I'll bet plenty of you readers out there know that, but it was a hang-up I had, I'm embarrassed to say.

For those of you still uncomfortable with the r-word, let me say that just because you have a daily practice doesn't mean you're necessarily gonna see the light.  It doesn't happen for everyone, but it did for me.  I'll wrap this up with a very loose paraphrase of John 9:25: whether or not all this is really just bullshit, I cannot say.  All I know is that I was weak and miserable, and now I am at peace. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

it's totally cool to dip your toes in the water first

My student Annette sent me a link to an elephant journal blog yesterday.  It was called "How I Dismissed the Ashtanga Police."  Here:  I went through several responses.  First, annoyance at the deliberately provocative title.  Second, annoyance to the point of homicidal ideation as I read through the first two thirds of the article.  Third, relief when the writer got to her point, and finally back to milder annoyance at the deliberately provocative title.

It boils down to this: if I read one more fucking thing in elephant journal, recovering yogi, facebook, or the blogosphere in general in which somebody complains about Ashtanga police or Ashtangis' lack of a sense of humor, or boasts about not practicing six days a week, practicing on moon days and Saturdays, eating meat, never going to Mysore, omitting vinyasas, practicing other styles of yoga, or expresses indignation about Sharath or any other senior Ashtanga teacher's wealth, or self-identifies as a "rogue" or "maverick," etc. etc. I'm going to shit a whole chicken.  I'm fucking over it.  Ah.... Catharsis.

Now that that's off my chest, we can examine the root causes of the problem.  Why do some people feel compelled to write snarky, clever things about Ashtanga yoga?  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it's probably often a case of too much, too soon.  To be sure, the Ashtanga yoga life, i.e. six day a week practice (regardless of whatever crappy circumstances short of fever or swelling), vegetarianism, trips to India, holding to the yamas and niyamas as best as possible, all that, is a daunting one.  Lots of sacrifice.  I sense that for some people the asana side of the practice gets its hooks into them and they want more, but are resentful of the encompassing life changes required to get more.  The bad news is that while there may be a way to get a really advanced asana practice without the aforementioned sacrifices, I don't know what it is and if anybody does, he or she isn't sharing it.  .

The good news is you don't have to jump into the deep end right off the bat.  Rather try, if you can, to shift your asana expectations and focus on what you're willing to sacrifice, and only sacrifice what your willing to sacrifice and not a scintilla more.  My own experience of Ashtanga yoga has been incremental.  I've been very fortunate to find that with each step I've taken towards immersion into the life, my asana practice and the other aspects of my life have improved.  I always went at my own pace and although I started out a little skeptical and cautious, I never got resentful.

Finally, I would like to defend some of my fellow Ashtanga teachers and call others of them out.  I think I speak for many of my colleagues when I say we don't care if you think Hinduism is silly or that moon days are mumbo-jumbo, or that we're all in a cult, or whatever.  As long as you come to practice and you don't show contempt to me or your fellow students in the shala, we're cool.  To paraphrase A Tribe Called Quest: "if you came to the party then I'm glad you came."  And if you open up to more, when you're ready, then we'll both be happy, trust me.  On the other hand, if you are a teacher who has ever made a student feel bad for not fully embracing the life, or pushed him or her into embracing the life faster than he or she was ready, then you are a dick and a fool.  For whatever reason, valid or not, Ashtanga does often get a bad rap for being to dogmatic.  Let's change this, shall we?

Friday, January 11, 2013

my favorite time of the day

A one-liner from Louis C.K., who is one of my favorite comedians, goes like this: "it's easy to have the body you want, you just have to want a shitty body."  This plays around the edge of where santosha (contentment) ends and nihilistic despair begins.  I was thinking about this when trolling through facebook this morning.  My teacher Kino had re-posted some of the instructional videos we made together and so I re-read the disparaging comments about my physique made by some lonely shit-heel out there in cyberspace.  The same sequence of gut reactions that I had the first time I read the comments played themselves out again.  First, amusement at the comments, which are actually pretty funny.  Then, some self-doubt and body image insecurity came up in spite of myself.  I know I'm not obese or even overweight by most any criteria, but neither could I be an underwear model.  One or zero.  "If you ain't first, you're last," as Ricky Bobby said.  Then, annoyance at the guy who made the comments, but that turned to compassion for him when I did a personal inventory.  I want what I have, so I have what I want.  While I can't say for sure, I'm guessing that this is probably not the case for the person who has to tell people, anonymously in a youtube comment stream, about his six-pack abs and chiseled arms.

There have been some dramatic changes in my life in the past few months, but I still want what I have, maybe more so than ever.  I've got a new schedule, a new house, and a new favorite time of the day.  My work load has decreased drastically, leaving me more time to tend to my new home, yet I am also more spartan than ever before.  This is my typical day now: up at four am; roll out of bed, brush teeth, etc.; walk the dog around the block, bond with him; get on my bike at quarter til five and ride to the metro rail station to catch the first train at 5:05; take the train to downtown Miami, get off and ride my bike through Overtown to the bus station and bus onto the beach; teach Mysore-style from 6-8:30am; practice; teach guided full primary if it's tuesday or thursday; come home by the same route; once I get home I have lunch and pick some household project to get done; make dinner; chill with Nubia; walk the dog one last time; go to bed; repeat...

The very best part of my day now is the last dog walk, which I do with Nubia.  Temperatures are cool (at least for next few more months) and it's quite serene in our little suburban enclave.  It is an activity known in the athletic circles as active rest and it's totally magical.   This simple act causes the three of us to bond ever deeper in some primal way.  I love it and look forward to it every day because I am reminded of what is essential, and that I have that.  Let my lucky circumstances be a springboard from which I can serve others.