The Game

With the New Year fast approaching, I can feel myself dropping into a less ambitious, more reflective state.  Asana practice has continued to be erratic, but interestingly, I have ceased to be bothered by this.  Instead, I have allowed my practice to become flexible and simply valued whatever time I have.  This has made all the difference.  Certainly, it makes things more pleasant in my head; but even physically, I am less affected by lack of practice when I choose to remain soft and in the mindset always.  This is another one of those lessons I must learn over and over again.

The year 2011, now almost to a close, has been incredible.  It was only January that I first began to practice Ashtanga in the tradition of Pattabhi Jois.  I strongly believe that this practice has been the driving force, the impetus, behind the enormous change and --  dare I say it -- the growth that I've experienced over the course of this past year.  Many times, I saw the storms on the horizon and feared my tiny vessel would be overwhelmed, but found instead only more deftness in life and more capacity for joy.  Ashtanga has provided me with an indispensable set of tools with which to face adversity.  I love this practice with a passion and will be forever grateful.  Thank you, Guruji, for disseminating this wealth of information so prolifically.  And thank you, David Swenson, for planting that seed at the dawning of a decade that will soon loop back upon itself, the circle nearly complete.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Not long after Ashtanga won out as my daily practice, replacing the meandering Vinyasa experimentation I had previously employed, I found the courage to leave my dependable job of many years and take the plunge into full-time teaching with little savings to back me up and no guarantee of regular work.  In order to survive, I further simplified my life, edging off the non-essentials.  In so doing, I created a clearing in which for opportunities to land.  And they did.  Well-paying gigs just fell into my lap, and soon I had a pretty full schedule teaching yoga.  A dream come true.

Then my partner and I broke up.  After seven years.  It was hard, but not that hard, and not long after that, when I moved into my new apartment to live alone for the first time in my adult life, I felt as though I had literally stepped into the light after years and years of darkness.  Such lightness, such relief.  I became aware of the thousands of ways in which I had compromised myself to sustain that other person, and rather than feel regret or self-loathing for having done so for so long, I have taken enormous pleasure in rediscovering myself.  Intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and sexually.  It's been a wild, wonderful ride.

Just weeks after the break up, I had the pleasure of studying with David and Shelley for the first time, two weeks of morning Mysore and pranayama.  The intensity of this experience felt very much like a gauntlet through which to pass in order to better understand the culture and the practice of Ashtanga -- baptism by tapas, if you will.  Those two weeks with Swenson burned through any lingering pain from the separation and put me more finely in tune with my self-abused body.  

But when I turned that attention inward, I found something amiss.  Swollen lymph nodes all over.  Night sweats.  Fatigue and chronic ketosis.  These symptoms sent me to seek a medical opinion, an opinion which turned out to be a potentially leveling blow:  it looked like the "C" word.  Cancer.  At age 25.  I spent weeks undergoing tests and an invasive biopsy, waiting and waiting and waiting for the final word.  During this interval between the first and last mention of the worst-case scenario, I fell into the most vivid, perceptually expansive state I have ever experienced.  It was a death meditation and it was bliss.  I glimpsed the moment of transition.  I felt the final breath and it felt more perfect than anything I have ever felt before.  I was changed.

Somehow so appropriately, just a matter of weeks after the announcement of a benign result, I returned to the feet of my teachers, humbled and scarred, but also emboldened by the peace that I had found.  Another three weeks of intensive study with David and Shelley in the company of many fine students and teachers enabled such extreme growth to take place that I am still processing the enormity of that experience.

And, as if that weren't enough for one year, just days after the completion of the Swenson intensive, I was fired.  For a variety of reasons, I suppose, but among them, my "intense energy" and my dedication to the tradition of Ashtanga while masquerading as a proponent of fitness-based Vinyasa flow.  It felt wrong and it was wrong.  But this not-entirely-unexpected turn of events really opened the flood gates.  I was consumed with creative passion.  I poured kerosene on every bridge I never wished to cross again and set them all ablaze, then set off into the uncharted territory deep within.  I haven't yet emerged from the densest of the brush, but I remain unscathed, and though this creative awakening has been painful, it has also been enriching and expansive.  It has softened the boundaries of my world and illumined the dark corners, revealing a depth of possibility as yet unseen.

The coming year holds a special promise, it beckons me to enter with a glint of unforgiving mischief in its eyes.  It humors me flirtatiously, ushering me in as if this passage were a matter of my choosing.  Though I am not fooled by this performance, I will be coy and play the game.  Not yet, 2012.  Not just yet...


  1. Loved reading about your year! I just discovered your blog recently so I feel like I got the "cliffs notes" of where you've been on this wild ride we call like. Loved when you said "Baptism by tapas"! I think we all have to go through that intense fire to be transformed. Here's to 2012! Namaste

  2. The Cliff's Notes, indeed. ;)

    Thanks for reading, G33k. Best of luck in the New Year!

  3. What an incredible year for you!! I can't believe you've only been practicing Ashtanga for a year and already you have gone through such crazy transformations. I hope your 2012 will be glorious!!!

  4. This is beautiful, and it's inspiring how much you've managed to track the ways in which you've changed. Hoping for all the best for you next year :-)

  5. The omens look good...Looking forward to reading what you share.

  6. Yyogini - It has been quite a year. And I never saw it coming. Thanks for the well-wishes. All the best to you in 2012!

    Anne - The writing has been a valuable tool and I am so grateful to my readers for all the support.

    Sereneflavor - Here's hoping the omens stay that way. Thanks for reading.

  7. Happy 2012.
    I've really enjoyed reading your blog these past few months. Very thoughtful and eloquent posts always. Sounds like you've been through quite a year. Ashtanga is some potent stuff - life changing indeed - to that I can certainly relate.
    Many blessings for a healthy and happy new year.