The Natives Are Restless • 23 September 2007

Ruth: [hearing chanting] What's that?
Dr. Moreau: The natives, they have a curious ceremony…
Ruth: Tell us about it, Edward.
Edward: Oh, it's… it's nothing.
Dr. Moreau: They are restless tonight.

                                                         Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Yeah, the natives are restless. Phone calls. Email.

Politics. Or, as they say, shalatics. Schedule changes. All these teachers, all these studios: and nobody can manage to offer an even vaguely consistent schedule. Woah! Trouble in OCD land!

Seriously, though. The amount of schedule drama in this scene is stupid. The best I can do is get an annual pass at one place and just take it for granted that that's where my mat lives, come what may.

Here is my situation. Around the time the Iraq War began, I made a decision not to commute. It’s about gas consumption, and about family time. Also (let’s be honest): the fact that I don’t suffer bad drivers at all well. So: my yoga practice, and what there is of a weekday social life, live on the Westside. So it is. Gives me a chance to defend this zone to the hipsters.

I made a choice at the beginning to see west side yoga as a land of plenty. This was a way of choosing not to see it as ground zero of yoga politics. Of course it’s both: land of plenty and land of politics. Plenty generates as much politics as scarcity ever did.

I’m a student of politics and a lover of the tiniest details of interpersonal stories (it’s always being suggested that I write an ethnography book on this scene—and sometimes I like the idea, though thank god I’m not trying to pass off such total nonsense as a dissertation), so while making that choice up front saved me a lot of distraction, it also meant sacrificing a few excitingly gossipy potential friendships. Walking out of the ladies’ when I had one too many good things to add; shrugging like I didn’t have an opinion when really I did. Not asking the crucial little questions I knew would open floodgates. Letting stories stop with me even though passing them on would be an interesting experiment. On the surface, sometimes it’s been a drag.

Funny thing, though. Over time, I’ve found that acting like I don’t have an opinion on shalatics means to a large degree I actually don’t have an opinion. (Completely revolutionary finding.) And the process is self-reinforcing: the less I appear to care about shalatics, the less interesting I am to talk to about them. The less I know. The less I harbor opinions. The more I love to practice. &c.

Putting together a practice in this town gets difficult if you’re a divider, a person who has some teachers and other practitioners with whom you're just not ok. If you are, well, a hater. Or just afraid. Practicing hyperexclusivity makes you take yourself more and more seriously, and can make for a  spiral of self-isolation.

Then the voices in your head become deafening.

Yoga can make you so inflexible.

The shalatics have been so prominent recently that I’m getting sucked in. Gezus. My job is to take the best out of any teacher (myself included), any circumstance. Yet I have less ease in extending that attitude to a certain large corporation. When something actually gets under my skin, I see there are still traces of a political creature capable of getting stirred up and involved in it. At this gets so, so in the way of having practice as a refuge or as a time I set aside to be content and grateful.

Ah, well.