22 February 2011

Black Hole

A messy week of workplace insanity and domestic instability, AND I’ve had a slight head cold.
My son and I swapped houses for 4 days – the inside of his house is being painted and he didn’t want to stay there with the painters all day.
I’ve been in his house for 4 days now. There’s nothing in it except one bed and 4 painters.
I am camping.
The painters finish today so my son and I will move all our belongings back into our own houses this evening. It’s unavoidable but I’ll miss Darrin’s yoga class tonight (after buying a 10 class pass last week).
My life feels slippery, I have no ground to stand on, and I don’t mind it at all.

Speaking of camping, I’m heading off to Pondilowie again this weekend - leaving Friday morning (I'm taking an annual leave day from work) and returning Sunday evening.
Three days in a tent, and the weather will be warm…perfect.
Already this weekend trip feels completely different to the one I did last month – my mind state is different. Mark’s death is receding rapidly into the distant past and the emotional intensity is seeping away with it.
Or perhaps that’s not the case, perhaps I’ve been kept so distracted by work and the avalanche of daily life commitments that I haven’t had any mental space to think about it.
Is that a good thing? I don’t know.

Three days camping alone on the sand dunes - a pause – an opportunity to catch my breath, to exhale fully and expel accumulated mental waste, time to inhale new inspiration and to breathe open the expanding black hole created by the Love-Death lesson of my life.

9 February 2011

Darrin's Wednesday evening 7.30pm class was very different to last week's 'pranayama' class.

Tonight lots of standing balances, but not holding anything for too long, 3 breaths maximum. I struggled with two poses: Vasisthasana 2 and Visvamitrasana, the rest were quite easy. The girl directly in front of me couldn't balance in anything, Garudasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana to the wall, not even Vrksasana. Being so close behind her, my focus was challenged as she teetered and toppled and tumbled through all the poses. I had to consciously direct my drishti and all my energy in to my core to stay centred in the poses, which was, in itself, a valuable practice.

Towards the end, after Supta Padangusthasana, while still laying on the floor, we drew the feet together into Supta Baddha Konasana, slid our hands under thighs and held onto our ankles from underneath. I'd never done this before so it was nice to find a tiny new thing. It seemed a very easy restful variation until I noticed the girl behind me (who did a much better Vashistasana 2 than me) getting frustrated because she couldn't reach her ankles.

I'm delightfully surprised when I come across new poses, or new versions of old ones - in last night's self practice a new pose found me - I was doing Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana (no spell check) and found my body adding a twist.
On the first side (left leg extended and right leg in Virasana), I leaned forward and placed my right elbow outside my left knee, palm facing upwards next to the ankle, then bent forward with a lower abdominal twist to the left, while looking over my left shoulder. I'd never seen or done that one before but it just sort of emerged out of nowhere and took it's place in the sequence.

In keeping with my intention to observe the effect of each yoga practice (thanks to Samantha) I noticed anxiety and tightness in my stomach before practice while driving to Darrin's class tonight. We are having dinner together tomorrow night and I must be a bit nervous about it. But the yoga class and Darrin's soothing manner settled me down - I left feeling very strong and centred and as if all the discordant parts were singing in tune again.

A delicate moment

Tuesday evening, a delicate moment has arisen, I am seated in full Padmasana, halfway through the Light On Yoga week 26-30 sequence, arms extended upwards in Parvatasana - the love knot between my fingers unties and my hands, like dancing lovers, separate away from each other to float downwards in a moon like orbit around my aura, my palms looking up, slightly curled gliding backwards towards earth, holding safe the treasures of the universe in their soft pillows during descent. About halfway down my elbows naturally bend to land gently into my side waist, forearms anchor outwards, shoulder falling softly to wrist, wrist to curved fingertip is now hovering in space, just wide of my knee, and there I sit, perfectly placed in a delicate moment of stillness, safely centred in the deep eye of my lotus, fullness and emptiness sparkling in my palms.
Waiting, but not waiting
Receptive, but not passive
Still, but vibrantly alive
Silently poised inside two eternal, everlasting moments.

7 February 2011

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Casting all cares to the wind, I went to a yoga class tonight. It may well have been my first class in nearly 2 years (apart from Glenn's intensive a few weeks ago).
This was a late class, 7.30-9.00pm at the Iyengar studio where Glenn's workshop was held.
I've been coming to this studio on and off for 14 years. It is my yoga home.
Darrin was my first real teacher back then and I remember falling in love with him in that very first class 14 years ago. Darrin owns and runs the studio now and he teaches the late Wednesday evening level 3 class.

As is traditional at this studio, each week has a focus - in one week all the teachers will focus on standing poses, the next week the classes will all focus on backbends, another week inversions etc. From memory, I think they cycle through maybe 5 or 6 themes.
This week must have been pranayama week.

The class was built around restorative poses, most of them either over or through a chair, some with a bolster. The pranayama focus was lightly sprinkled throughout the restorative poses - a slight intention in some of them to 1) gently contract muscles in the abdomen, perineum and anal canal following an inhalation, then 2) exhale fully while holding the light bandha and then 3) consciously inhale into the chest before releasing the contraction. After this, a few normal breaths.

Salamba Sarvangasana through a chair had a stimulating healing effect on my lumbar. The body is not vertical in this pose but resting at an angle, so gravity flows through the joints with a different effect than in the fully vertical pose. Gravity is a strong force, and when the body is inverted, all the liquids in the body have the downward pressure on their flow reversed.
I love this feeling. Blood flows back to the heart easily, pressure on the pelvic and abdominal organs is released, the brain is gently flooded with new life, spinal joints are elongated and stretched, cellular fluids are abruptly shaken out of their usual pathways... This unusual change of physical and physiological direction also affects our energy flow and resonates through to the mind, turning our world literally upside down, suspending us in space and interrupting our routine habits.
The tension of clinging onto what is known and safe dissolves away.
Especially therapeutic for my body is the pressure of the chair seat up into my sacrum and out into my hip joints. The back of my pelvis is heavily grounded on the chair as its receiving all the weight of my inverted legs. Consequently my lumbar gets a deep tissue massage and acupressure relief from the humble, unassuming chair seat and my hip joints are splayed open and receptive to the passive stretch.

Just before Savasana we did some Viloma pranayama laying with a blanket underneath the shoulderblades.

Overall, the class felt like a long, luxurious and relaxing warm bath. To be honest, not much use to my yoga practice, except for the momentary effects of Salamba Sarvangasana.

But attending the class was worthwhile just to experience Darrin's soft, calm and caring voice stroking my soul through the poses, even more for the brief conversation we had after the class and a phone conversation later which has finally, after all these years, connected us on a new level.

And now that I've overcome my fear and resistance to doing a 'regular' yoga class (fear of causing further injury to my lumbar, and resistance to following another person's yoga sequence) I'm looking forward to doing a more challenging 'not pranayama' class next Wednesday.

There were many moments at work in the office this week when I felt the warm breeze of the weekend tent wash over my skin.
The freedom and space of camping by the dunes close to the ocean, has coalesced to form a vividly alive memory to draw on. My images of last weekend are visual and deeply sensual.
In an instant I can transport myself back in time to be in that tent, to rekindle the wildness of my soul's longing, to flood my aura with the warm air, the sea breeze, to dissolve my elevated spirit into nature and inhale its mysteries. I can be here in the city, in my home, in the office, on the street, and at the same time be out there in my wild earthy freedom. I can invoke a past experience into the present reality, experiencing two dimensions simultaneously.

This passionate need to go off camping alone regularly, to go wandering (through hollow lands and hilly lands?) is one I will listen to. Once a month is looking realistic. Upon that delicacy, I hook my soul.

Today is Friday. I wake up crying and can't go in to work. Its 12 o'clock and emotion is still raw, tears of loss and sadness continue to flow. This doesn't happen often - I suspect the busy work week has left my bleeding heart unattended - it needs periods of quiet time to find gentle rest in its sadness, for emotion to seep out and then be reabsorbed. Last night, my son who has a permanently raw heart from the tragic death of three friends, cut deep into my wounds with his simple honesty. My heart has been bleeding this morning.

The intensity and depth that characterises my life now is how I want to always be in this world, no matter how raw or vulnerable or ecstatic I feel. Love and death split us open. We bleed, but that blood is what connects us to the powerful life forces of nature and the universe and the Source of it all.

1 February 2011


"Only that in you which is me can hear what I'm saying."

Ram Dass