February 28, 2014

Brightening Your Practice. ~ Jenine Durland

sunset dance

Sprinkle in a little spice: booty-shakin’ or chanting Sanskrit will do.

My yoga teacher just walked by my mat singing, “Well, shit, it was 99 cents!” as Macklemore’s Thriftshop cranks into the studio. I’m shaking my ass in upward dog, my chest swaying side to side.

“Think about ways you can brighten your practice,” Pete says before the soundtrack switches and I can’t avoid just a little poppin’ and lockin’ as Michael Jackson fills the room. I bend into sun salutations, singing like no one’s listening when the chorus hits.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror—ooh yahI’m asking him to change his waysyahAnd no message is gonna make any difference…. If you wanna make the world a bet-ter place, take a look at yourself and then make a… CHANGE!”  

(It’s worth noting that you should never trust anyone who doesn’t love Michael Jackson. And when you feel your own faith slipping, just watch this. Remember that the world we live in once worshiped a man who moonwalked and believed that love could save us. I try not to dwell on where things went wrong…)

Here’s the thing about today. After three weeks of writing and grieving and starting over, all the sudden there’s been a shift and I’m no longer writing about one day, but rather I’m writing about a feeling, and that feeling—for the first time in what feels like forever—is a lasting brightness. And now that I’ve got the goodness, it’s like a flashlight is reaching back into the last week, lighting up particular moments that I’d let sink. Not that I should get cocky or anything—I’ve learned enough to know that tomorrow is a total crap-shoot, so I’m just trying to enjoy it.

It started this morning. For the first time in months, I slept in, skipping my ritual Sunday ‘yoga-church’ in the city, not because I was too lazy to get up, but because I felt that I didn’t need it. Lying there in bed, looking out at the sun streaking across the tops of the neighbors pine trees, I spoke into the quiet of my room, saying:

You’re going to be okay, whatever you do today.

And all I really wanted was to read the book I started Friday night; take it into the bath and hold it above my floating head until my toes turn to prunes. And to take Myla to the dog park, where there would be a thousand people and she could be social and I could walk in the sun and drink my tea, anonymous and yet amongst it all. And so I did.

And then I went shopping; going all out at my sweet little farmers market, wandering around the stands to the backdrop of a string quartet. I splurged on the most delicious Himalayan Tandoori chicken plate—with lentils and brown rice covered in a cilantro spice sauce that I couldn’t quite place—stargazer lilies, ciabatta, a dozen happy chicken eggs, chard and carrots and pink lady apples, and finally an almond croissant. I walked back to the car with the flowers under my nose.

Once home, I go a little crazy with the cleaning, spending an hour and a half sucking dog hair out of the car, digging through and discarding a year’s worth of bags from under the kitchen sink, doing dishes, putting away my laundry, planting chard and mesculin seeds, cutting and pulling long pieces of hair off the vacuum brush roll when it inevitably gave out. I threw leftover cupcakes into the compost, which I also pulled back out, all before driving the dog up to my favorite running loop—a trail by the steam trains that I hadn’t visited in weeks. I smiled into the 59 degree sunshine, thinking of my friends freezing everywhere else in the world, feeling an intense flash of gratefulness as I flew into the woods.

Hours later, I’d wind up in an empty yoga studio flocked by acrylic peacocks painted on the walls, with a thermos of tea and my book. I’d brought my sitting pillows from home and was reading by the light of a lotus flower lamp when the Kirtan singer came in and started smudging the space. Over the next twenty minutes, a small group gathered on the blankets and bolsters she had laid out up front.

“Kirtan is a form of devotional call and response,” the woman explained from her place below the Ganesh statue when the gathering got underway. “It is the language of love,” she said, “honoring the light that is in all of us.”

Over the next two hours, I closed my eyes, singing Sanskrit with one hand on my heart and the other shaking an egg filled with rice, in a room resonating with beautiful music. I didn’t care what my voice sounded like or what anyone else might’ve thought—even the men who sat down next to me, smiling.

I rocked back and forth on my pillow, my mind overruled by breath, my body vibrating. I felt the resonance in my bones. How is it possible, I wondered, that I’ve waited this long to feel this… like a hot air balloon filling my chest with breath.

The Sufi poet Hafiz writes,

“Build a house for men and birds. Sit with
them and play music.

For a day, for just one day, talk about that
which disturbs no one

And bring some peace, my friend, into your
beautiful eyes.”

Turns out sleeping in was the best thing I could’ve done on a Sunday.


Hafiz poems and excerpts are from Daniel Ladinsky’s  Penguin publications The Gift, Poems by Hafiz © copyright 1999, and I Heard God Laughing, Poems of Hope and Joy © copyright 1996 & 2006. Reprinted by permission of the author.


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