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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rage against the [man on the two wheeled] machine

As I strolled along a gorgeous California beach sidewalk yesterday, I couldn't help but pause for a moment to contemplate the beauty of the ocean, the sun and my life. And as a magnificent humpback whale breached not very far from where I stood, I felt overwhelmed with awe and gratitude...

...until some nasty old dude on a bike slowly wheeled by me muttering these words, "Mmm, mmm, mmm, sexy, so f___ beautiful. What I wouldn't do to..."

First and foremost, let me tell you that I scanned the entire perimeter to make sure he was talking to moi. Being in my fourth month of pregnancy (basically the stage where you just look like a chubbier version of yourself) "sexy" is about the last word in the English dictionary I'd use to describe myself. When I realized there was no one else near, and that this pervert was indeed speaking to me, I felt a wave of heat rise in my chest and then rush through my entire body. I mentally scanned the small items I held in my hands and decided there was only one I was comfortable losing, dog treats. I grabbed a fistful and hummed them at his head and muttered the words, "F__ you, mother______."

When I relayed the story to Matt later that evening, he laughed (thankfully, for some strange reason,  my incredibly zen-without-trying-to-be husband finds my bouts of rage/passion amusing). And when I added,  "Had I had a rock in my hand I would have thrown it at his ____ head!" he laughed even more.  Because I knew this addition would turn his admiration to worry, I didn't tell him that: as I continued to walk down the sidewalk, I imagined old dude passing by me again, and myself, running full force to knock him off his shitty bike.

Yes, my friends, this is RAGE. Next to jealousy, the least "sexy" of all emotions. Especially if you're a yoga teacher, and expected by your community and colleagues to be a living example of patience and compassion.

So how do I reconcile these feelings and my position? First, I will not give in to the oh-so-tempting excuse that "my hormones are reeking havoc on my body during pregnancy, leading me to say and do irrational things." Why? Because my closest friends would be the first to comment "Bullshit" below this post. They know me well enough to know two things: 1) I am a pretty patient and laid back person, 2) however, when someone pushes one of my few buttons?

FIRE.

And secondly, part of my reconciliation involves simply being honest and sharing my experience. How can teachers inspire current and future yogis if we are constantly hiding our dark sides?

***

When I went to bed last night, I felt the need to ponder my reaction and my buttons. First, I imagined walking along the same stretch with a few of my closest friends, wondering how they'd react in the same situation. Tory? She'd make a quick comeback that would have me dying of laughter. Raven? She'd roll her eyes and say, "Ugh, disgusting," and continue our conversation. And Cathy? Well, let's just say the guy would already be on the ground and there would be a crowd of people confused as to why some crazy lady just pushed a nice old man off his bike.

Next, I wondered why we would all have such different reactions. After some reflection, I realized that my (over)reaction was much deeper than this particular instance. In fact, if I had to estimate, I'd say my rage is nearly a quarter of a century old, stemming from too many instances when a member of my family made lewd and inappropriate comments in my presence. I never felt comfortable speaking up and sharing how it made me feel; I never felt safe to express my fear, anger and disgust.

During yoga teacher training my instructor, Ana Forrest, pointed out that I was holding unexpressed anger in my body and that I needed to learn how to get rid of it. At first I didn't know what she was talking about, but the fact that her comment irritated me was a clue that she was pretty tuned in and  I'd better pay attention.

So I did. And I asked questions, like "why" and how" and she responded with answers like anger isn't always a bad thing, it is also the source of your passion and you just need to learn how to transform it. I listened. And I've watched myself shift from the very seemingly calm on the surface Melissa who buries things in my gut to the, "F__ you, mother___" Melissa. I'm not happy with either of them; what I need is a balance between the two.

***

Imagine that, in between your index finger and thumb, you are holding a spring that has been pinched tight for twenty five years. The expansion of your two fingers is the only thing that will release the coil...

...now also imagine your body, hunched in a tiny airplane seat for a five hour flight from San Francisco to New York. What is the  first thing this coil and your body will do when released from this tension? They will first stretch as far as possible before relaxing to find a more comfortable, sustainable position, somewhere in between the contraction and expansion.

This is the stage I am in right now with my anger. I am stretching beyond my natural comfort zone, I am springing further than the coil needs to be at its resting point. This, I hope, is the first step (at least on my journey) to finding balance.

I offer this up to my readers and yogis who may too be on the same path with anger or some other repressed emotion. I just hope that - for your sake - your unexpressed feelings aren't of the pervy nature, and that you're not riding a bike in my direction.


-Melissa

Photo borrowed from www.123rf.com

PS - Thanks to my other dear friend Marcie for helping me process this experience and for the visuals...for the record, had she been there with me, she'd have just laughed at the old fart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Across the universe (which is hella far because it won't stop growing)

As some of you may know, I've recently become a little obsessed with NPR's radiolab, a podcast where "science meets culture and information sounds like music." I love it so much that I've considered taking up knitting a sweater for my boy dog that reads "Bitches love me" so that I have something productive to do while listening.

Yesterday, I tuned in to Radiolab's episode on space. I was so inspired by what I heard that I subjected last night's yoga class to a mini science experiment, creating a playlist called "Space Yoga" with songs like "Across the Universe" by the Beatles, and "The Scientist" by Coldplay.

In case you don't have an entire hour to spend downloading these songs or listening to this fascinating podcast, I'll give you the Cliffs notes version and cut to the juicy parts...which I read before and after class (with my eyes open, curious about what sorts of funny faces my students might make at my feeble attempt to drop some wisdom. What the hell does the final frontier have to do with yoga??? Thankfully, no one tried to knock me out with a block or strangle me with a strap.)

"Einstein's General Theory of Relativity says: If you live in an expanding universe of this fabric of space and time, no matter where you are, it will look like you are at the center. Which means there is no center. Every center is an illusion because space is constantly expanding." And, he continues, "We may not even be the principal stuff of the universe, that's how insignificant we are...what we can see or detect of the universe is about four percent."

Translation: From your vantage point, YOU ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE! But, well, it kind of doesn't matter because it's an illusion because the universe keeps growing. Sub translation? It seriously doesn't matter whether you meet that deadline, reach all of your goals or lose those last five pounds because you are a speck on a speck on a speck!

Conversely, the podcast continues with this quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "What a  piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable."

Translation: We humans are incredibly fascinating creatures!
Sub translation: We humans are incredibly fascinating creatures!

So I asked my students whether they could ponder both concepts during class...how amazing it is that our bodies can do really cool things like sun salutations and warrior poses, but how really truly insignificant it is whether or not we can rock bakasana or viparita dandasana because in the grand scheme of things, who gives a shit??? Certainly not the universe, that's for sure!

I didn't preach a word for the next hour and fifteen minutes, but, after everyone was warm and fuzzy from savasana, I ended class with this quote:

"We are mostly water, which is made up of mostly hydrogen. The number one ingredient in the cosmos? Hydrogen.

Next in the universe is oxygen, next on earth and in life? Oxygen.

Next in the universe, carbon. Next in life? Carbon."

Translation: "We are not simply in the universe, the universe is in us."

Sub translation: Keep eating your veggies y'all, because "we" are all still growing...


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Melancholy and the infinite sadness

Ok, that's a bit dramatic. Maybe it's just a momentary wave of emptiness? I'm missing loved ones passed. And old friends. Having something to say. Something good to hear. My youth; finding baby Jesus in the King Cake.

Maybe it's the rain. Beating against my windshield as the sky turns dark every day at 4:45pm. My poorly gloved hands gripping the steering wheel in a futile effort to get the blood there. Knowing that it won't reach my fingertips until May.

And then the roses will begin to bloom.

But until that moment this blah northern Cali winter weather. Blah blah blah. How far beyond the fog is the light of the moon???

I think I'll take a pic of my puppy writing a blog. That might cheer me up. I wonder what he has to say...


"Hungri mom. Sqwerl. Kitti kat. Pro-shoot-o. Phill whole in my bellie."

Thank you, furry one. Not quite the caliber of Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain, but a valiant effort nonetheless.

PS (Because there's always a PS) - Turn up the volume, then click here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Your body is the harp of your soul"

I visited the Body Worlds Vital exhibit recently with the expectation of viewing the anatomy of the human body from a yoga teacher's perspective. I left moved in a way I didn't expect...having a new appreciation for the miracle machine that houses our spirits.

This quote was posted on the wall of the exhibit and I broke the rules to capture it on my iPhone because I loved it so much. I read it in class the other day because it was so fitting for the practice of yoga...


...but it's also fitting for the practice of life.

-Melissa

PS - For those of you who love Gibran, this is a quote from his poem, "On Pleasure" from The Prophet.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My book is on Amazon.com!

Click here to purchase a copy of Belle Douleur on Amazon.com!




Is this real life :) ?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?

Friday, November 5, 2010

This morning's note from The Universe

"Looks change...Beauty lasts.

Gorgeous,

The Universe

PS - The "thing" that makes beauty lies within you..."

And here's proof...have you seen four more beautiful grandmas?

 
 
PPS - To get your own notes from the universe, click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baby, take me to the end of that rainbow.

Sometimes, when I reflect back on my life (which happens every few hours or so), I am amazed by the things I've been able to accomplish. I often muse about how my intelligence, sharp wit and determination have provided me with opportunities to do things like obtain a degree in Information Systems with (almost) honors, acquire jobs at (semi) prestigious organizations, drive across country alone (without getting kidnapped by a truck driver), and teach yoga (trust me, getting people to breathe is waaaaay harder than it looks.)

And other times, I reflect back on something I did just moments ago that was so ridiculously moronic that I'm almost embarrassed to admit it to myself. So I'll go ahead and admit it to you instead.

On Sunday, as I mused over a gorgeous rainbow that spanned from one end of the valley to the other, I asked my husband if we could drive beneath it.

Allow me to repeat myself.

I asked my husband if we could drive beneath a F@$*ing rainbow!!!

He laughed controllably (lucky for us, he was the one driving), then tried to explain to me why this was impossible, using words like "spectrum of light," "altitude angle," and "wavelength," as my eyes glazed over like two Tastee donuts. Most importantly, he explained that, "A rainbow does not actually exist at a particular location in the sky. It's location depends on your position and the position of the sun."

I stared ahead longingly at the glorious oasis I'd never reach. It seemed to taunt me with its magnificence.

"You just blew my mind," I said, listlessly.

But what blows my mind even more is that I actually imagined, for a split second, how divine that moment would be - the wind sailing betwixt our golden locks, the rays of sunshine beaming down on our smiling faces as we gazed with astonishment at the multi-colored bridge of light enfolding us.

Not only had I apparently fallen asleep in every single science class of my ENTIRE life, but apparently I was snoozing through Lucky Charms and Skittles commercials as well. Even 5 year olds know it's impossible to taste a magically delicious rainbow.

Then, miraculously, my brilliant mind reminded me that I live in San Francisco's bay area, where there are rainbows waiting to be driven beneath on just about every corner! Yippee!


Take that, science.

PS - In case you were wondering, this is totally the same dude from
The Village People.