This morning I woke at 5:30 to go to Mysore practice in Salt Lake City. The drive is a little over a half hour, and I like to be awake for a bit before I head out. I use the time to prepare lunch and breakfast for my daughter, make sure she has clothes set out for the day, and remove a car seat to leave for the sitter. Throw in fresh-pressed coffee, a thirty-second shower and I’m finally ready to go at 6:30am.
My sitter is not.
In fact, she’s sound asleep, drowning in an ocean of comfy cozy bedding.
Can’t say I blame her. Here is the funny thing: I don’t mind. Well, sure I mind, but as I start my habitual “clearly-the-universe-hates-me” runaway train of thought ready to be unleashed through my bloodstream and out my fingertips in a flurry of texts to my husband and my ashtanga friends —
“I love getting up at 5:30 for nothing” —
I realize, as I start down that well-worn path of mental mayhem, that it doesn’t
Am I annoyed? Hell yes. But the debbie downer mental tirade I’ve composed in my head flies in the face of a more predominant sense of well-being. The cushy truth is this free day before me with plenty of time to practice at home — and by the way, I love my home practice. There is no tragedy here — save for the one I might create in my own mind. How rare is it, as a mother, to start the morning alone in peace and quiet?
I notice the absence: Where is the doomsday scenario spinning, lengthy bitchy tirade tidal wave, the “woe is me” Scarlett O’Hara-worthy drama, the “all is lost!” tears, whining, life-is-over-just-kill-me-now-please hyperbolic JM? Is she still asleep, too?
I get a little excited. Something is working! Something about this daily practice has laid bare a disconnect between what I am used to being and who I could be — or really am– and I caught it, in the moment. Praise Jesus, I’m cured!
“A student and a Zen master lived across the river from each other and they often discussed Buddhism. One day the student, whose name was Su Dongpo, felt inspired and wrote the following poem:
I bow my head to the heaven within heaven,
hairline rays illuminating the universe,
the eight winds cannot move me,
sitting still upon the purple lotus.
So here he is, and he is basically saying that he has attained a very high level of spirituality. He is no longer buffeted around by the eight winds. He is impressed with himself. Then he sends a servant to hand-carry this poem to the Zen Master across the river, Foyin. And when he reads the poem, Foyin immediately sees that it is a declaration of spiritual refinement. Smiling, the Zen Master wrote the word “fart” on the manuscript and had it returned to Su Dongpo.
So, Su Dongpo is there thinking he is pretty cool and expecting compliments and a seal of approval, and he sees the word “fart” and he gets really, really upset. “How dare he insult me like this, what a lousy old monk, he’s got a lot of explaining to do!” He gets his things together and, indignant, he rushes out of his house and he orders a boat to ferry him to the other side of the shore so he can set this guy straight. He wants an apology. However, Foyin’s door is closed, and on the door is a piece of paper for Su Dongpo. It says: “The eight winds cannot move me. One fart blows me across the river.”
I don’t know if I need to tell the moral of the story or not, but it was a turning point in Su Dongpo’s spiritual development and he became more of a man of humility.”
Look, there are so many moments in this daily practice to stop and see how I am falling short. So many moments of failed jumps into crow pose, so many little pit stops in the midst of that jump back, so many correct vinyasa nonstarters with all my music, held breaths, and — who am I kidding– expletives. So many moments where the anger rips into spoken words that cannot be taken back. So many moments of failure as a parent, partner, human. So many instances of beating myself up.
Allow me a moment to savor this breakthrough.
The lovely thing about practice is that it works. No matter how many self-limiting beliefs I have, eventually the practice breaks through. Eventually practice rears its head, like a seed sprouting above the dirt, a glimmer that flies in the face of the longstanding bullshit you’ve been shoveling all over yourself, your thoughts and your life for way too f*cking long.
And then I know– just like that moment when I felt where it would come from, deep inside my core, to float both legs at the same time into a headstand, just like that first time I started to feel what it might be like to lower into karandavasana: that is all it takes for the bullshit to unravel into the flimsy fodder it is– it’s only substance coming from me holding it up. In an instant, I know a change is gonna come. I might not reach it, but I know something different is possible, even if, for the moment, I remain likely to hurtle across the river, reach through the internet comment threads with my keyboard or yell at traffic — all over a single “fart.”
I practice being different (Sylvia Boorstein) — and suddenly I see myself, different. There is no graduation. But–
It’s a start.
Maybe the start of who I really am.
(Hopefully, not an asshole.)