I haven’t been practicing lately. I haven’t even been meditating. In fact, I went through a few weeks where I got really jaded about yoga, and scoffed, and said, “What good is this yoga crap anyways?”
I see your schadenfreudic grin. Yes, I’ll have you know (as anyone knows who’s been through yoga hate can attest), my life fell to complete, introverted shit, as I went around chasing immediate gratification in a big jumble-up where I confused satisfaction with happiness.
Well, not entirely shit. But I saw it as such. And more important than how good or bad our life actually is, is how we see it—because if we can read this and think our lives are bad, we might just be taking how good our lives are for granted. Forget about am I rich, do I like my job or am I even employed, am I going out, do I have friends; am I happy? No amount of sex or food or work or money or friends or sunny days will ever satisfy one for the rest of their life, so we have to look past that, and ask:
Am. I. Happy?
I had a dream last night. The news was reporting that there was a famous yogi who had come to town, and he was running what we would call a workshop; a temporary installation for people to try out his life-changing breathing technique. It was a giant, glass tank of water, aboveground, the size of a city block. Ten stories of water filled this glass box—so there’s no way anyone’s reaching bottom. Over the glass box was, suspended by a crane, a group bungee apparatus, so up to four people could bungee simultaneously into the water, where they would bounce up and down, into and out of the water.
The news showed these montages of groups of people screaming (as people do) as they freefell into the water, where tension in the cord gathered as they drifted for long seconds, dreamlike (because screw physics; this is a dream), until they were slingshot back into the air, whereupon—the moment they had the air to do so—they began screaming again. And riding atop these groups of people like they were his magic carpet was that guru, grinning mad all the while, as if to say, “See?! Do you get it?!”
I often answer people who ask me how I’m doing (especially lately) with “up and down.” And, truly, this year has been up and down; I moved out of my apartment and rejoined the ranks of the unemployed only to lose my unemployment—I moved back in with my father and became the poster child of the Millennial generation. I restarted this blog. I’ve been published several times for different publications, and my work has received profound and powerful feedback, which I constantly take for granted. I fell in love with cycling, and have been riding up to ten or more miles a day for I don’t even remember the last day I haven’t done so. I discovered that I love pickled beets and homegrown tomatoes, and hate dogs that chase me well past the boundaries of their yards into the street. I went on a crazy voodoo journey and fell asleep on the L train, and managed to not have anything stolen in either case. I had a beautiful, yet short romance with an incredible woman. I’ve been at my highest and my lowest. That’s…probably true of every one of us. Every year.
During my ups, while I’ve been flying, I was one of the people on that bungee, screaming either at the joy of life or because of my petrifying fear of falling. And so when I’ve been at my lows, underwater, I’ve had no air. My deepest, darkest fear is being without air to breathe; it goes back to an accident on a playground during my very early childhood.
One of the men the dream news showed in these montages was a yogi himself, and you could see him gently breathing out when his group was underwater, and gently breathing in when in the air. He was in perfect control of his faculties, even when the world around him dictated how he breathed. In the midst of the roller coaster of life, the ups and the downs, he never panicked. His eyes were gently closed, but one got the notion that he was, as my teacher often said, “Smiling behind his eyes,” a mysterious smile that others have branded iconic of yogis. He “got it,” whilst everyone else doing the bungee did it for the novelty or the thrill or because they thought they would magically understand without any effort on their own part.
If I’m to believe anything about dream psychology, that yogi’s within me; not just the one bouncing up and down but the one building glass boxes and inviting people to jump. While I’ve been a montage of screaming idiots for this past year if not for the entirety of my life up to this moment, I know we all have those gurus within ourselves. That’s what makes us fledgeling yogis.
These past few weeks have been down, there’s no sugar coating that. But being down creates tension, and by tension, we rise. The yogi is the one who smiles behind their eyes through both. I don’t think I’ve got it all figured out yet, not by a longshot. But when I get air back in my lungs, hopefully I won’t shout it all out this time.
After all, that’s what makes it a practice.
For this week, may you get a good lungful of air. May you see or hear the guru within yourself. And may you, if just for a moment, enjoy a good fall.
Happy fall, everyone.