Thoughtful ThursdaySomething new has been happening to me during yoga. Sometimes during shavasana, sometimes in the middle of a more active pose. One thing that’s new is that I’ve recently been able to turn my mind off and just be. The other new thing is that once my mind is blank, I’m suddenly transported to another place in my mind’s eye. I don’t try to conjure anything; I just let the images float into my mind.

The first time it was the new age store near my mother’s house; I went there one time, in 1993.

Then there was the hotel room where I stayed that time I went to Detroit, also in the mid-90s. There was nothing special about that hotel room (and, come to think of it, nothing interesting about that trip to Detroit, unless you count the biker bar which sounds more interesting than it actually was).

Another time it was the outside of the convenience store next to my mother’s assisted living center. I never went into that store, but I spent a lot of time trying and failing to convince my mother not to go there, since she kept buying food that she wasn’t supposed to be eating.

Today, I was transported back to 2007, when I traveled to Meteora.

Meteora

From a yoga perspective, I don’t judge. I just take the images as they come, and let them float away. From a non-yoga perspective I have to say that Meteora is a lot better than Detroit.

Do you ever travel anywhere in your mind’s eye, either voluntarily or involuntarily?

Thoughtful ThursdayFirst, an explanation of last week’s blog title: It comes from one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches. It aired my freshman year of high school. I didn’t even know anything about sports, but I enjoyed the punditry of George F. Will, philosophy, and fish-out-of-water humor.

Something else sticks out about Thanksgiving aside from the Gravy Incident. The husband of the gravy lady, i.e. the stepfather of the hostess, came up to my husband after the meal and said:

Your wife is reeeeally reeeeeally…

As my husband recounted the conversation to me at home, before he finished the sentence, my mind filled with possibilities. Pretty? Nah, no one has declared that in years. Busty? Maybe. Devoted to her children? Quite possibly. A fan of dessert? Always. Thirsty for gravy? Not intentionally.

I have other attributes, like being helpful or conscientious, that are rather dominant in my personality but which don’t necessarily come across when first meeting someone. What could it be?

…smart.

Oh. Of course that’s what it was. That is my #1 first impression for almost everyone (sometimes they say “cerebral”), but I was surprised in this case as I didn’t think I said anything that evening that required much intelligence. No work talk. No discussion of the impact of cobalt on glaze chemistry. No being or becoming. No need for encyclopedic knowledge of SNL sketches from the 1980s. But still, smart was the impression I conveyed.

If I go around that Thanksgiving table and declare my main impression of the people I met that night, the adults were: Warm. Funny. Kind. Quiet. Jovial. Bitter. Gentle. Brash. Into sex (ahem, TMI at Thanksgiving). Chill. Wise. Genuine.

Some of those might be nice, but they’re not me. I’m happy with Smart.

Fill in the blank: Someone who meets you for the first time would say that you are really, really _________.

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the January Intelligentsia.

#39: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#33: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#32: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#31: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#21: St. Elsewhere
#19: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Cat
#14: Sara from Aryanhwy
#3: Mina from Kmina’s Blog

Thoughtful ThursdaySeveral times over the past couple of weeks, Intelligentsia Member Ana has blogged about the push-pull between trying to change yourself and resolving to just get through the day, accepting yourself as you are. This tension has become particularly relevant to me lately too, given my recent illness (which, by the way, now has a diagnosis, and since some of you have been asking, thanks, I am now better than I was but by no means fully functional).

Normally, I am someone who loves to challenge myself. In pottery, instead of working on things that I already know how to do, I constantly push myself with new techniques, new shapes, new sizes. I chose a career that involves constant mental stimulation, and even more than most in my field, I seek to learn new things and master new sub-areas. A couple of weeks before I got sick, I decided that I would soon undertake a new fitness regimen; deeming yoga too easy, I decided that I should take up Pilates.

I think that was the moment when the Universe said, “Hey now, yoga is too easy? Are you sure? Let’s see about that.”

Right now even with all of the medications, I can’t do a downward dog for more than a few seconds before my wrists give out. Meanwhile the students around me, most of whom are in their 60s and 70s because I am only taking the “gentle” and “slow” and “therapeutic” classes, stay upright the whole time. It’s not a competition, I know that, but if a 70 year old woman with a full cast on her arm held a pose long after you’d flopped to the ground, you’d make comparisons too.

Competitiveness aside, or perhaps because of that competitiveness, it turns out that yoga is exactly what I need right now. The first yoga class I took after my initial recovery from being unable to walk or do anything with my arms really cemented this fact. The class focused on Moon Salutations. I’ve done yoga hundreds of times over the years, and almost every class has focused on Sun Salutations. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as Moon Salutations. The teacher talked about how even in yoga people are typically trying to push push push, and that on this day we’d do something else. How most exercise is about compression, and that we were trying to expand. Most yoga focuses on yang, but that day we accepted the yin.

Yin, that’s what I need.

Perhaps if there’s anything good to come out of this illness, it is yin. There is still room in my life to work on becoming, which is my natural state, but now I get to practice just being. Not just during yoga, but in my daily life: accepting limitations, slowing down, taking a literal and figurative breath.

I have blogged many, many, many, many, many times about zen non-attachment as it pertains to pottery. I’m quite good at yin when it involves a breach in yang. I’m not so good at yin for its own sake, yet. And yes I realize that trying to improve on yin is in itself not yin. I can’t turn off yang entirely; I can’t stop being me. But maybe now I’ll find a little more balance.

How is your balance between yin and yang, between slow and fast, between accepting and pushing, between being and becoming?

P.S. Big big points to anyone who gets the reference in the title of the blog post without Googling.

2013

January 1, 2013

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Foresters