Sunday, September 15, 2013

Moscow Asana

     Moscow is welcoming me yet again with all the colors that the gray spectrum holds. Ranging from pale, barely noticeable smokey to ominous stormy gray. It is not warm, to put it mildly.
On Grey vs Gray ( for those, who constantly wonder like i do.
I start my day with a sweet anticipation of my first yoga class in Moscow. It is about an hour away from home i am staying in and i leave way earlier then i must to omit any possibility of tardiness. Needless to say i arrive an hour early. I enter the studio. I am greeted by an elderly woman the "administrator". She knows everything about running a studio, but not as much about the yoga itself. I think this division may aid in a more successful distribution of business aspect and the teaching of yoga. Isolating one from another, drawing a clear line, may be very helpful to teachers. Removing them from the need to collect and enforce the rules and leaving them to teach. I like.

The studio is in the basement, like most in Moscow (or so i have read). It is cozy and bright with one room dedicated to practice, 2 showers and 2 bathrooms, and a large closet for changing. The studio is called "Ashtanga Center of Moscow" but they teach various styles, hatha, vinyasa included. The classes are unusual for US 1 hour and 45 minutes. I prepare myself for "enduring" the length by abstaining from eating in the morning and mentally channeling my inner strength to be able to finish all the asanas without dying on minute 104.

A teacher walks in. He is a sturdy young man of about 30-35. Very focused and concise. So was his teaching. Not much was said during the class, except for the names of asanas and a discussion of an upcoming Turkey retreat. The beginning of the class was interesting with a couple of stretches that i have not learned or seen before, mostly joints, which i found very useful and will incorporate into my own practice, teaching. The "guruji" did not adjust at all nor did he offer an option. We OMed at the beginning of the class, but after Savasana, final relaxation. No "namaste" no nothing. Just fold your mat and go. I felt strangely interrupted from my usual gratitude for practice. Like i didnt have time to say thank you to the teacher and the students along side of me. Well, everyone is different, overall it was satisfying to learn something new and experience THIS particular style. I am still grateful.

In other news on Yoga and Asana.
Subway is just as good of a place as any to practice. When you spend about 5 hours collectively in public transport a day one has to adopt. One particular asana that stands out is Tadasana, or the Mountain Pose. One particular practice of Yoga that comes to mind is patience. While you are surrounded by coughing, pushing, screaming people, who while stepping on your feet cuss you out for not moving along,  there is no better time to learn how to breathe, exercise patience and compassion. Trust me. No BETTER WAY to do so as you are getting elbowed in your ribs during subway rush hour by someone in a crowd of people trying to squeeze the last capable body onto a train.
And yet again i am extremely grateful to my dad and his wife for allowing me the luxury and opportunity to take this trip. For my friends who have given me anything i needed including shelter, food, lots of hugs and smiles. Grateful for friends and family whom have supported me from home, reached out and waiting for me to return. I cant wait to come home, but my journey here is not over. Not even close. So lets move. Lets do. Lets succeed. Lets learn.
"Love is all you need"


Monday, September 2, 2013

Moscow Blues

The subway is a place of bugs life. Like the movie, but not quite as green and happy. Giant underground tunnels filled with people, herding together in an endless stream of fast moving mass. We are all separate here, we are all one. The illusion however is in the unity. Everyone is connected to the blackberry/iphone/smartphone/ipad loosing with each click any eye contact, any attempt at human interaction. Any potential to see yourself in your neighbor. Life is so fast here. Underground. I wonder if all the worlds subways feel the same way.

The weather in the most punctual of ways gives preference to autumn in Moscow. August 31st, sunny warmth surrounds the city. September first, like clockwork, i am under pouring rain, skies grey and unwelcoming crying a river down on me. I stand on the street and wait for a trolley. There are a couple of us, waiting rather patiently for the slow metal giant to come and rescue us. It comes 30 minutes later. My jeans, that use to be light blue, now are dark ocean color and soaking wet. An old lady to the right giving me an empathetic look, it doesn't help to dry the jeans but it sure helps to warm my soul. I am tired and slightly cranky. Every day i spend at least 1.5 hours in the subway each way from my moms hospital and back. If i detour somewhere, that adds another 2 hours. That is the life here if you are without a car. I start appreciating more and more the ways of the west. There is a positive. I can read. I am catching up on the literature that waited for my eyes for years on the dusty shelves of my Moscow apartment. As the subway stations zip by, so do the pages of the book.There is another positive. Every day the number of steps i take up and down the escalators, stairs, streets make my gluts - buns of steel.

It was the right decision to come back now. The situation would have really been difficult. At least now we have a fighting chance for "success".

I miss the one i love very much. I am hopeful, i am so hopeful that despite everything he will wait. I hope for the happy ending. I hope he hopes too, even if a little. Always.

I do my practice every day. Yoga and Asana keeps me alive and shuts out any doubt that my path, while difficult now, will be strong, prosperous, full of light and love. Hope for wisdom from this experience. Hope for wisdom from every experience! 

Just got a call from one of my moms "friends", with words of accusations for me. As if i haven't heard enough already. As if i am purposefully sabotaging her well being. I am trying to be compassionate towards people who are "NOT IN THE KNOW" at all and are dying to be helpfully critical? is that what i would call someone who is maliciously trying to "aid" without having the slightest idea of WHAT actually is going on and what the situation really is?! This is not the first blow in my direction, not the last from these "helpers", i just gotta keep strong and carry on. It is quite incredible though how people are so judgmental without having information that would remotely suffice for dumping their opinion onto others. I am guilty of such doing myself...but not recently...not for a while now. I HAVE gained that wisdom through my experiences. This time i am just uncomfortably surprised at some of human nature. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Practice

I am jumping slightly ahead with my exploration of Dhammapada, but i feel its important.    

   I woke up this morning at 1:37am. My heart pounding, my head filled with painful, jealous, hurtful images from a dream i just had, where love is taken away from me. I keep fighting for him, for his affections, for his heart, but he is slipping away to another. Powerless, restless, angry, scared i open my eyes wide. The ever full moon shining in the window. It seems like it has been hanging over the city for 3 days now, watching.  I cannot stop the anger. Angry at myself, angry at the other woman, the images, angry at this dream, angry at the moon. I start to breath and close my eyes trying desperately to slow down my heart rate, not working. I get up. Grab Dhammapada and open on the chapter of anger. The first line reads:

"Let a man leave anger, let him forsake pride, let him overcome all bondage! No suffering befall the man who is not attached to name and form, and who calls nothing his own."  - Dhammapada 221

How applicable. He is not mine to keep, to have, no one is. No one can or should be. By a virtue of being completely 100% human i have a real problem with abandoning attachment. It will take me potentially never to learn that lesson. A person is free to do whatever they please, the rule is that one should be not only mindful of themselves, but mindful of all her/his surroundings. This brings me to a passage of thoughtlessness. I only know what i know and therefore i speak for myself, but another rule that has never failed to be true in my life is that every thoughtless action brings pain. I am not talking about getting last minute concert tickets for twice the price because all my friends are going and I MUST make it. Although that hole in my wallet will speak to me later. I imply the thoughtlessness that comes from selfish motives. If and when i have exchanged a deeper look at the situation for what i thought was a "light hearten", careless, approach to living, the result was that i pained or made someone pain instead. The former is worst, because it inevitably, charges on the topic of guilt...But THAT is a chapter in itself.

"Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth." - Dhammapada 223

Back to anger and my early morning.
As i kept on reading slowly through the pages, my practice has begun. The yoga has begun. Since i no longer could focus on sleep i focused on the the words in front of me. They spoke to my restlessness. The text in front found a way to relieve this consuming anger inside and i started to melt back into the calm of the sheets. I decided to substitute every negative jealous thought i had with a feeling of suffering of another person, or people in my dream. I know that as i want happiness,  and as i think i deserve it, so does EVERYONE else. We are all united by the same search. Any action that is wrong or right is  directed towards attaining that "Happiness" however we may imagine it. (These are actually not my thoughts only. I am also paraphrasing from "The Art of Happiness", Howard. C Cutler, MD. A compilation of essays and conversations between him, a western psychiatrist and the 14th Dalai Lama). This may sound strangely simple, but i was angry no more. It is FAIR that everyone is trying their hardest to be happy, no matter what the means are.It is NOT always the RIGHT means. I am not of Machiavellian school of thought. I use the word "fair" because everyone deserves happiness, so it IS fair for everyone to try to be.This topic needs expansion, but i will wait on it.
With this last thought i decided that my immediate solution for "happiness" is to do a head stand, so i proceeded with that.  15 deep slow breaths brought my heart rate even lover, my eyelids got heavy and after coming down i crawled back into bed and drifted off to sleep.

I consider last night to be the first step of my life long practice of self control. Not because i have never exercised  restraining my restless thoughts before, but because this was a very conscious effort aided by the tools i discovered and knew would help. It sure felt like the first step though, because in the battle with my  at times overactive, imaginative, compulsive, scattered, untamed mind, i felt rusty. The good news is that i can only get better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dhammapada and a Couple of things...

"As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind." Dhammapada 13

"As rain does not break through a well-thatched house, passion will not break through a well-reflecting mind." Dhammapada 14

I never defined Dhammapada, even to myself. According to tradition, it is an ancient text that contains Buddhas' sayings through his life on different occasions and in diverse situations. The collection of this wisdom, Dhammapada, aims to make Buddhist way of life available to anyone and everyone. Hopefully including yours truly. This does not mean i am converting and the next time you see me i have shaved my head, robed up in yellow and burgundy and currently floating in the direction of Tibet . This means that I will make myself open, STOP and contemplate some very old words (3rd century Before Common Era)  from what seems to be a very wise source.

I have picked these verses today as a point for reflection. It is true for me. Passion in its ugliest form of hatred and anger arises from inability to understand another or yourself. I know only what i know and the way my passion has leaked, or should i say burst through my "ill-thatched dwelling" is from inability to calm the mind in the moment of rage, hurt, anger, pain. Lack of compassion for a person causing the pain even indirectly, potentially unknowingly doing so. I am guilty of such stalling to reflect truly on what the situation and my emotion really represents. Mostly it is rooted in fear i think. Many of my mistakes have been made out of fear. The name to that fear is loss of love. However the monster may present itself, either it be in loosing the love of a man I call the one, a love of a parent or friend, inevitably the result of acting out of fear for me has been the fear itself coming true. That formula in my life has not failed yet.

I have diverted from the original subject of "reflection" for a passage reflecting on "fear" :)

Dhammapada 14: As i am yet to gain more skill in the art of reflection, for me, what i believe is necessary to become a "well built house" is time. I say time, because when you begin learning the task, it usually takes longer to develop it where you unconsciously or automatically perform it. Or at least that stands true for me. As i said before, i only know what i know. So, i am taking time to learn how to reflect calmly in every situation life presents me with. A grand opportunity will come soon when i am going to travel back to the "Motherland" for a rather turbulent occasion.. I will report of my progress or digress.

Another, separate note. Today i was very thankful to receive a reaction to my blog entry dated Aug-20-13, from a person i take great interest in and admire, she is family. She has written me a long email sharing her life experiences and talking about the "IT". Yes, the "it" is what i have tried to find. The "it" to fix me, to be a solution and a universal formula that relieves pain and suffering in my world, my reality that i myself labor at daily. She told me that there IS no "IT" . She has shared with me that she believes life is a process. That "our" challenge is to learn to truly live in the present-soak up the beauty of the process. These words spoken by a woman, a layer, a yogi, a cancer survivor, my family, resonated deep in my heart. I have decided to try it. Commence the soaking now.

Another person worthy of admiration in my book. Fearless she is. Her and i have been friends for ages (as her British self would delicately put). There is another formula that has not failed in my life. In a time of great personal need, people that love you and know who you are somehow sense..and SHOW UP in whatever form, virtual, spiritual, physical. Her and i have been trying to get a "Skype date"  going for the past 3 weeks...and today, out of all the days, with no prior warning, here she was, lighting up my laptop screen and my soul. Experiences like THAT  are worth sharing. Happy experiences.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The beginning

        I sit in the kitchen of my dad's house. It is closer to midnight then not. The need for an emotional purging of sorts is bursting out of my chest and i just finished "resurrecting" my past entries and laying them down in the safety of cyberspace. Today was the first time i didn't practice in a week, but the night is still young. An entire morning and afternoon of my life today was spent on earthly duties of paying bills, renewing insurance, obtaining a PO box for my business, buying airline tickets, switching banks from the horrid, overgrown, money sucking conglomerate that is Bank of America, to a more "democratic" option of a union bank. In whole, things of very grounding nature, first chakra perhaps. The Root chakra.
You must start somewhere. Let me correct that..I MUST start somewhere. I must start here. At the base.

I am grateful. I am grateful for my papa and his second half. I have not felt this much support and i have not felt home or a sense of belonging for a long time. They have made me feel safe. I hope it will last, i hope i can manage all of the recent misfortunes with grace and come out better person, stronger spirit and kinder being. I also hope i will find my truth and  i will not spend time in delusion. I have done that before. I am guilty of that and i am endlessly sorry that in the process i have hurt deeply the once closest and dearest to my heart. I MUST learn.
          " They who imagine truth in untruth and see untruth in truth, never arrive at truth, but follow vain desires. They who know truth in truth, and untruth in untruth, arrive at truth, and follow true desires." Dhammapada 11

Two teacups of Matcha Green later and a book is opened..

Another point of self study/improvement of awareness is to notice that the only time i feel the need to express so profusely is when my soul and heart is in distress. I must learn how to commit to writing more when happiness is at my door, so i can share THAT experience as well.

Full moon tonight.