Encinitas • 1 May 2013

S.S. Encinitas

If SKPJ were a blogger, he’d wave off all the Mysore chronicles and tell the story of your first trip on the south Indian mother ship in this sentence:

First month paining, second month tired, third month flying.

Encinitas this week felt like mobile Mysore – the jostling into and out of class, the two hour breakfasts, the living room floor laugh festivals every evening with my fictive ashtangi kin. One morning in conference, Sharath stopped while the Amtrak roared just behind the shala, setting off a car alarm. Then he dead panned: I feeel like I am in Innn-d-ia.

It is so odd to enter Mysore-style collective headspace while still on US soil.

But… there is something inimitably So-Cal about afternoon trips to the shot bar (like, they sell shots, for your bum, from a cocktail menu of vitamins and amino acids and sundry hangover cures), and about the quantity of kombucha and kale accumulating in my tissues.

I got wondering if a condensed version of SKPJ’s story applies when Sharath’s on tour: first day paining, second day tired, third day flying. This is because I was floored. Everything felt shockingly, stupidly hard. I’ve never had led intermediate be anything but fun, but I’ve also never jumped right into a week of it after a goddam dirga kala winter of teaching Mysore.

In a sense, it’s thrilling to see the tough side of intermediate series for the first time since the postures were new. It’s like the moment when a soft spoken friend grits his teeth and shows his backbone, because for once he’s encountered a battle that he’s gonna bother to fight. Complexity is intriguing. I like it that lovely, lilting mayurasana and his peacock feather friend do have one hell of an edge. Everything ached for 48 hours.

Then on Sunday, my grandfather died in Colorado. Ninety three and lucid enough to remember everyone’s birthdays and do his own taxes, thankyouverymuch, he told us he had no regrets and opted out early from a horrific six week prognosis. So intense, and peaceful. Emotion without drama. We should not have been surprised. I felt my father, in Montana, deflate into grief.

Sunday and Monday, my lungs, sinuses, eyes and center of the head went raw, hypersensitive to every thought and emotion… and also to direct transmission. My father, my father’s father, my teacher, my teacher’s teacher… the whole patriline got dissolved into one channel of constant awareness as I ached everywhere, and felt all chafed and bothered by existence, and kept the hell moving.

First day paining, second day paining.

Third day paining.

Fourth day flying.

Ashtanga is designed to turn us from talkers to doers. Talking about asana is for kids.

And really, talking about practice and about relationships with teachers is a dumb idea. It freezes habit patterns and moments of intimacy. Solidifies the ego’s perceptions. Mucks up the transmission. Makes everything about practice harder, and lonelier, than it oughta be.

But I relaxed the taboo on these things two years ago, because my practice is no longer just mine. It belongs to my students, albeit not to you. Speaking about practice activates my bullshit filter, because I feel the natural temptation to manufacture coherence, sharpen fuzziness, backslide into narrative, and otherwise lie my head off.

Interesting experience is bigger than words… so the move from practice to text is a reduction. The “smart yoga” movement tells me otherwise. Someone recently tossed out the Derrida canard, “there is nothing outside of the text.” Oh man. Honestly. Get a life. There is joy outside of the text.

I’d love to have words to talk about the flying, or about the series of patrilineal gut shudders as my grandfather faded out. But it is useless. Same for what it is like to sit, kumbhaka (not kombucha) buzzed, in a little circle with Sharath beneath a me-sized sepia photo of young SKPJ in mayurasana, chanting the names of the sages in the Shankaracharya line. There were also pre-practice walks on the beach below the gaudy gold lotus of the Self Realization Fellowship, the seedbud of Indian yoga in the west. And a constant feeling of being broken open from inside the center of the chest, to everything. Everything.

I will say that this whole Jois shala situation is as nice as it can be. Benign. Pretty. A little bit young and naive. And love is there. This scene is no threat to you, dear grassroots practitioner with your concerns about “commodification” and “elitism.” Relaaax. In case you didn’t get the memo, we are all in this together.

Eventually, everybody who keeps on practicing with real concentration gets a line on the awesome reality of pratyhara. And then on the surrender thing. And, from there, the ones who keep practicing get it through our thick skulls that we are all the same even though nothing stays the same. Billionaries and gurus and hippies are all just nobodies. Talk doesn’t help heal us when a patriarch dies; it is practice that works everything out.

27 Comments

  • Posted 1 May 2013 at 9:11 pm | #

    EVERYTHING you write makes me laugh, cry, spin, sink, breathe, and practice inspired. thank you

  • D
    Posted 1 May 2013 at 9:18 pm | #

    (1) My condolences to and your family.

    (2) “It is so odd to enter Mysore-style collective headspace while still on US soil.” — YES.

    (3) Text may be reductive of the actual experience most of the time, but this time, this post, it’s something else altogether.

  • Karen
    Posted 1 May 2013 at 9:50 pm | #

    Crystallizing practice/teacher experience via text is useful for a while. And then it falls away. xo

  • Jamie
    Posted 1 May 2013 at 10:16 pm | #

    This post made me happy. And sad. I’m sorry for the loss of your grandfather.

  • Posted 1 May 2013 at 10:48 pm | #

    My condolences to you for the passing of your grandfather.

    I love your description of Encinitas. Reinforces my belief that it is the place where good American yogis go after they die.

    Isn’t “smart yoga” an oxymoron?:-)

  • (OvO)
    Posted 1 May 2013 at 11:52 pm | #

    Nobel, yes!!! Having been a manufacturer of the “I have to carve out space for my smart identity within my yoga practice” agenda for a few years, I’m kinda done. Like, if we need yoga to be “smart,” there’s a whole path for that. Learn Sanskrit and study the texts. Jnana yoga.

    Also, you would love Encinitas. I do. When I was a grad student, every so often I’d blow off a day at campus and go down for Mysore and a day writing in the cafe.

    Jamie, thanks.

    Karen, I thought about you and considered that by now we’ve converged at place of similar feeling on this topic, with me saying more and you saying less. One of these days, maybe my text will be as free of reification and narrative smut as yours is. But it might take a full course of analysis and a degree and poetry. A couple more lifetimes yet. :)

    ayKim. Wow. Thank you, whoever you are.

    D, you too. Very much.

    • Posted 2 May 2013 at 1:11 am | #

      Actually, I was just in Encinitas a couple of months ago. I was in LA for Kino’s weekend workshop, following which I went down to Carlsbad (to practice at Tim’s) and to Encinitas for an afternoon. Here’s my blog post on that little pilgrimage:

      http://yogadragonden.blogspot.com/2013/03/carlsbad-and-encinitas-california.html

      RE: “Smart” Yoga. I also feel like I am starting to enter a space of doneness as far as being or sounding smart is concerned. Maybe that’s why I’ve been blogging less lately (i.e. don’t feel like blogging much about anything unless (i) it really happened to me or (ii) it’s really something that comes from my heart.

      • Karen
        Posted 2 May 2013 at 5:13 pm | #

        I am so over being smart. I just got home from a big board of directors meeting where I decided that instead of trying to be smart, I’d focus on being open/present. Even if it meant not being smart at all.

        It was *awesome* — I highly recommend it.

        • (OvO)
          Posted 6 May 2013 at 7:59 pm | #

          Love it.

          Nobel, by the looks of your May 2 post, you found the latest of the smart yoga movement. I say it’s a movement because versions of that vibe are starting to pop up sui generis all over the place. I get some of it here around Ann Arbor, and that’s actually the inspiration for my Derrida comment above. But it’s a whole reactive pattern now, a wave of counteraction to New Agey “anybody-can-be-a-yoga-teacher” yoga.

          “Yoga for smart people,” as a term, and as a forum (one that appears to feature white, female, graduate students in perhaps the most oppressed city in the country), just happens to be the most strong articulation of the notion so far. It is weird when people who study privilege and superiority structures are also obsessed with manufacturing the same.

          As a self-identified stupid person, I am offended!

          Kidding.

          Mostly.

  • E&SJ
    Posted 2 May 2013 at 12:59 am | #

    Hi A,
    My condolences to you and your family. Both Death and Taxes at 93 – how freaking far out is that? One can only hope to be muktified at the damn near century mark and to some degree on one’s own terms. You have a great boon in your telomeric genetic endowment and I am happy to know someone who is making the the absolute most of it (that’s you!).

    Verily, Encinitas is fantastic, of this there is no doubt. no matter the path. I spent some evo-devolutionary years in a few miles down the road in Solana. Such sweetness. I wish I could have been there but I am already now sliding down the other side of the mountain on another raja yoga path – or so it would appear.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 6 May 2013 at 8:10 pm | #

      Thank you, ESJ. This lifted my spirits.

      I will do my best in this life.

      XO

  • LIAshtangini
    Posted 2 May 2013 at 3:21 am | #

    <3

    Looking forward to seeing you very soon, when you will get a very big hug from a self-described non-hugger.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 6 May 2013 at 8:10 pm | #

      I can’t believe that’s happening, LIA. Thank you. I will be so happy to see you.

  • Posted 2 May 2013 at 3:57 am | #

    Dear Angie:
    Your grandfather was awesome. I hope I can be healthy like that.
    Hugs,
    Arturo

    • (OvO)
      Posted 6 May 2013 at 8:10 pm | #

      :-)

  • grimmly
    Posted 2 May 2013 at 5:14 am | #

    So sorry you lost your Grandfather, still miss mine terribly, twenty odd years on yet smile every time I try to peel and orange ( he always used to do it for me, I make a mess every time I try) or even SEE a tomato ( he used to secretly tie store bought ones on to a Runner bean plant then make me watch from the window as he would cut the string…I refused to eat any but this ‘home grown’ variety). Grandfather’s are the best and my wife Misa never knew either of her’s we both find that pretty sad ( she never met mine either sadly but will listen to stories for hours). 93 and lucid, that’ll do for me…..come to think of it forty- nine and lucid would be OK too. Love

  • (OvO)
    Posted 6 May 2013 at 8:17 pm | #

    Oh man! Cute grandpa you had. I actually like hearing that you still miss him 20 years on.

    The funeral on Friday in Colorado Springs was pretty amazing. Maybe 150-250 people… get one of them crying and the whole church goes to pieces. My dad pretty well sobbed through the collective hymnal singing, then gave up and delivered what (being not a fan of his preaching in my younger years) I can only describe as the sermon of a lifetime. I didn’t expect us all to get that much of a rite of passage, but the service itself was weirdly healing, even though modern tomb (mausoleum) burial is macabre.

    XO

  • Fran
    Posted 9 May 2013 at 10:42 am | #

    This, yes: And a constant feeling of being broken open from inside the center of the chest, to everything. Everything.

    And so much more. Amazing post, my friend.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 11 June 2013 at 8:52 pm | #

      XO

  • Posted 11 May 2013 at 7:30 am | #

    I haven’t been to either place but certainly hope to go to one or both as soon as possible. After going through periods of grass roots mentality and asana chatter and manufacturing myself a lot, and who knows, maybe I’m still there or just cycling through all of these things to land back there again as I am wont to do with my bad habits, all I really want is to just go and practice. There is no decision to be made. Also, I really see the correctness in your words on blogging – both here, and in a couple of previous posts you have written. I had to sit with those words for a while after they stunned me into recognition a couple of months ago.

    I love the post and my best wishes to you and your family. Your writing is wonderful – don’t get mad; I don’t mean at all to suggest you are “smart.” ;) Take care.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 11 June 2013 at 8:54 pm | #

      Dear Kristen,

      Thank you for your best wishes for our family. It has been an intense couple of months, but ease is coming.

      Thank you, moreover, for this comment about your relationship with practice. I’m so glad that you’ve cultivated such a big soft spot, and that somehow this post was able to land within it.

      Much love to you.

  • Posted 13 May 2013 at 5:23 pm | #

    A death that takes only a paragraph to describe, and to describe in such a haltingly beautiful way, must have been a “good” death. Owl. May each of us have such quiet homage. May we learn what to opt in for and what to opt out of.

    Your grace much appreciated here in Brooklyn, where I am eating Nettles and popcorn for lunch, flying.

    With heart,
    SARA

    • (OvO)
      Posted 11 June 2013 at 8:55 pm | #

      Hoot hoot!

  • s
    Posted 14 May 2013 at 3:46 am | #

    I am a generation older. My father is 93. I struggle to support him, and my kids who are climbing on, hanging on by their fingernails, to the edges of adulthood. here in the middle I just try to practice and be there for everyone without drowning in their sorrows with them. I just try to live. Blessings and good wishes as you carry your grandfatther forward with you. That is all any of us parents could want .

    • (OvO)
      Posted 11 June 2013 at 8:54 pm | #

      Thank you, S. All the best to your family as well.

  • Posted 18 May 2013 at 4:08 pm | #

    Can I beyond highly recommend the book “Being WIth Dying” by Roshi Joan Halifax?

    • (OvO)
      Posted 11 June 2013 at 8:55 pm | #

      check ;)

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