Summer indulgence: driving all the way across the city to practice with my alchemy teacher in a juicy, complicated space. Sixteen point zero miles in as many minutes—blasting blues rock on the freeway as the cylindrical US Bank Building and its lesser neighbors grow large in the opaque white smog of June. Singing something that wakes up the pelvic floor, I approach downtown from the west as the sun comes toward it from the east, infusing the fog until it glows bright in my eyes. It becomes near-blinding just as I touch the brake and swing north from the 10 to the 110 at the Staples Center. A pretty intense little kriya—why wake up with nauli when you can have sixteen dangerous minutes alone on the Santa Monica freeway?
So… time = distance, shala = kitchen floor, inhale = exhale. The balance of my mantra, SO ABOVE SO BELOW, also reminds me that nothing much is free. What you do = who you are. I do freeway penance in 36 minutes of slow-going on the other side, east to west, sixteen point zero miles of stop and go, listening to Iran news on BBC radio. East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet, until…
Practice is incredibly sweet. The space is full of symbols left wide open to interpretation: every time you lose your drsti there’s some other image in your grill, just asking to be incorporated in to the arbitrary symbolic lexicon. The giant photograph of a teenaged SPKJ taking adho mukha in shades of purple: I gaze blearily toward that inverted skull and let it pull 25 long ut pluthihi breaths out of my tired lungs.
Most subversive, though, is the ceiling devised by whatever perverted architects threw this mini-mall together decades ago. Beautiful crossbeams above the main space meet in a perfect X, and if you align your own body with that X you realize the great cylindrical ventilation duct just above it is nothing les than a shiny silver lingam to the strong white supports of the X. One might think Siva and Shakti were missing from the shala’s pantheon, but they’re only disguised as neutral background architecture, laughing down on us as we drift in and out of alchemy on the floor.