Tag Archives: Nashville

Don’t Trust the Status Quo. Trust the Possibilities.

You’re tired. You stay up to catch up and tired turns to over tired. You close your eyes but can’t unwind. I have a way to trick my mind toward rainbows and kittens. So called sleep experts say stay away from screens when you wake up in the middle of the night but they obviously know nothing about the power of television programming on the unconscious. Deep breathing while thrashing in bed just pisses me off. I need Shark Tank where dreams come true.

 

Hello morning news that tells me fast food restaurants are going up in Nashville as fast as the food they make.  That’s how they put it. Look how progressive Nashville is. Slow people eating fast food. Let another day begin. We can fight about health care while we choke down cheap meats.

 

Dawn light’s silver beams stunningly sweep the steel surfaces of the massive structures that now line the city road linking plantation memories to town.  Steely towers replace wood poles for wires that cross the tangled sky. To hide them underground would cost money better spent on what I wonder?

Sleep drunk drivers clog the passing lane of Nashville’s pot hole neglected inner city speedway like sociopaths.  Swerving semis hold their ground ignorant or insolent to my flashing lights. Why are so many trucks on this road? They must be part of the construction boom turning an unplanned town into a short sighted city. It’s the middle of the day. A 15 minute ride will double like most days. I’m forced below the speed limit. I could change lanes but they are covered like packed pay parking lots that dot downtown. Comatose drivers are weapons against humanity. My radar is tuned for disaster. My car finds a hole and darts like a fugitive running from the law with nothing to lose. I thread through the exodus like Pacman.

This is the cost of progress.  Traffic and crime are not compensated by the understaffed overpriced overrated restaurants or crowded crappy cluster homes popping up on treeless ground to enclose the herds of newcomers who will not have room on the street to park their cars. Progress is for profiteers.

 

Nashville was number six in the country for rising heat index a few years ago. We hadn’t even gotten started shoveling humans into bird houses on treeless lots.  Replaced nature with cement. Made the cement mixer the state bird and sold the once peaceful state park as an attraction. Opportunists saw a good buy in. They don’t live here but they own here and what do they care about the quality of life that will be a renter’s headache?

 

We don’t bother with infrastructure. We don’t zone. We don’t regulate. If you’ve got the cash, we’ve got a lot you can mow down.   Let freedom ring.

 

I don’t recognize this two lane country road today that connects Franklin to Brentwood. It’s been clear cut since I was here two weeks ago. Oh screw trees anyway. They’re just a fire hazard. Look at the Redwoods in California! We don’t want problems like that here. We live in a basin that holds smog. A slow death from carbon monoxide is more subtle, more Southern.

Sleep drunk drivers sling swaying loads across the broken lines. I just like that line so I put it in. And also, I’m obsessed with zombie drivers on crowded streets. I don’t dare ride my bike anymore lest one of the undead raises a cell phone beside my narrow lane. Or maybe they’re on an Ambien ride.  Or maybe they’re just high. Do the opiate addicted masses drive cars around town? I have no idea but I’m not taking chances.

 

It’s good to stay put. The best nights are dinner parties with friends anyway.  You do need a place for friends to park. But your friends are less visible in the expanse now. Friendship is no longer a contact sport. It’s easy to lose track of people who aren’t in your immediate world. There are so many immediate worlds to navigate these days, some of them virtual but nonetheless exhausting. We are not our World War II parent’s generation who put a premium on civility and social skills maintaining relationships even when challenged. We don’t have to. No one expects it.

 

I’m from the last generation to know life before and after the internet and cell phones. Once our memories are gone there will be no others who know both. There will be no others who consciously crossed over. The impressions here are pressed into type to preserve the outrage that my generation made famous. 

We can’t trust that the existing state of affairs is acceptable. There are not as many legal limits to killing us as we expect from the keepers of a loving country. If it takes a village, it takes a village of individuals who have done due diligence. It takes a village willing to shift when the wind smells like sulfur.

 

 

 

 

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Downwind From the Crematorium

It flows from the top. Rogue winds carry the stench of decay. Trolls climbed on willing shoulders to the once hallowed house on the hill.  Now shoulders bow under the weight of our missteps. Some minds blown and others twisted.  Handcuff the free press. Release the free radicals. Banish charity. Dishonor agreements. Taunt, flaunt, violate. Ceaseless cycles of venomous discharge desecrate, devastate ravage and rage against the fabric of our country. That fabric that was flammable, flawed and fragile is being shredded and replaced with funereal shrouds.

Layla my dog and I head down the fire road toward the farm.

What’s that smell in the air? Chemical? Decay? The death of the E.P.A.?

Here at the Agricultural Center a group of four unlikely like-minded women from different worlds walk, talk and run their best buddy dogs. An unpleasant smell dismays me on this otherwise fine first crisp and dewy day of autumn as Layla and I round the lower field waiting for the others to show.

I smell disaster.

Bouncing between sleepless nights and stressful days, for the second time I’ve got symptoms of flu that disappear after a final collapse into a night of exhausted surrendered sleep.

It’s a virus that’s going around. Like wild fires, floods and opiates.  Warning bells toll in the ether. The force shields are down. We are subject to invasion.

Glenanne arrives with her dog Lucy. Christine is behind her with Chelsea. They want to walk the fire road I just came from. “There’s a weird really strong smell down there”, I tell them. I don’t want to go back.

Glenanne tells us the little red brick building down there is a crematorium for road kill. It’s not public knowledge. Carnage quietly turns to ashes under the ancient oaks amid serene white domed wooden barns and meeting halls. Moms gather to exercise, babies on backs and in strollers. Visitors amble among slave quarters and along paths beside the idyllic horse pasture that houses the police force’s tremendous and gentle beasts.

The surface is serene but listen to us as the dogs play and witness the rumbling underground.

We are all downwind from the crematorium.  The stink comes from the rotting head of a once youthful body that declared itself open minded, open hearted and democratic. It is clearly corrupted. It stinks.

On the other hand, under the oaks a group of friends share the rhythm of a turning season. There is a hint of new in the air. Change is always there and change cleanses the past. History is absolute but our impressions and focus shift. Rumbling leads to action. Action leads to change.

Here downwind from the crematorium, I smell decay but above me a lone hawk soars like a Phoenix.

 

 

 

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Hitler Made Fine Roads

 A Yoga Teacher’s Notes from Berlin

I’ve never been to Germany. It was high on my list of places I never needed to see until Jack moved there. My oldest son, Jack, is a research scientist at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Berlin. He’ll have an ACL replacement and I’m off to Berlin as chief medical officer. My understanding of Germany is based on World War II films. German is the sound of the Third Reich barking orders to kill Jews. Rob tells me if anyone says to get on the train, run.

I’m in the airport lounge on the first leg of the trip. I play the game what would I do with her or him if I only had time for one yoga pose. I observe the crowd for postural issues. I imagine their lives and habits. I am absorbed by a large woman with an enormous roll of fat between her skull and shoulders. She is drinking a keg sized Starbucks Frappacino. She has manicured navy blue nails adorned with gold flecks. She crosses her ankles but barely. Her silent husband is covered in ominous moles and black freckles. He slumps in a way that matches the weariness on his face.

I don’t sit well. I have a funky hip and a tendency to claustrophobia. I’m afraid I’ll have to throw a blanket over my head like a caged parakeet to keep madness at bay for the eight trapped hours of the longest of three flights out. The plane is fully booked four across and me on the inside. I have poorly chosen not to see a chiropractor for the pain in my shoulder blade and neck as I’m sure this unfamiliar annoyance will abate. It has not.

God shines on us all. The cabin doors close and the seat beside me is still empty. Neither of my fellow row-mates is interested in utilizing the extra leg room and so I am at once unencumbered at my feet and free to curl my legs under me this way and that. I stick a small Fiji water bottle between my shoulder blades and put pressure where needed. Eureka. In the first hour I am unstuck and pain free.

I watch the movie” Still Alice” starring Julianne Moore even though I didn’t want to see it in the theater as it sounded depressing as Hell. But I’m locked in a chunk of steel hurtling through space and I don’t know the outcome so I break my rule of not seeking sorrow. I definitely have the symptoms of memory loss that Alice had. Now I can ruminate to pass the time.

The last leg of the trip is out of Amsterdam. It is 6:00 A.M… I am handed a recycled paper box with natural dyes that describes the organic spelt bread and egg salad from happy chickens raised on organic food on a family farm. Have I landed in an enlightened universe? Who here is worried about digestion or the mental state of chickens?

Berlin is an extraordinary culture of then and now Wow. It’s easy to move about though the place is immense. It’s a feast of world cuisine where I expected piles of grey shnoodle and gravy. It is elegance and art and grit. It is both sophisticated and safe and a nod to the forward thrust of civilization though I’m told it’s endangered by a steadily growing influx of commercialism. Still, I have yet to see a soul walking with a cell phone which is my version of the demise of civilization. In fact I don’t even see a phone exposed anywhere. Au courante is the fashion of smoking. Everyone is smoking. Everyone is coughing.

Manja and Frederic invited Jack into their AirBnB and asked him to stay on as a roommate. Frederic has dreadlocks to his waist. Manja would look like Nicole Kidman if Nicole Kidman didn’t give a shit. They are a couple in their mid 30’s, partners in a film production company that makes public service films which rail at the pitfalls of capitalism. They say that travel to the U.S. would not be possible as they are probably being watched. I have been here for 7 days now and I have seen no evidence that either housemate has a phone though they must. They have no televisions. I saw no radio. There is a stack of reference books by the kitchen table that they refer to when I ask questions they can’t answer. They rarely leave the apartment. Informative and enchanting hosts, their conversation has me glued to the kitchen table into the wee hours most nights.

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The apartment is on the East side, built in 1896. It’s a railroad flat. The ceilings are probably 20 feet high. The windows are massive and both the doors to the balconies and the bedroom windows are doubled like our hurricane doors in the South. The door handles come up to my collarbones. Manja and Frederick are over 6 feet as well. I feel strangely diminished by the hugeness of this place and people.

I view the ancient cupboards in the kitchen with suspicion. I am reminded of a disturbing novel about a little Jewish boy dying in a cupboard that might be like the low one on the back kitchen wall under the window where they store perishables as the walls are so insulated. I ask Frederic if this building was likely swept by the Nazis looking for Jews and he says yes. He shows me the secret places that now house a refrigerator in one and a washing machine and dishwasher in the other and says that they would have been a poor hiding place as the Nazis would go outside and check the windows to know if a hidden room existed within. Though this place is homey in a rundown farmhouse way it also feels like a retreat for ghosts.

The city is tinged with anarchy and solid in architecture that ranges from mid 17th century to Bauhaus which often resembles stacked bunkers. There are huge blocks of apartments built under Stalin called Stalinhauses. Many of the buildings are marked with gorgeous or political graffiti and the powers that be allow this vandalism. Frederic tells me that many of these were occupied buildings and by that he means occupied by squatters. There was a time that occupation was akin to possession. The city is changing though and even his neighborhood which is one of the last alternative neighborhoods is quickly falling to gentrification. Frederic defines this as a place that had shops that had useful things being replaced by new stores that have nothing anyone needs.

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There are few of the massive fascist structures left though there is evidence of Hitler’s demand for tank worthy streets. The ghosts of invasion, occupation and oppression are everywhere. The people are sensitive about that. Here they are taught of their part in the Holocaust from early youth. I am told they are told that no one is innocent.

In the ten days I’ve been here there were two religious holidays celebrated with three day weekends and drunken joyfulness in a city that is 70% atheist. My roommate’s response to my question about the meaning of the holidays was that Jesus was ascending or something. Didn’t he ascend on Easter, I asked and they said that he was always ascending or descending but it seems that whenever Jesus is on the move, people will be drinking.

This alternate universe is hazardous for me. I’ve gone from Dandelion tea or a cup of half caff at home to a double or triple espresso every morning. I have forgone sleep for days. Despite the double windows in my bedroom there are streams of anarchists noisily roaming the street all night. I am in danger of returning home insane which is working for me in this nihilistic place but won’t fly in Nashville. Today I think I took my thyroid support twice by accident. I did the same thing yesterday and I am thinking of Alice in the movie who had to write a note to herself to be sure her future confused self would know how many pills to take.

WitIMG_1578h practically free health insurance my son had knee surgery in a state of the art clinic that was as elegant as an upscale modern hotel. The doctor must have done his job well because two months later Jack has almost full range of motion and if he was in any pain, he didn’t seem to notice though he never bothered with the heavy pain meds. Granted, the staff was like the cast of Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” where Woody takes his signature pot shots at the Felliniesque New Jersey Italians. Despite a general gross negligence once the doctor left the premises, a couple of thoughtful nurses and support folks came to the rescue. And I was there. Had all gone perfectly I might not have felt so necessary.

 

IMG_1569Every floor of the five story building was dedicated to orthopedics. A brightly lit space beside the therapy rooms resembled a Benetton ad for crutches. Crutches in primary colors were displayed on the singular circular pedestal in the center of a beautifully appointed haute couture shop. On the eve of Jack’s surgery when the physical therapist failed to show up, the fellow who seemed in charge of the shop went beyond his hours and job description to fill in the blanks. There was immense concern over the color crutches Jack would like which I thought was a riot until it became clear that Jack would find the ordeal more palatable once I had returned the royal blue crutches I had thought fun for the Berlin black ones.

 

 

I note that I have not been abroad or to much of anywhere in the same time frame I’ve been teaching yoga. I question my choices with distance to spare now. I wonder at my decision to remain in Nashville when I had the opportunity to build on early success to become a traveling yoga professional. Then again for most of our 21 years I was contentedly raising kids, enjoying a successful career and surrounded by good friends. Beyond that the strangeness of Southern culture satisfied my taste for the unusual and interesting. Southern culture is quickly disappearing in Nashville now. Maybe it’s timing that makes this distant world so appealing.

There are more notes from Berlin but I’m not inclined to write a travel blog. And there are stories better left to memory. There are characters that made a lasting impression on me but they are profiles for another time. I had the good fortune to travel to a loved one and fall in love with a place I was horrified by for most of my life.

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Natural Medicine on Ice

Natural Medicine on Ice

Natural Medicine on Ice

 

It’s sleeting and raining and snowing.

Ice blankets the branches,

Turned pavement to treachery

This town is closed.

 

No cars pass this house.

Frozen bird feeders magnetize wildlife;

The scurry and flutter of creatures is all that moves under an icy downpour of sodden pellets.

 

My schedule is frozen and the promise of a day off is both exhilarating and nerve racking.

I’m not good at this.

The stillness reminds me that I’m exhausted and too restless to stay put

With projects I’d sooner leave in a rear view mirror.

 

My dog and I take tentative steps onto a dicey front porch.

I’m four layers deep, finished in an old ski jacket.

Despite the icy hill, we pick our way up the road’s shoulder

And head for the lake.

 

I slide backwards again and again down the slope that cuts to the lake road

And finally find footing in a swath of old leaves on the edge of the woods.

My husband has slipped my phone into a pocket worried that I’ll fall in a world of aloneness.

 

I recall a snowy mountain in my past

Three miles up and the road just a path

I’d climb home in darkness,

Moonlight on the snow

I’m used to the simple company of dogs in wilding times.

 

My husband persists

He reminds me that I have a failing hip

What if I fall?

 

Ha!

I’m shushing down the road like a pretend skater

Running without lifting my feet

That slide without slipping.

The woods are silent and I silently pray for no trespassers other than me.

Red and I

My co-conspirator pup’s white fur looks buttery next to this snow.

He matches my pace though he’s old and more into smelling the roses these days

So to speak

Like me.

 

Look at us,

I tell him.

Ten days ago you had abdominal surgery

And two nights ago, I could barely stand on two legs

The body is more than matter.

 

Under nature’s spell

Given the right time and place

Incapacity is not a word,

And without a form

No longer exists.

 

Unthawed on commencement

I return with my jacket covered in ice

With all that ailed me released by silence and silvered trees.

I am unfrozen.

 

 

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Enchanted

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 More A Mass of Surrendered Nadis Than the Self With This Face

 

The one I recognize as me runs into the storm.

She has for as far back as I can remember.

What hypnotist’s spell was put on me and in what life time did I agree to this?

 Daylight turns green casting a yellow hue over the earth under the weight of an accelerating sky.

As far back as I can remember.

I step onto the forested pathway to the rocky ridge as the wind picks up the hem of my shirt.

The woods are empty of humanity but mine and mine seems more a mass of surrendered nadis than the self with my name.

Around the climbing bend I feel it more than see it in the darkening light.

The hawk sits on a branch at eye level.

Streaks of bared wood reveal newly sharpened claws.

I don’t recognize the bird’s markings and make a note to look it up once home.

For now I determine to become its companion if it will have me, as we sit in wait for the tempest to rain down.

Yellow leaves fly sideways like sorcerer’s plates.

Wind blows the bird’s feathers as my hair whips my face and neck but we are unruffled.

And my feet begin to dance the way they do when the thunder crashes and the rain is a roar that does not yet touch earth sheltered beneath a thousand leafy branches.

I can’t stay still and bid the bird good day.

In my goofy way I start to laugh and feet that never run on pavement or plan to run at all are carrying me swiftly through the forest.

The squall starts to wane as I near home, soaked and satisfied but less so to see the sky move away.

It’s often this strange timing.

I’m back to the one who has this name, who has this hair, who does this job;

 The one you know as me.

Until the thunder claps and the sky gets close and I am not that but nature remembered gone to find her lost tribe.

For nadis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadi_%28yoga%29

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Distracted Driving

 Distracted Driving is a Dangerous Situation

flashes on the highway sign overhead. I race on testing the speed limit hoping not to be distracted by that sign.

It’s Art Crawl night in Nashville under a fairly full moon. I’ve spent some time at a friend’s contemporary art gallery meeting and greeting and people watching, drinking wine.

I’m under the legal limit, I think, driving home alone on this rare occasion with my husband out of town.

I recall a story on a local news broadcast earlier in the week about the new findings on attention deficit disorder and driving. They have found it reasonable to declare it news that this condition might create a problem for drivers and by extension the other people on the road.

Apparently the response to that was to put distracting neon signs every few miles along the interstate to tell the distracted drivers that being distracted is dangerous.

Nashville has strict laws when it comes to booze.  An under- age cashier cannot ring up beer. (That’s the only liquor allowed in groceries.) The bagger may not even put the beer in a bag so an older employee has to be summoned.

However on Art Crawl night when every gallery is open and serving free wine to the public, none of them need a liquor license to hand out booze and no one is carded to drink it. A 98 year old person still has to show an I.D. to purchase beer at the grocery but once a month downtown, no one cares how many teenagers are drinking in the streets.

In true Nashville style, there’s always an intimacy that happens no matter how many new faces appear and we enjoy our conversations.

An old colleague from the Nashville Ballet came in and we shared stories of the past few years. In conclusion I had to point out that we are an unfathomable lot and declared that the beauty of yoga is its method of deciphering the human condition.

The cat sitting beside this computer tells me I’m full of shit but I’m ignoring that because being full of shit is a slice of humanity. I think that is obvious but I declare it news anyway or maybe it’s just filler for now.

 

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Tread Lightly, Teachers. Put Down Your Big Stick

 

I was raised as a response to Hitler; or Pharaoh, maybe. Never give up and never forget and do not make yourself someone else’s bitch. If you can get a B there is no reason you can’t get an A. There is no excuse for doing less than your best. We cannot afford that. Be the best or be nothing. Add to that my father’s undertone of don’t fuck with me and my mother’s banner of nobody tells me what to do and someone reading this says that explains a lot but appearances can be deceiving.

For those of us of a generation still imbued with the work ethic handed down from a country begun by Puritans as well as the lessons of  immigrant parents and grandparents who escaped oppression, the pressure has always been on to be better, do better as human beings, to fix wrongs where we see them.

Now there is pressure from below to learn a system of living based on the paradigm of a global connection. There is the pressure to fix others when we ourselves are broken and thanks to the internet we know that more of us need fixing than don’t. The old, more physically present, order is largely gone but for its lingering poltergeist of try harder, do better, just do it. Now we are a mechanized nation, disconnected to ourselves while more connected to others, where the majority cannot give up, cannot do less, cannot relax because it will cease to survive.

Does that message that you can try harder and do better belong in a yoga class? Is it acceptable for a yoga teacher to encourage students past pain and emotional thresholds by pushing a party line that giving up on the mat is akin to and translates to giving up in a life? I got a taste of both on my recent foray into modern yoga. It was a small taste but a surprising one as I hadn’t realized that a message made popular years ago by Bryan Kest, later confused by other teachers in the way messages transform in the child’s game of telephone, had mutated and was still alive and potentially dangerous.

It can be acceptable to encourage students past a comfort zone if you know what you’re doing which is a huge if.  When you have someone like me in your class and you will because we will ask for a challenge, you will find someone who loves challenge and resistance equally. You will find someone who is practicing defiance as much as gratitude for being forced and it’s important to convey the allowable absurdity of that combination with a sense of humor and sportsmanlike conduct.

It is imperative foremost that the teacher be kind; not kind because she was taught to implement that as part of her teacher training course but because she is naturally kind. Anything less will fool only the most lost souls.

There is nothing sicker in a yoga class than a mean yoga teacher saying unkind things in a (not) funny way while she tells the class to smile and have fun. It’s akin to be raped by someone who tells you to enjoy it with his breath in your face.  It encourages resistance and fight but not in a way that serves a student ultimately seeking a way to come to peace.

It is not acceptable to guilt trip the crowd to leap from a cliff. Some members of this crowd have been standing at the edge of the cliff for a long time with weak spines broken by over flogging whether by their own hands or someone they trusted. You may be someone they trust. Yoga teachers are imbued with the misnomer of “one who can fix everything” which ranks at the top of the world’s most stupid conceptions.

Power Yoga originated as challenging classes accompanied by the banter of creator Bryan Kest who repeatedly preached that the hardest pose to do in that room was to lie down when everyone else kept going. He encouraged that in word though the undertone to work till you dropped was implicit in the very challenging nature of the class; probably because Bryan had mixed messages in his own head. All of our teachings are an extension of us unless they were bought at the yoga store.

I didn’t realize that a mutation of that message as;

You can do better, you can try harder.  If you quit here, you are a quitter,

is alive and well in yoga today. I will mention only one experience in a studio with this moniker because it was outrageous. Otherwise I would tell you nothing because my pilgrimage has revealed something about me as well.  Though I love to tell a good story, I do not relish destroying anyone’s reputation as much as my own.

I walked blindly into a nearby studio which had no indication of heat in its name. It was summer and hovering at 100 degrees and so was the studio as it turned out. Or it was 100 degrees on the floor and about 115 when you stood up closer to the low ceiling. I was on a yoga pilgrimage, exploring the current face of yoga and determined to be an open book doing yoga in any environment whether it pleased me or not and so I entered. The owner/teacher knew me from my website although we’d never met. I had been practicing yoga for as many years as she had been alive. I told her I was injured (another story) and would she allow me to care for that in my own way. She agreed. Then she forgot.

I will offer a disclaimer for her right away. I believe her ego got the best of her in this instance. She is unseasoned. That is why I went back one more time after this experience. I couldn’t leave her with the taste of her own bad medicine.

I had committed to going to every studio more than once as I know how lousy it is to be judged by one class should it be the wrong one. I had entered the room to the smell of Nag Champa, was sung in by Lady Gaga and later sung out by a reggae band accompanied by a lovely scent of peppermint. The class was a brutal mix of sorrow and fear and an attempt to cheerlead anxious new folks into believing that it didn’t matter what they did to their bodies as long as they were having fun because all yoga was good. I will say no more on that despite the many devilish descriptions dancing through this memory where the incense and peppermint gave me false hope.

The next time, the room was crowded for a special class. I was stuck in the middle as I’d waltzed in at the last minute hoping to hide in a corner. Damn it.

My nerves were quickly fried between the heat, the race to each posture and the uneven sequencing. I imagined myself in a torture chamber and calmed my mind with amusing anecdotes trying to push away the constant lecture on how my behavior here was a reflection of my entire life if I gave up. I watched the other students flair miserably around apparently unnoticed. I idly wondered what joints on the knock- kneed flat -footed over -arched slump- shouldered depressed looking young teaching assistant would inevitably go first. I ought to know.

Suddenly the teacher was nipping at my heels or to be accurate, one heel, like a Jack Russell hurtling toward the bacon in my pockets.

“Push my hand”, she ordered. I looked over my shoulder.  Excuse me, are you talking to me?

“Extend your heel”, she demanded. She would demonstrate that she had skills to teach the teacher.

I turned to look at her crouched on the floor by my lunging back foot and said quietly, “I cannot do that today”. She walked away but not for long. She was grinning. She wore a grin that must have worn her out by the end of that class. It never wavered.

A balancing sequence was starting. I was slick with sweat and my hurt leg was trembling. I used my polite Iyengar student voice.

“Do you mind if I use the wall for support?” 

 

“No you may not!”, said she, still grinning.  I didn’t react because I didn’t believe her.  I just stared and didn’t move.

“You are a yoga teacher, Hilary, you should be able to do this!”, she shouted. Gee, I hope none of your students missed that highlight for your celebrity reel.

Now I know that right there, anyone who knows me just took a breath and hasn’t let it out. Yes, I could have killed her with my mind alone and that would have been a no brainer but I didn’t. I just didn’t give a shit, which is worrisome in a different way. I reminded her that I had an injury and said I could hurt myself so I would sit it out and she said, no, again. She would help me and offered me her arm in the way a Boy Scout would walk an old person across the street. I still didn’t kill her. So go ahead and breathe.  In my new zombie pilgrimage mindset I place my hand on her arm, which was not steady or serious about the job. I finally had enough of letting her use me to show off and told her to go away.

As she walked away I looked to the side wall and saw the image of a woman outlined in the shadow in the way people see the face of Baby Jesus or Mother Theresa in a scone or a potato chip or something. She was a vision of feminine grace. She was astonishing. I couldn’t stop staring. The teacher looked at me looking at the wall and I whispered; do you see that? But she did not.  When the lights were later dimmed, the face disappeared replaced by a halo of light. Crazy, I know. Maybe I had heat prostration.

Years ago I had a student who later became the keeper of my words. The first time she came to class was the first class I taught in Nashville. She asked me if the class would be hard. I told her it would be hard enough. She left without a word. I figured it was the last I’d see of her. She came back for the next class and said in a trembling voice, “thank you for being my teacher, thank you for moving to Nashville, thank you for teaching this class.”

She was one of the most complicated people I’ve ever met; sensitive, intelligent, creative, tough and fragile, nervous and brave. She wrote music that rivaled the greatest poets, she wrestled with eating disorders, she had a general and fierce disdain of almost everyone and x-ray vision for bullshit.

She called me years after she’d left Nashville to pursue a law degree to tell me that she had almost lost her nerve on the way to take the Bar and the only thing that got her into her seat was the memory of the words I’d said in a class so long ago; “You can’t do this pose. This pose is crazy. You can only try.”

That is my last story to wrap up a tale of a new story. I tell it because there are fragile people out there under the disguise of tough people who will come seeking tough teachers to fulfill their destinies. They might be treated harshly by a teacher of any discipline, I just happened to tell it as a power tale today.

In this season that holds the Jewish New Year; the season of burning off karma, of forgiveness, of the acknowledgement of past transgressions, of prayer to be granted another year of life to do better, I’m the student who wants to be asked to give all I’ve got and assured that however that goes, I’m still worthy and so are you.

(As posted on Elephant Journal)

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Released

        It’s the memory of the first kiss and the practice of the last breath – Hilary

There’s a being in love that bears no name, needs no process, has no method. It’s the love understood and unspoken except in gesture. This was my love of yoga but I didn’t realize that until I walked out of love unspoken into something confused, trying to find itself in discussion, in process, in judge and jury in plaintiff and accused.

Rolling Stone Magazine and one of my yoga magazine subscriptions arrived in the mail together. I dropped them on the kitchen counter and after a cursory glance at the yoga magazine, I picked up Rolling Stone. That was several months and several untouched yoga magazines ago. The writing was on the wall.

Full up with yoga in the way one is bursting in an airtight car sinking into a pond; thin skin, suffocating a swollen dam I kept writing about it to record and release it. Yoga is my art, a craft, an experiment a dance. Yoga is a body with questions embraced by a searching mind rolling in the emotional field, imbued by cosmic ancestors.  When did this relationship begin to feel like a thing?

Competition and desire appeared hand in hand when yoga became popular.  Things got complicated. Yoga fostered feuds and created as many opinions as fashions. The nature of the business changed with the internet. Everybody’s teaching. Everybody’s talking yoga. (I recently heard a questionable statistic that 18% of all housewives are getting certified to teach yoga.) Yoga may not have been devalued but it felt like it.  I hid out; rarely entered a yoga space other than my own. Conversely I took my journal to the web. It felt like a natural progression. I wasn’t alone. If everyone is doing yoga and everyone is on the web then the web is going to be flush with yoga talk.

Where is the space to exhale a yogic thought with so many others’ thoughts pressing in?  Without being able to exhale I cannot breathe in. A walk through the internet reveals so many like minds and like a prolonged use of preventative medicine, what was once helpful began to block my natural process from functioning. I pulled back from the web. My non-writing hand flipped the bird into an ill wind of inconsequential blathering.  If I had nothing to say, then I would say nothing.  It felt like my heart was empty though I later discovered was that it was too full

I’d left the web and I’d left the yoga community.  Frankly, the solitude would have been bliss but for the words of a stranger running through my head; if you are content at what you cease to master, you won’t continue to grow. I pictured myself standing in the surf, the undertow sucking my feet into cement, the next wave knocking me on my face. I’m staring at the card on this desk that my brother sent for my birthday;”I live in my own little world but that’s O.K., they know me here”.  My husband concurs that nothing could be truer. A voice whispers; Wake up and hear the bhakti, Wendy, we’re not in Never land anymore. I know it’s time for a look around. I am not all that content. I have a desire to grow.

 

I hid out in a town where yoga turned sour so long ago that it might smell like roses now and I wouldn’t know it. I decided to leave the comfort of a life that kept distractions and politics at bay. I would take a yoga pilgrimage into my own turf. I would have something to write about. I would open my mind and spill my guts.

I am a piece of this town’s history. I am a piece of yoga history too but history stands still while time does not.  A colleague introduces me to a new teacher. “Do you know Hilary Lindsay?”  “No, but I’ve heard of you”.  That’s just fine with me. I won’t be anonymous as I step into every studio that’s sprung up in this town but I don’t care.

So after a scant and interrupted sleep after another day of sharing my birthday with celebratory and fearlessly joyful friends, my hangover and I entered a yoga class.  It is time to see if there’s something to talk about.

(As posted to Elephant Journal last August)

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Can Yoga Save Tea Party Barbie?

 

 Enlightenment consists not in seeing the luminous shapes and visions, but in making the darkness visible –Carl Jung

 

Time is a twisted path circling back on itself, creeping through the brush marked by                               memory, presence or anticipation. It is not two dimensional or orderly. This is written by a serpentine memory. This is written by a member of planet earth. Come on.

 

Walk through this door and into the earth writhing heat. Head up the road with my dog and a rain jacket tied round my already sweat soaked waist. On this full moon lunar eclipse morning it will storm from the east which is an unusual scenario, promising hail and hurricane force winds. Omens scream in black clouds and stirring branches. I don’t care. I head for the woods as the world rumbles. For all you know, I’m there still, casting this post via satellite.

 

Energy is rocking us; stronger when the moon is full or during an eclipse or storm but always there like a heartbeat.  I look up and beg lightning to charge the earth and wind to scour the air. Branches will fall and trees as well. Someone will die. Storms beg our attention. They bridge the gap between form and formless.  The earth spin overlooked in a high gravity world on duller days is as clear as the heart pounding in anticipation now. I cling to this body of mine that is both form and formless. I am familiar with its part in this quickening. Like you, I am most clear in a storm.  I trust it as I trust the ground under my feet. As I trust all of us most in the wake of destruction. Don’t you see how we rise out of ashes?

 

Walk with me down the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland for the closing performance of the CMA festival last week. Hawkers like archangels heralding hell stand every few feet begging us to give a dollar for plastic water pulled in coolers like chains through purgatory, to put money in ragged pockets. I wonder what land was stolen and raped for that water. I think of an empire ravaged by corporate greed and predicated on consumption. I consider companies that buy rights to Africa and India’s water, pour it into petroleum based bottles and carry it across the world to the gaping mouths of Americans who do not seem to remember that there was a time you could survive just fine without a bottle of water as ready as a mother’s tit.  Parched and stubborn with no public fountain in sight or in this entire town; I choose wine over water.  I thank my country for my drunkenness.

 

My cup is half full but my gas tank is half empty. My half full cup is full of poison thanks to the water that flows from the tar poisoned streams of West Virginia to my door. Still, I do not take this personally. I have too much faith in myself for that. My stirring heart circulates love within circles of sorrow. But I wonder what to do beyond writing letters to my Senators and Congresswoman who are not that interested anyway.

 

Will I proclaim my superior yoga teacher’s techniques while we rape the earth for fuel and water? Will I argue about God or what ancient texts are most valid to my synthetic genetically modified life? Will I talk of business and selling yoga while the administration of hope and change opens wild lands to drilling? Will my business ethics be no different than any other but worse because I’m delusional? Will I pad the pockets of false prophets who tell me I am perfect just the way I am while women’s reproductive rights are quietly removed?  Perhaps I should stay here and leave no footprint in these woods.

 

A doe stands quietly by. She looks no more than a yearling but she is a child bride guarding her baby. She will know when to run for shelter. I might be advised to do the same though I know there’s no place to run.

 

My dog slips into the creek. Water spiders slide past the freckled nose he rests on a half sunken tree vine. Disturbed silt swirls and shifts creating silhouettes in the dappled light. I peer into the depth like a seer with a crystal ball.

 

The wind bears down bouncing branches and flapping leaves that reveal a hidden palette of pastel colors missed when staring straight ahead.  Look up and don’t miss what habit stole before. There are bundles of dead leaves stuck in trees that look brilliant copper more than the brown of decay cast by egg laying cicadas. Point of view depends on where one’s coming from. It’s best to always see in all ways so the looking doesn’t wear you down. I’m looking this way for now.

 

The rain comes quickly and I ignore the dripping rain coat round my waist to let the rain cool hot skin that might otherwise tempt me to preen ruffled feathers in the birdbath of my own discontent.  That discontent can be assuaged by running into storms, into power that is greater than mine though it is strengthened by my power too. That discontent can also be buried alive by retreat. That discontent can be reckoned with by facing facts head on.

 

I used to have a name, now I have a username: And a password.  I’m not so much even a name as a set of numbers: I ‘m not so much a person as a profile.  A thousand years ago I had a flirtation with a fellow in a bar who asked to see my wallet saying that you could tell everything about a person from the contents in her wallet. I wonder what he would say about me now.

 

This storm is a global reckoning like the others.  Who are we in all this? Does a pass key to yoga make me different from anyone else? All I know of yoga is in revealing the body’s secrets. I know that formlessness is found in the form of the body. I can shed light on a map to the bridge between forms and formless but that is just clarity. After that it is about choices. Though yoga has lessons to teach, yoga teacher arms don’t grasp or pull. One must walk willingly into them. We don’t know you.  We have to respect the mystery.

 

People stare from shaded glasses and tinted windows. If I can see your eyes I might think I know you but then again, I once knew a criminal with kind eyes and a beautiful smile.

 

I recall a walk down this road last winter.  A squirrel’s sunken body was hanging by its armpits from a tree branch. A leering death grin evoked Batman’s enemy, The Joker. Hands curled at the shoulders, he crouched in the sky on hind legs like a meerkat.  A hawk must have dropped him in flight.  The image of this communal creature hung out to dry in a predator’s sky inspired the thought; here are we the people, a grotesque masquerade of our former selves. I pictured the waxy faces of Fox News pundits. I heard Bill O’Reilly embracing the rising moon and ocean tides as proof of a puppeteer God. I imagined blond Velociraptors wielding talons, forcing tiny Botox frozen faces into smirks and ripping lies. I pictured shocked stares of the suddenly homeless.

 

I think of Sarah Palin and her We the People tour riding on her earth-exhausting bus, spreading stupid like Monsanto’s poison seeds. I embrace the worst of us, the disease of us, the koo koo catchoo hold him in your arms yeah you can feel his disease of us. I’m braced for the storm and storming memories. Some would call this distraction. I think apathy a greater threat. Bring on the storm. I know when to be peaceful.

 

 

 

Tea Party Barbie Bachmann with her self -proclaimed titanium spine is running for president. Next to her, Sarah Palin looks more like a cross -eyed Smurf with a speech impediment than Sweeney Todd’s scary tea party hostess.  Who are the people who make these women powerful? Most everyone I meet seems too sane for that and I wonder if they vote. Then I wonder if they twitter.

 

With the shameful exit of Clinton we became a country divided; a bumper sticker badge wearing group of yahoos who screamed and jeered like rioters at a soccer game. We learned to flaunt our disrespect. Eight years under Bush and Cheney revealed that fear and ego is always there and deserves managing. We made greed the prize for fear. We learned group shame.  Anarchy and repression are part of our menu and there for the taking. Anything goes. Put it on the internet so we can see it. In a country that declares itself bankrupt in debtor’s prison; corporate America is still cajoling us to buy with credit to ensure we spend more than we have.

 

We’re in a storm. Storms bridge the gap between form and formless. The earth spin is as clear as a heart pounding in anticipation now.

 

I’m putting away the breakfast dishes. The television is on. Florence and the Machine is on stage for the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series.  The Burger King logo floats behind her.  She’s singing an apocalyptic song. It’s pure poetry.

 

To respect the nature of the place we inhabit and recognize that our preservation depends on our relationship to it, to love its inhabitants great and small, is to live gracefully. Where we might recognize ourselves alone in a forest, do we recognize ourselves in a global society or any society at all? Is it possible at this uneasy, dis-easy juncture where all of our welfare is at stake, that we are shape shifters with feet in cement only by our lack of imagination? Light and dark are cast not only by sun and moon but by emotions, ego and love.  What shapes us also shapes the world. How will we shape ourselves?

 

 

I’m awake at sunrise and head east for the highest hill. Sun shifts and clouds slip and the earth feels uncomplicated and unfathomable at once. Awe is a halo that surrounds my heart and cradles my brain. I’m struck dumb with love for this planet. I see angels in the form of hawkers, beggars and homeless urging us to wake up.  I have no answers but imagine us on the brink of a stampede to sanity because right now, alone in the forest, it’s what I have to believe.

You don’t love because. You love despite – William Faulkner

Hilary

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Pine Tree Pranayama

A stand of pine trees grows at the summit of a nearby hill. I walk my dogs purposefully toward it every day anticipating the scent of pine the way a runner anticipates the drink of water to cool her fire at the run’s end.

Approaching the pines, before I can smell them, I feel my lungs open like a gaping baby bird beak remembering worms. This is my pranayama; my body charged with the desire to inhale energy, to bring the sap and bark and needles and earth of those trees into me.

I’m often stingy with air, hoarding it by taking only little bits at a time, taking only what I need to survive. Where did that come from? Despite the bus and car fumes, New York had a wonderful breeze from the water. My home in Los Angeles was in the hills and the air was often perfumed with sage and pine and wild flowers. Was it the polluted air of Nashville which sits in a basin that the Indians called the valley of ill health? When did I start holding back energy? Was I recoiling from a bad smell or was it less conscious than that! Did it begin in the oppressive summers and become habit that kept me from breathing in the Fall and Winter?

Springtime in Nashville is a feast for the eyes. Flowers fill the sky in blocks of blooming trees. A bouquet of colors quickly covers the newly green grass in daffodils and hyacinth. The winter jasmine is still bright yellow with branches that are often mistaken for the forsythia that comes on its tail. Pink quince and white hawthorn, tulip magnolias, redbuds and the weeping cherry outside this window will explode like a shower of fireworks in pink, purple, red and white any minute now. The sweetly scented mock orange bush will bloom with the climbing wild roses and yellow jasmine next. Rainbows of tulips will join them.  The light has changed and not just lingered but has begun to migrate from my front rooms that are like a solarium in Winter, to the back terrace that hosts so many gatherings every year. In its course, equal and soft light spreads everywhere.  Am I breathing?

The spectacle of affirmation that this planet is a great place to visit has a secret weapon in the form of allergies. There is something here that makes asthma thrive and covers us with pollen that puts us to sleep like Dorothy in the poppy fields. I find myself in the confusing dilemma of wanting to draw the earth into me and off of me at the same time. The metaphor of this paradox is not subtle.  Are we not faced with contrariness regularly whether it is ambivalence toward work or friends or life in general? Has the yoga in my thinking taught me to be generous with myself and recognize that which must be left behind without regret? Can one fully inhale life without letting antagonizers that also come on that breath harm you? Yes. My answer is yes.  What must one do? Adapt and filter. What does it take?  Faith and courage.

How strange that I began this as a ditty about stretching my lungs to receive a favorite smell and I’m talking about faith and courage. I could rework this but I think I’ll let it stand as is. I think it does take more than pleasure to take this walk. This writing is not unlike my yoga classes that begin with some inane moment in my life turned into what my student Laura refers to as a dharma rant. What metaphors I may have drawn without a life of yoga may have been the same but teaching yoga has made a context for sharing my perceptions. It is in this way that yoga has given shape to share my wonderings.

This holding back to take just enough to survive bleeds into the second basic need for survival which is drinking water. Most water just doesn’t taste good anymore. I hadn’t realized how stingy I’d gotten about drinking till my friend put a $2,000.00 filtration system in his house and I found myself drinking eight ounces at a time and wanting more without feeling full. I was starved for water. I’ve been starving myself of water. Back home taking a glass from my filtered refrigerator, I can barely stand to finish it even when I let it sit at room temperature. I’m done with a sip as I am from most bottled water. I hadn’t realized that not all water feeds you the same way. But one must drink.

I encourage my students to notice the satisfaction of drinking the breath in so it hits the back and travels to the tips of the lungs. A little imagination helps and so they imagine the smell of the sweetest thing that pleases them. I remind myself to do that with water so that I won’t deprive myself.

What stops us from breathing may be habit or the recoil of living with aggressive air. What stops us from drinking may be the same. We may not notice until we take that breath of pine or a drink of spring water.  We don’t always have the opportunity for that breath or drink but we have the opportunity to adapt and filter where possible. We have the brains to be aware of the difference between what habit is and what a necessary filtration system is and most importantly, what joy is!

As I replace the red velvet couch cushions with silk plaid pillows in shades of rose and green, I embrace the season of contradictions with a light heart. I will adapt and filter. I recognize joy like the old friend who never lets me down.

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(Published in Elephant Journal)

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