They say there’s beauty in chaos.
When some people look at a Jackson Pollock work, they see pandemonium. It might seem like a turbulent, splattered mess of paint. It might even throw off your equilibrium.
Just think what a great ad it would make for a yoga studio:
“Two Weeks Of Unlimited Yoga! Come Untangle Your Hideous Guts For Only $25!”
I find it weirdly comforting, this abstract expression of mental instability, overwhelming fear, sadness and alcoholism (all of which I’ve experienced). It’s a dance with the devil, a sexy mess of paint and emotions run amok and pain (also been there, without the paint). It’s mass hysteria.
There’s honesty there. And the truth can break your heart, more so than a photo of a hot yoga chick posing on a desert rock while the warm wind is giving lift to layers of bedazzled chiffon. Those photos are gorgeous, but I just can’t relate… I’m pretty much never in Visvamitrasana (Flying Warrior) in a pasture, with a majestic sky behind me. At sunrise. Hair flowing, like a river.
It just ain’t that pretty sometimes.
We all have a dark side. Mine has the song from The Silence Of The Lambs on a loop, the one that plays when Buffalo Bill dresses up, puts makeup on and does a freakish, coquettish dance with his cock tucked in.
The power of yoga can be just as intense and earth shaking, like a nervous breakdown. It comes in like a lion, roaring it’s head off, resistant, over-caffeinated and on the war path toward some Advil and an epsom salt bath after too many Chaturangas.
It’s more than being able to bend down and touch your toes. It’s better than a boatful of chocolate, and it rules the school, like a Pink Lady. It’s cunning, in a good way. It’ll break your neuroses down, kick ’em around like a hacky sack and it’ll build you back up. And in that vulnerable space in between, that’s when things really start to get interesting.
At first, you’re thinking: why am I so oversensitive lately? What is going on here? I thought yoga was supposed to be funner…can’t I just get high?
Before long: This sucks! Where did I go wrong in life?
And right before the breakthrough: Fuck! I hate doing stuff that’s good for me! How late is that hot dog truck outside open?
But there’s a method to the madness. Yoga will incessantly nag you and nag you and nag you, until you realize you’re happier, more connected to others and less of a maniacal, self-centered freak. After a lifetime of always being on the outside looking in, I can tell you that before long, if you stick with your practice, something starts to shift.
It can be subtle. Picture yourself on your mat, breathing and sweating your ass off for an hour and half. By the time you’re in Pigeon, you’re bowing your head down toward something you really don’t understand, but you know it’s there, inside and all around. Somewhere, in a place between heaven and earth, there’s a sweet ocean of liquid light moving with you and through you. Beckoned by the moon, that ocean tide rises and falls and tangos with the watery gods. And yoga goes out like a lamb.
The pose is never just a pose, just like it’s not just paint drippings, now is it? There’s always a bigger picture.
Ask anyone who’s taken a Rorschach test, or has been in a deep conversation with my two best friends, both of whom have psychology degrees.
There are those awful parts inside all of us that are probably much better off buried in an unmarked grave, where those fuckers belong. Sometimes it’s just too scary and confrontational to deal with. Cry over it, shake your fist in the air, have a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. And in the end, embrace it. There’s nothing to be afraid of, really. Look up. There’s a spectacular view from that precarious perch where you can let yourself fall apart, and ultimately find yourself.
I remember the words of my teacher: practice no matter what.
Today in class, when we were in Urdhva Dhanurasana, the big daddy of all heart openers, it happened. I came down, and put my hand on the silver bone-shaped dog tag that hangs around my neck, the one engraved on one side with the name Shamus and a phone number on the other. My boxer dog was wearing it a week ago while he was being put to sleep. And I thought about my life.
It was only a moment or two, but in that space, I felt the shift.
In 2006, Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948 sold for $140,000,000. Count the zeros. That makes it the most expensive painting in the world. Damn, it pays to let it all bleed.
It’s almost New Year’s. Let go of regret and all those bad decisions. Be vulnerable, get down and get dirty. Don’t worry, the practice will pick you up and put you back together. There’s real, unshakable love out there. Tell the people in your life how much you love them. Go crazy, run through the sprinklers, laugh like a maniac and be willing to make mistakes, tons of them.
That’s what makes the masterpiece.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise