Sunday, September 25, 2011

Without a Doubt

I used to agonize over decisions.  I'd rather see one clear course of action than two possibilities that both looked good.  Never mind choosing between a rock and a hard place; I'd be stressed out if I had to choose between a water mattress and a feather bed.  Two great internship opportunities?  Two suitable apartments available on Craigslist?  Two careers to choose between?!  In that last example (which refers to grad school vs. yoga, by the way) it only took me two years to figure my shit out, and I worried about it the whole time.

Before I went to teacher training, I hadn't even decided what I would do with myself when I got my certificate.  I knew that I wanted to teach full-time, but when, where, and how?  Should I stay in Santa Barbara and try to make it work as a California yogi, driving up and down the coast to different studios, popping in to see Bikram on Saturday mornings, trying to convince other teachers in Santa Barbara that they really ought to have a look at that dialogue?  Should I go overseas?  Should I pull up roots and make a fresh start?  What should I do?

And then one day, I woke up and realized that I knew the answer.  Of course I was going to move.  I was going to find a studio owner who I trusted and move to wherever she happened to live.  Of course.  There was never a question.

Three months later, Baltimore.  Decide what to be, and go be it.

Since then, I haven't really had trouble making big decisions.

You know how, when you are trying to make a tough decision, people tell you that you should "sleep on it"?  That's pretty great advice.  When you sleep, your subconscious does its best thinking.  With your conscious mind out of the way, your brain pulls apart strands of information, rewires the data, and makes new connections.  If you ever take a look at the science of sleep and dreams, it's incredible how much activity your brain accomplishes when you are drooling onto your pillow.  Your subconscious is smart as hell and it can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you if you give it a chance.

But when I'm trying to make a decision these days, I don't sleep on it.  I practice on it.

This works.

Sometimes, the best way to find an answer just this: get in a hot room, listen to someone else's voice for 90 minutes, sweat your brains out, balance, stretch, and twist.  Do this until you've completely forgotten the question.  By the time you remember what your question was, you'll already know the answer.

In the yoga room, the right way is the hard way.  In life, not always.  I think that the "right way" is usually just the way that feels right.  The right decision is the one that makes you feel peaceful and happy.  When you can get your mind to settle down and step out of the way, it's simple to notice how you feel and figure out what that tells you.

It also helps to understand that there are no mistakes, not really.  Even if there are two roads diverging in a wood, who can say that they won't come back to the same place?  Maybe one of them is just the scenic route.

Or as it says in my beloved little Zen cookbook:

Everything is leading you, pushing you,
instructing you, bugging you to supreme,
perfect enlightenment.  This means
there are no mistakes.  You might do it
differently next time, but that's because
you did it this way this time.

I paraphrased from this in my yoga class this morning, because I really love it.  It reminds me of that bit in How Yoga Works when the girl teacher says that, in order to do a yoga pose right, you first have to do it a thousand times slightly wrong (though not if your teacher has already corrected you).  It's all part of - dare I say it? - the process.  Doubt has nothing to do with it.

You already know what to do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Planet Bikram

Just in case you missed this...

I was reading the news online yesterday (at the crack of dawn while I was waiting for my 6am students to show up) and I saw an arresting article from the UK Telegraph.

It appears that astronomers have discovered a second planet that is in the right zone to support life.  (The first was discovered in 2007.)  It's in what they call the "Goldilocks zone" - not too hot and not too cold for the presence of liquid water, which is a prerequisite for life as we know it.

"But," the article says, "its hot sticky conditions mean it would be likely to feel like a steam bath and an uncomfortable place for humans."  The temperatures range from 85 - 120F and the air is humid.

Holy crap.


Forget about the 747 taking off - we need to commandeer a space ship and go colonize ourselves a planet!  Unfortunately it's 35 light years away, so it's gonna take us some time to get there, but at least yogis are patient.  Right?

The planet is also more massive than Earth, so any life forms would probably be "shorter and squatter."  Bikram is not a tall guy.  Insert your own joke here.

Yay for Planet Bikram.  I'm so delighted.

Full article is here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chance in a Million

Here is a strange but true story.

I spent the end of August and beginning of September guest-teaching at the lovely new Ocean State Bikram Yoga in Providence, Rhode Island.  I taught plenty of classes, had a great visit with Diane up in Massachusetts, went to the Salisbury Reservation with Teri, went to the Horseneck Reservation by myself, and spent "hurricane day" watching three consecutive Harry Potter movies with a fellow yoga teacher.  It was a great visit.

I drove back to Baltimore on Tuesday and it rained.  The whole way.  (In fact, several days later it is still raining and there's some sort of "flood watch.")

It sucked.

But!  There was a bright spot in the middle of that shitty 9 hour drive.

As I was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike (in a light drizzle, rather than a torrential downpour), in the middle lane, minding my own business, the car in the left hand lane started swerving into the center as if he was going to cut me off.  Thinking "this fucking idiot is trying to kill me," I beeped my horn several times to say "hey! I'm driving here, don't kill me."  The car keeps swerving over and I keep beeping my horn.  As the car pulls ahead to pass me, I look over to see the driver waving his hand in the air and grinning at me like a lunatic.


It was somebody I knew.  A friend of mine from Los Angeles who works at the Bikram Yoga Headquarters and helps out with the teacher trainings.  His name is Balwan, and in addition to being an utter fucking lunatic, he is a good friend of mine.

Who - did I mention? - lives in LA, and therefore had NO business driving around the Jersey Turnpike in a car with Pennsylvania plates at 2pm on a Tuesday.

So anyway, Balwan passes me and pulls into the center lane.  I switch lanes and drive past HIM to make sure my eyes haven't deceived me.  Sure enough, I look over as I pass and there is Balwan.  Waving and grinning.  I grinned and waved back, and finished passing him.  Then he came by and passed me again.  (More waving.)  We repeated this duet several times.

Then I reached for my cell phone and called his number.  He picked up right away.

"What the fuck are you doing here?!"

"Juliana!!  We should stop for a second!"

"I thought you were some asshole who was trying to kill me!"

"Yes!  I had to get your attention!"

Sigh.  "What are you doing here??"

"Oh!  Ah - we should stop for a second!"

Okay, okay.  I wanted to stop at one of the service stations, but those are few and far between, and Balwan (having come to New Jersey from India by way of Beverly Hills) does not really understand about toll roads.  So we ended up exiting the turnpike, paying the toll, and driving to the nearest gas station we could find.



We had a big hug in the rain and went into the gas station to talk for a second.  I couldn't really stay, since I had to teach a class at 5:00, but neither could he, since he had a flight out of Philly at 4:30.  (It was already like 2:00.)

Make long story short, Balwan was visiting a friend in Philadelphia for two days.  While he was on the east coast, he decided to go up to teach at class at the Bikram studio in New Haven, Connecticut.  Then he had to drive back down to catch his plane.  So while I was driving from Rhode Island to Maryland, he was driving from Connecticut to Pennsylvania.

I asked him if he had recognized me by my car (which is the same one that I drove in California) or by my bumper sticker (which says Bikram Yoga for You/ 26 + 2).

"Bumper sticker?  Oh!  No - mm - when I am driving, I will look to the side to see who is in the cars, and I looked and saw that it was you!"


"I could not believe.  I had to drive past several times to be sure."

"And then you tried to kill me."

"Yes!  Mm - I had to get your attention!"

"I can't believe you saw me."

"I cannot believe either!  You know, in India things like this would happen sometimes, but in United States, this never happened to me before."

Several traffic lights, one U-turn, and one tollbooth later, we were both back on the Turnpike and Balwan zipped past me at about 85 miles an hour so that he would catch his flight.  (Who taught him driving, Bikram?)  I can only assume that he made it, since this was the last that I heard of him.  I will have to ask him when I see him at the training in October.

The life of a yogi....