24 August 2015

Suffering, continued

So last night after writing "Suffering", I'm having a conversation with a friend on Twitter. He asks me how many posts I've written and that I should consider curating an "e-book". I really didn't think much about it. I mean, I have never EVER considered such a thing. This morning, just a few minutes ago in fact, another friend echoed that sentiment and even challenged me to go through with the idea. 

My response? 

First, nervous laughter. They really aren't serious. They can't be. I'm not a writer. Not really. I just write

Then when it was thought that I had accepted the challenge, outright panic. I said, "no. No. NO!!!". That was followed by an outright, "STOP!!". I was shaking. I wanted to run. Hide. Stick my head in the sand. Go and get donuts. 

Well, I held off on the donuts (just coffee). I began to consider my response to this event. It didn't take long to realize that how I responded to this "e-book" idea was how I have responded to most every portend of change in my life. With panic, distrust, and fear. 

The idea of a publishing a book. 
Accepting promotion at work. 
Finding a different line of work. 
Going back to school. 
Becoming a yoga instructor (Bikram or otherwise). 

Basically, anything that threatens to upset the status quo is an anathema to me. "Better the devil you know..." is my motto. Anything different and my knees buckle, my stomach turns, and I turn red and start sweating. The same response as when we were forced into square dance lessons in 7th grade gym class and I stumbled into classmate after classmate, or when that girl asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance in high school, or when I would be asked (time after time after time) to consider moving to a management position. 

I make excuses. I make self deprecating jokes. I change the subject. I leave the room. I tweet, "STOP!!". 

My heart whispers to me, but I don't hear it. 

I don't want to hear it. 

I'm afraid to listen. 

23 August 2015


Two or three months ago, I purchased The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you have yet to read it, it is a remarkable story about chasing your dreams and finding your "Personal Legend" -- your destiny or purpose. I've read this book several times now, and each time I find a different quote or passage that stays with me. Last night, after I wrote the previous post, I was leafing through the book when I happened on the passage in which the alchemist urges Santiago to listen to his heart. His heart speaks:

"People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that... they'll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful... Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly."

Santiago tells this to the alchemist. His reply:

"Tell you heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams..."

A chord was struck within me. 

How many of us suffer every day? How many of us live our entire lives in fear?

How many of us choose '...Hanging on in quiet desperation...' as described in the Pink Floyd tune "Time"?

How many of us forfeit the chance for the life we deserve because we fear the cost or the work or the possibility of failure?

How many of us realize that, as time passes, our hearts speak more and more softly to us, "...but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."

I live in fear. Everyday. 

I have no dreams. No destiny. I've no idea where to start my search. 

Therefore, I suffer. Everyday. 

Even if I knew what it was I was supposed to do, my fear of change would override all. 

I can't hear my heart anymore. 

So the suffering continues. 

Do you suffer? 


22 August 2015

The Fraudulent Yogi

My name is Mark, and I am a fraud. 

I'm not really a yogi. 
just go to yoga. 
I don't always do the posture. 
I don't follow up the yoga with other healthy habits. Well, sometimes I try but sooner or later I'm back at the donut shop or the burger joint or the ice cream in the freezer. 

I try new classes. I feel as though I'm capable of new postures/exercises. In reality, I'm not. I'm lazy. I don't put in the work every day. Sometimes I'm so tired after work that I collapse on the bed and tell myself, "Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will try." 
Tomorrow usually doesn't arrive. 

I see other students progress and improve themselves. I watch them pass me by. 

I see people leave the studio happy and smiling. I do not. 

I see my body aging. I loathe it. 

I practice alongside people with careers they LOVE instead of mere jobs. I see happy couples practicing together, showing their LOVE for each other by supporting one another in the room. I see people practice (and teach) with passion. I see the confidence they exude. I see SUCCESS

Myself? I am weak. I walk in that room with no strength. I mean no strength. When the instructor is trying to help me with arm balances (Crow or Frog), I make jokes: "It's gonna take a block and tackle to get my legs off the ground..."
I forget to do planks or push-ups (my latest challenges) and I cuss myself out. When I get to class (twice in the last eight days), I find that all the strength, balance, and flexibility I gained during my 100 day challenge are gone. I watch newer people nail postures in no time while I repeatedly fall out again and again... and again. My last class was just abysmal. Nothing went right at all. Everything hurt. Balance and flexibility were rumors, and strength was a flat no show. Oh, did I mention? All the weight I lost during the challenge is back... and then some. My gut had diminished to the point that forward bends were possible, and pulling both legs up in Wind-Removing was easy. No more. I can't breathe in those poses. During stretching, I have trouble reaching forward and touching or grasping my toes. 

I don't know what I should do. 

Press on?


Go grab a cheeseburger?

Lately I've been thinking. 

Thinking of epitaphs. 

For me. 


11 August 2015


This past Friday I was privileged to take a special Bikram class. For the past month. we have had a visiting instructor from Colombia named Monica. As a treat for all, she taught her final class with us completely in Spanish. 
This special class had been announced a week earlier and instantly people were talking about it and wanted to be a part of it. For myself, I had a choice to make: take the class en Español or take my second Core40 (intermediate) class. I wasn't sure what I would do until a couple of days prior. Since Monica was staying at the studio (there is a tiny room with a bed for visitors) she got to see the work-study crew quite a bit. So on Wednesday when she gave each of us a small gift of high quality chocolate, the decision was made. Honestly, give me chocolate and I will do almost anything...

Anyway, Friday arrived and an unexpected errand had me rushing to make the 4:30 class. Looked in the room and there was already quite a crowd. I grabbed a spot and stretched as much as I could. The gong sounded and Monica entered to a hearty round of applause. She was taken by the moment and expressed her gratitude at how many people were there. She then told us that there would be no more English spoken in class, to come to standing and ,"Have fun!".

Now, I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but I did take four years of it in high school. Every so often I do have to use it to try and help a Spanish speaking customer, but it's very broken. One extra help: one of my yoga buddies is Hispanic and was set up in front of me so I could take visual cues if needed. 

"¡Vamos! Inhale... Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis... Exhale..."

I could pick up bits and pieces about keeping your  codos (elbows) up and out. The first thing you notice is how many words are used and how quickly they are spoken. Monica did say that there are twice as many words in the Spanish version of the diálogo. Despite the language difference, it wasn't terribly difficult to keep pace. Once into the postures, it seemed easier. We bent our bodies a la derecha, then a la izquierda in Half-Moon; each time being challenged to, "Empuja. Empuja. ¡Empuja!" In Standing Bow we were exhorted to. "¡Patea mas alto!". El Triángulo is still difficult regardless of the language used. We all learned very quickly that the command "Cambio" meant "Change". When she gave a correction and the student complied, she would happily say, "¡Eso es!" ("That's it!"). I recall that most of the Sanskrit names were used for each asana. The memorable exceptions (apart from Triangle) were La Media Tortuga (Half-Tortoise), El Camello (Camel), and El Conejo (Rabbit). After each posture we were reminded to, "Respira por la nariz."


1) Because the language was different, no one could really get a jump on a pose. It seemed to me that we were moving in unison far more than in a normal class. It also seemed that everyone was giving maximum effort; pouring themsves out on their mat. The result? Less extraneous movement and much better, more pure energy flowing through the room. 

2) Personally, it was one of the best experiences I've had in that room. Joyous. Simply joyous. Because of the language change, I was actually listening for the first time in quite a while. I was involved again. Had to be to avoid looking silly. I got my hands under my heels in Hands-to-Feet for the first time since the challenge ended. I worked so hard in that pose that my heart was racing much faster than it would in a normal class. My pulse kept racing through Triangle but it felt fantastic. I felt alive!! After a while, the words became more like music to me and I floated into the yoga zone, that blissful, safe place where one is truly one with the universe inside you. That place where the rest of world disappears and it's just you and your breath. The class flew by so fast that suddenly we were doing Rabbit then stretching and breathing and I just wanted to slow time down and savor every second. One of my top yoga experiences. 

The applause at the end was even louder that at the beginning. Everyone was smiling and in such a great mood. In the lobby afterwards, there was champagne, laughter, and hugs. A marvelous afternoon of yoga. A beautiful event that I was privileged to be a part of. 

If the chance arises to take class in a foreign language or in a foreign port, DO IT!! You might just get a lesson in how interconnected we truly are.