Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When you've run out of things to Google....

I was on the ferry on the way back from one of the corporate yoga classes I teach in the city and had 30 minutes to kill. They’ve recently introduced free WiFi on the Manly ferries so I thought I’d take advantage and waste some time Googling randomly on my iPhone. One slight problem… 

I had nothing I wanted to Google.

This was a very rare and depressing moment, as if I'd reached the end of ambition; no ideas, no projects, no interest in world affairs, nothing... though I remember it happening once before in one of my more idol office jobs. What shall I Google today, I used to think on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Thurs… ?

In the end I just checked the Guardian, wrote a couple of emails and, well, it was fine; I filled the 30 minute journey. On the way back home I stopped off in my new favourite Manly cafĂ© (Cartel on Belgrave) for a fruit salad and a cheer up from the cheery folks there and as I sat down, there was Australian Vogue magazine literally beckoning me with one of its headline articles: ‘Losing your ambition?’ it wrote… ‘You’re not alone.’

That’s right I thought, and in the peculiar way that magazines, newspapers and blogs etc. appear to correctly identify lumps, bumps and great tidal shifts in your thought state, let’s call them thought-fashions, (or do they create them…I ask?) to the point that you can barely recognise who is in fact The Creator of this particular trend. I mean, I thought I invented the skinny jean/the movement towards social media etc. Is this making sense?

Basically me and this magazine article, we were on the same page. So, what did they blame the loss of female ambition on?
  1.  The Internet – too much time to Google. Without the World Wide Web we’d still be cleaning the house on a Saturday morning (along with our men, we’re talking empowered cleaning here); wearing dynamic suits, just the right side of sexy professional; and going ‘above and beyond’ in our jobs.
  2. Children – this is fairly obvious, but interesting that one sprightly graduate who they interviewed (hands still sticky from holding her hot new degree in Business and Economics) described herself as ‘human capital’ – I love that phrase; so excessively, lavishly… self-assured. Whatever happened to shameless confidence in our abilities, ladies? Needless to say other the group of graduates who were mums were generally a much more ‘realistic’ (depressing) bunch. Although I’d hazard it’s not the kids’ fault, I think it’s age that knocks the stuffing out of us.
  3. Drifting: Not being able to articulate/discover the ambition.

Without wishing to get too feminist, I must say this third one resonated a little too hard. Ouch.  One of the ladies interviewed (writer for New York Times, so she’s doing alright by the way) described herself as always vaguely knowing she would be good at something but not able to work out what, which left her hating pretty much everyone (because they're potential competition of course) but also vulnerable, as she was simply being tossed along, thrown in every direction. 

Do men feel like this as much? Statistics show that women come out of the education system with better class degrees than men, showing bountiful promise in the workplace, wearing their smart clothes and their ‘can do’ attitudes. Then, a few years down the line you find them like flotsam, (“goods that are floating in the water without having been thrown in deliberately” - thanks Wikipedia) with no real purpose, thinking ‘I’ll just bob around here until someone gives me some’. They say to be truly happy you need to be following your purpose. Trouble is I kind of think I am following it but then I don’t really know what it is.

When you feel connected to your ambition it’s like you’re soaring; you feel connected to life, the people around you (rather than hating them in a pathetically vulnerable kind of way... hmm) and filled with this glow of promise. What’s stopping us from feeling like this?

I’ve decided I’m going to try and write a book. There, I said it. I’ve ‘articulated it’.

Just gonna practice some yoga, finish some jobs off and then… my first chapter awaits me. Yikes!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Resisting something

It's been a really shitty few days to say the least and so what did I do to make myself feel better? In true SATC style, I went shopping. Oh yes chick lit lovers, I checked myself in for some retail therapy. It's actually been the first time since my new life started that I've done a proper good old, completely unnecessarily frivolous expenditure and it's quite exhilarating actually. I'm waiting for the guilt, the cavernous emptiness, the creeping dissatisfaction and the mental retribution to hit me. But all this self flagellation isn't healthy. So what if I just spent $385 on a dress for a wedding; after spending $900 on removalists, $520 on cleaning the house, $150 on getting a small portion of the carpet relayed (including chopping a sizeable chunk out of the cupboard in the spare bedroom - it was like an episode of ER man seriously, life saving decisions had to be taken) and countless other house expenses, maybe I deserved a little black number to make me feel sexy. My shoulders are hunched up to my ears, I can't relax or sleep in this new place yet and I've STILL got no goddam fridge or washing machine and I'm freezing cold and I'm worried that when/if we get a dog that I won't be able to look after it, discipline it and be kind towards it,  and how are we going to fence in the garden and.... blah blah blah the list goes on. Basically I'm a bag of worried little bones rattling around and I'm being honest with you here because I can be. I could tell you, I'm just loving my new house, best decision we've ever made. Oh it's so nice to be out of the hustle and bustle of Manly but so far it sucks.

Yoga helped this morning. Thank you yoga. Rather than teaching my private class I practiced up at Yoga Moves again. We got there a little late so were sardined into a corner at the edge of the studio but actually that was fine (somehow I managed to overcome the pattern of behaviour that I need to have a good spot in the room) and I got into the flow quite nicely in spite of my numerous injuries (so different from Friday's experience). So after savasana it was like I'd wiped my dark and smudgy windows clean, and all was shiny and new again. Ahhh, and breathe.

But then, back to reality again and I hurled myself into the city to teach a corporate class at 8am and then off to Circular Quay to catch the ferry back to Manly so I could go back to the old house to pick up any tell-tale residual bits of carpet before the real estate agent came round (he'd called on the ferry to let me know the new tenants were going in to measure the rooms). Naturally I got there whilst they were there so who knows what they saw of the carpet shards. Should I have told the truth? Who knows, I object to the real estate agent (most likely, although this is surely a samskara of sorts) wanting to take our full deposit to replace an entire already worn carpet, so I needed to take some action but it feels like things are escalating out of control.

In the North Sydney Yoga Studio's August newsletter Angelika wrote an interesting article on the concept of resistance which resonated with me. She explains how we put up barriers in the path of our development:

"When life appears to be running smoothly, and everything is in it’s place, one can easily feel threatened when suggestions are made to do something differently. Sometimes change or even just the suggestion of change can bring up resistance in us. What if this change will make our situation worse? Even minor changes may cause us to lose our hard earned equilibrium!"

I can't help but feel there's some resistance going on with me at the moment. Like everything in yoga, you can draw from your experiences on a gross (physical) level to appreciate what's happening on a more subtle level - my injuries are starting to read like an ever increasing menu at Hypochondria Cafe. But they're real. Or at least they feel real but maybe they're the 'rocks' I'm putting in the path of letting go of some control. Here she writes:

"As soon as someone’s Yoga practice comes along well, and I can sense that the student is just about to rise to the next level of their practice, for some inexplicable reason (some sort of resistance maybe?) they can’t make it to class, or they get sick or injure themselves. All sorts of obstacles mysteriously appear that prevent them from evolving and taking that next step forward, thus paradoxically preventing their own progress. The mind is fearful of losing its power, so throws a few rocks in the way!"

 I'm not sure. All i know is that something is happening here and I don't fully understand it. I'm out of balance and there doesn't appear to be a nice little gift wrapped box of pop yoga philosophy to help me out here. Maybe I just need to keep on going. Regular and consistent practice. 

Oh who knows.

This post feels kind of floaty and amorphous, in fact it's a mess, but that's kind of how I'm feeling. Sorry all you avid readers, that's just how I'm feeling.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home sweet home

I’ve always had the sneaky suspicion that cheery expression ‘home sweet home’ is in fact deeply ironic; and this week/weekend has given a new depth to my instinct.

What a few days it has been, and it’s not over yet.

On Friday we moved, leaving our uninterrupted (except for the smears where I’ve attempted to clean the windows) panoramic ocean views for a cheerful Federation-style semi in Fairlight (to use real estate speak). 

Talking of which I’m nervously waiting a call back from the real estate agent today. After hmmming and scratching my head and generally panicking I’ve realised that satya (telling the truth) is the only choice I have in this situation. They are going to find out about 'The Stain' soon enough.

So, we packed up our belongings, attempted to start the cleaning and got the boxes, furniture, other miscellaneous crap together, and as the last box was loaded into the van by ‘Junior’ (more on the removalist company later) he lifted up our plant from the lounge room floor and then the soggy looking placemat I’d cleverly decided to put this plant nightmare onto. And, yep, underneath the mat was one large brown, balding hole. You could see the exposed plastic where the cream carpet once was before I inflicted 12 months of watering and mould. It was like the aftermath of something horrific (in carpet terms); there was bloodshed, destruction, and oh, hopeless bollocks….. Just when we thought it was a smooth move.

On Saturday they do the prospective tenant viewings and the first thing your eyes dart towards is ‘Hiroshima’ over there… ahh, nightmare. What are we to do? Come clean? Write a note for the agent? Phone them? Of course we were panicking at the time, thinking about our deposit and how that would make a nice holiday somewhere or…. Well no point thinking like this. It’s royally fooooked, as they say in Yorkshire, not in real estate.  We took the coward’s option of course, and because the house was empty more or less, we couldn’t move any furniture to disguise it, so we quickly covered it was some empty boxes and waited it out.

So now I’m waiting for this dude to call me back and I’m feeling a little scared. I don’t know why, it’s irrational. These things must happen all the time, but I’ve always been such a good tenant I’ve never done anything so foolish and destructive to a property. When I finished Uni I actually took a job in a lettings office in Headingly, Leeds. I rented student properties in suburbs like Woodhouse and Hyde Park where kids have, I’m sure, prematurely-grown moustaches (because they’re only about 11), wield sticks and kick cars as you walk back to your house (or show your prospective tenants around). I remember though living in Woodhouse as a student and this element of danger somehow added to the appeal. Back in the late 90s, when we were living there, Tony Blair had said it was one of the suburbs in the UK most in need of urgent welfare. It was crime riddled, depressing, the poor local shop keeper, a Sikh man called Mr Ryan kept a massive Alsatian (and who knows what other defences) behind his till because of the countless number of robberies and threats he had each week. My housemates and I quite liked the bars across the windows, lullabied by the sound of car alarms going off, or the light beam of a police helicopter seeking out the Woodhouse thieves and assaulters among the cobbled back alleys typical of depression era housing in the North. Funny, we, a bunch of four 20 year old girls, just lived there amidst the crime and chaos, like happy, fearless dear in the jungle.

We’re in our new place now, though not without a huge fight with the removal company in which they actually physically threatened A after trying to charge us 7 hours when they said it would take 4 to 5 max, plus other ridiculous premiums they threw in. Stung by the removalist’s heavy-handed, Mafioso approach to business we spent the first night feeling kind of uneasy. I still do. We discovered again more cockroaches in the kitchen, this time it wasn’t the ‘Germans’ of the last place, who are quite small but numerous, it was the big fat ones that rattle when they walk. Then there’s the waiting for the fridge and washing machine – apparently we may have to wait two weeks now despite the guy in Harvey Norman telling us it was due in last week, hence our cancelling the rental of our appliances in the old place in expectation of new shiny fridge and washer. I am buying a bottle of milk every day just so I can have a cuppa to find the next day (or course) it’s gone sour.

I need to chill out but I feel on edge, a ridiculous irrational sense of fear and unease. It’s been good for me to reflect on these times and get some perspective on the dramas, to remember how fearless and carefree I was as a student. Who knows why our perspectives change so much. Maybe it’s because as we get older we cling to our life more; it seems more grim, hard fought, but also more valuable. Got to remember lila again, life’s comedy. The day to day dramas that happen seem to be there to test us, I envy those who can just laugh it off, not take it so seriously, and find perspective. After all none of this is the end of the world. The removal company are not going to throw a brick through our window out of spite – they got their money in the end; the carpet can probably be fixed without involving losing our entire bond (fingers crossed) and a couple of cockroach bombs (and if that fails, pest control) can put an end to the roaches. I’m sure I can manage to buy the food I need fresh, rather than store it in the non-existent fridge. Coincidently (or not!) on a physical level I’m having dramas too. The hamstring is still not on the mend; I’ve developed a deep pain in my left shoulder and, strange of all, my left big toe is so tender to the touch I can’t put weight on it which is really unsettling my balance in the standing postures. So, like my injuries I have to modify, overcome the series of hurdles and laugh about  it.

Ha sweet ha.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Out with the old

Yet again we're moving! It seems every year we up our stumps and it's that time again.

This week is gonna be c-razy with packing and boxing and organising and changing details and sorting and trying to fit in some work as well. I'm afraid I may be a little quiet this week alas blog.

Started off the packing yesterday and could see myself going into ruthless mode, I've already chucked six handbags, three pairs of jeans and seven pairs of shoes in the direction of Vinnies. I love it. It's a very cleansing sensation to purge, to rid yourself of clutter, although I do get a flash of.. will I need those shoes again one day...? I'm not too attached to my things though, luckily. My problem is more papers, books, I really find it hard to throw out magazines and stuff I've been sent by banks and other institutions... it kind of sends me into a mini panic, what if I need that at some point. But no, it's a pure lesson in detachment. I'll make do without, we don't need all this crap, we really don't.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A new day a new teacher

I went to practice with Sydney's only certified Ashtanga teacher, Eileen Hall this morning at her shala (which is really a boxing studio but nevertheless is quite nice). I had been to see her a couple of weeks ago but she wasn't there so it was her apprentice Mark Robberds (authorised teacher) and I'd really enjoyed it so I wanted to go back. 

Well, Eileen was scary. I think it's always quite difficult to see a new teacher because you learn to do things the way you're taught by one teacher and then another one comes along and tells you it's all wrong wrong wrong. Which was what Eileen told me.

There I was in kurmasana with my legs outstretched, feeling a slight weirdness in my hamstring (though less than I was feeling so it's on the mend) and a new strange sensation in my left shoulder, which was odd and she comes over and tries to bind me.

"What are you doing with your arms" (they were still outstretched)

"Err.." (thinking - being tentative, waiting to see how my body feels)

"Grip your fingers, you've got no consciousness girl. You new students coming from other schools with all your bad habits"

The shoulder was feeling okay so I yielded to her accusations and smiled to myself.

"Turn your palms and grip your fingers!" She shouts again at me

"I'm trying!" I laugh

And although this sounds a bit cruel, I did appreciate her pulling me up on a few things. As she said to me at the end I've got  a few 'sloppy' habits which I've probably picked up because I've had the same teacher for such a long time and he doesn't pick me up on things like that.

"Straighten your arms in ubhaya pascimottonasana" she bellows at me across the room!

At the end of the practice, she was quite different, softer with a wry smile. She told me 'You have to find a balance, the strength and the grounding and the lightness the balance.' I wasn't 100% sure what she meant, of course I know about the need to have the combination of strength and softness, but I wasn't sure what she was saying to me in terms of my practice. When someone (very senior and qualified in ashtanga) looks at your practice and casts a new light on it, sometimes it's hard to know what she means, I mean I practice and practice and think I'm doing the best i can but.... Maybe she's right, perhaps I'm unconsciously falling into patterns of sloppiness.

The thing with ashtanga is that we do it over and over and over and over again.

I think this can be a great aspect of this yoga, because sometimes I feel like I completely fuse with the practice. I feel light, fluid contained within it and almost like I've left my body (to sound a bit wanky).Other times I'm not really paying attention. Going through the motions. 

Doing the same thing again and again gives you the opportunity to perfect and hone things, to discover new depths to postures which, if I were practicing another type of yoga, I might not actually practice again for a week or so (because the postures change week to week). I practiced Virabadrasana 1 today with a new depth. I mean, how can you discover newness in that posture which I must have done 3 million times. But I did. I found a connection in my front knee, hip and the sole of my foot, like I'd shifted my awareness into the sole of the foot which helped the femur draw back. Specific! Yes I know, it always is. How about bhujapidasana, I worked something internally which allowed me a slightly smoother transition onto my head. Again, what it was, I've no idea or the language to explain, but the subtle awareness required to understand and go deeper in poses, to progress, find that all important balance of softness and strength, blows me away. What's happening. It's like putting a magnifying glass on how we learn.

Anyway, I hadn't intended to post today, but I'm glad I did.

Sorry it was a bit technical, but it's what I felt like talking about today.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting back into it

There’s a real strangeness to your home when you return from an amazing holiday. The kitchen, the TV, the sofas looking somehow mundane, too normal, like I’m expecting them to have changed colour or something but no, they’re just the same. There’s that ‘home’ smell of musty washing powder; it’s not bad, probably what most people smell when they come round, but we’re so used to it we can’t smell it. When you come back from holiday it’s like you see things new again.

I am sitting here in my pyjamas with my hair tossed up into a crazy whirl after one of those almighty heavy sleeps which leave your body embossed by the creases of the sheets. Over there my suitcase still sits, like a wide open mouth spilling out its contents, and I know I should get started with my work but...

It’s not 8am yet, I think I’ll have some porridge first.

My body is exhausted. Exhausted.
I got in from Queenstown last night. My plane landed at just after 5pm and I thought I want to do some yoga as haven’t done any since Friday. Can I make the 7.30 class? (I always do this and set challenges for myself which are barely possible, but just possible enough). Luckily I got past the customs beagle which is so cute you want to stroke it but know you’ll probably end up with some out of control fine/court case (watching a few too many Banged up Abroad episodes has created an irrational fear of sniffer dogs). What do I mean, luckily. I have nothing to fear. And through customs by 5.36pm, straight onto a train and I was in Circular Quay at 6.09 for the 6.15 fast ferry. Phew just made that, and it was plain sailing across the harbour into Manly. I was so hot still in my UGG boots and ski jacket and my face was stinging from the mix of the morning’s snow and fresh air, sweat and the desiccating aircon on the aeroplane which had turned my lips and nostrils red raw so I went outside to take in the cool frantic night air.

Back home I noticed my little purple flower-pot plant (I really should learn the names of things shouldn’t I?) which I bought at the Harris Farm market because it looked so happy was wilted and sad, its flowers like little dead crisps. I didn’t know what to do first, so I shovelled the first of the washing, socks, ski pants, essential undies into the machine, quickly showered off my body (no time for hair), ran my little purple flower-pot plant under the tap gently, though the water just ran straight through. I don’t know, will that bring it back to life…? I pulled on my yoga stuff and headed to the yoga centre.

What a strange class. Through my first sun salute I felt like I wasn’t in control of my body. I felt like I had no connection to what I was doing. But I persevered, hoping things would get more connected. I just felt more and more tired, every muscle and bone gently ached but I moved and moved. Finally savasana, and I felt like I was suspended on top of my mat, leaden but okay, satified. That gentle exhiliration of total exhaustion after 3 days of snowboarding and a strong yoga class. I took that feeling home and more or less passed out, sleeping and sleeping, my body yielding completely to the bed.

I dreamt of Gary, the silver/grey RSPCA tabby cat last night. In my dream he was no longer at the RSPCA and there were all these other, smaller crazed looking cats jumping up at me. I think I need to call the RSPCA and find out what’s happened to Gary, if anything.

And now, my porridge. The taste of home, of my funny little daily routine. I had muffins and scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning at the hotel. I mean those hotel breakfast buffets, however unappetising they look (and this one wasn’t too bad) are so hard to resist and they’re not healthy either.

And after the sleep with the sun flooding my kitchen, my purple flower, he’s looking better now too.

Back to the routine now. It’s getting easier.