Three Stories About Balance

Hello, internets…it’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve wanted to, and there’s a LOT I’ve been wanting to tell you, but the whole reason I haven’t gotten around to writing it all down for you is that all of a sudden I have been very very busy Living My Life to the full.

And o, after the last six years of surgery-after-surgery-after-surgery, and sitting on the sidelines watching life go by and feeling an ever-increasing dark, sick certainty that I would never catch up, never go to the dance again, never make it to the party, never catch that train (pick your metaphor; they all work!) – since spring, my life has bloomed so fully and beautifully (KNOCK WOOD) that I have on occasion found myself thinking wistfully of the days when I used to sit home night after night, icing my sutures & watching back-to-back episodes of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on DVD.

Let me be clear: I wouldn’t trade this busyness for the world. In 2009 I had my leg, among other things, cut in half, I was in a wheelchair for two months, then on crutches for the rest of the year, and I thought my life was gone. The life I have today is a fucking miracle. And I was miserable most of the time I was home alone watching DVDs, which is why it’s so funny to find myself thinking fondly of that time. Absence does play mind games.

Back to the Wonderful Now: there’s a lot of Wonderful Music News that must wait for another day, another blog. (But trust me, it’s gooooood.)

Here’s Today’s Topic: Two months ago I started teaching yoga again, at Wild Lotus, here in New Orleans. And funnily enough, our theme this month at the studio is Balance.

I have been clued in for a while that the yoga studio is a super-powerful manifestation hotspot. Clue 1: It’s the place where, 5 years after my accident, I was finally able to reassemble my yoga practice & find a welcoming yoga home in which to practice. Clue 2: When I wrote asking to be considered as a substitute teacher & auditioned, I got an offer back saying, ‘Instead we’d like you to come on staff and teach’. It was like going to buy an apple and getting an orchard! It is important to be careful what I ask for in that space, lest it drop, immediately & hundredfold, into my arms before I’ve engaged my core muscles.

Back to Balance: we incorporate the theme of the month into our classes, whether it be with a quotation, a poem, a song, asanas, a guided meditation…you name it. This month, life itself gave me three beautiful and incredibly funny stories about balance. I shared them with my classes, and I wanted to remember them, so I’m sharing them with you.

Stories 1 & 2:

Last Thursday I was making groceries (as we say in New Orleans) at the Whole Foods, and in the produce aisle there was an enormous, raise-you-to-the-rafters-machine (my brother would know what it’s called) emitting a constant, high-pitched & most annoying BEEP-BEEP-BEEP sound, right next to all the delicious citrus.

There was only one thing to do: flee. I grabbed my fruits and veggies (which is most of what I eat, so normally I take my time with the produce…like a vegetable seduction) as quickly as I could, spun my cart like Bo Duke driving the General Lee, and began to beat it out of there. I was neck & neck with a Nice Older Lady in a pantsuit, and our eyes met, and she said, “That is so annoying.”

“I know it,” I said.

“You’d think they’d do that at night!” she said. “It hurts our ears.” (It did.)

“It does,” I said, “and also our sensitive shopping feelings.” At which point we both burst out laughing, and grinned at each other, and took our carts our separate ways.

And I felt really happy about that exchange. I woke up Saturday morning, before the class I teach, thinking I would tell my class about it: about how we share this planet and we can’t control much of it, really any of it, but we can change direction when there are obstacles & irritants, we can laugh as we go, we can make a friend. I decided to talk about how a large irritating machine became my teacher, and a lady I’d never see again became a joyous memory. I looked up a quote I love from Viktor Frankl: “Man’s last freedom is his freedom to choose how he will react in any given situation.” He wrote that about being in a concentration camp as a very young man; in essence, he was saying you can die free or not free, but you always have that choice.

I was feeling, I confess, a teeny bit smug about how lovely and balanced and wrapped-up-with-a-bow I was, and I went into my front room to do some restorative yoga….

….and it was then that a large tour bus (the kind rock bands travel on, with a loud loud super-polluting engine – they infest my street, which is Scenic) collided with an SUV, RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE.

Luckily, no one was hurt.

Except for my sensitive shopping feelings. For a little while. Because the bus parked itself right in front of my window and left its engine running for 90 minutes, and all of the Russian tourists who were on it (a few were Japanese) began spilling out, chain-smoking, sitting on my steps, infuriating my dog Jack to an absolute frenzy of ear-shattering protective barking.

How I’d love to say that I reacted with kindness and wisdom and generosity right away. O no I did not. I lay there on my yoga mat and I was selfish. And grumpy. The engine bothered me. The dog barking bothered me. The 40-odd strangers in front of my house bothered me. I did not feel serene, relaxed, or restored. I wanted everyone to go away.

And then it hit me: this was the very lesson I’d just written down for my students. ANOTHER loud annoying machine had just shown up to teach me the exact same lesson. And the freedom to react was in my mind, just as it had always been. I laughed out loud. You have to lose your balance to know where it really is.

And then…I realized that this was about a lot more than me, me, me. I looked out the window and I saw that these people were impeccably dressed: the men in linen pants & nice shirts, the women in beautiful, brightly colored summer dresses and hats, like tropical birds. There were a couple of little boys, looking bored and morose. Suddenly it occurred to me that it was very hot, that they were very far from home & that a very crappy thing had just happened to them (and to the driver of the SUV) on a day when they’d all had plans, and they’d been sitting under some trees waiting for the police for hours while I’d been in the air-conditioning bitching to myself about my not-serene yoga practice.

I was so grateful that I had a chance to make this right. I took an armful of plastic cups and a pitcher of water and I went outside and began asking folks if they’d like water. And that was when they turned into the blessing of my day. Quite a lot them were thirsty. A few just wanted to talk, or to show me their Rotary Club buttons. When I told the Russians my name was Alexandra, they got very excited, and introduced me to a man named Alexander. One lady took my picture. I’ll never forget them. I was sad to see their noisy polluting bus go away, though of course I was excited for them to be able to get on with their day.

My 3rd Story About Balance is shorter and sillier but I like it just as much. Yesterday we opened the new Downtown Wild Lotus yoga studio. It is the product of six years of hard work, none of it mine – I sailed (limped) in two months ago to reap the benefits & I now get to teach in one of the most glorious, gorgeous, vibrant yoga studios I have ever, ever seen.

I spent a lot of yesterday preparing for my first class, on the first day. I made a new playlist; I worked really hard on my asana sequence; I picked out a red shirt that I got at the Mayapuris kirtan concert; I was as prepared as I possibly knew how to be. And it was at this point, 45 minutes before class, that I stepped barefoot into a puddle of dog drool that my dog Jack had left on the hardwood floor, went skating across the floor, collided with desk, wrenched the more-injured knee, removed all the skin from the knuckle of what Mom likes to call ‘the traffic finger’, and took off part of a toenail. It hurt. I spoke unkindly to Jack, who was confused (rightly so – who knows when he left the drool there?) and was then ashamed of myself and had to apologize to him. I was scared about teaching class with a wrenched knee. I felt my poise had just gone bye-bye.

Then I thought that saying goodbye to my poise was, perhaps, exactly the point of contemplating balance for a month. The stinging in my knuckle & (ex)toenail & knee went down and I began to see how funny the whole thing actually was. I realized that once again I’d been given a perfect story for my class, and for myself.

I like to keep it all together. I really do. I don’t like to fall down or ask for help or make a mess. I still have a dream of someday putting Everything In Order…all my tangible things and all my intangible things. On the one hand I understand that that never happens and on the other hand, I just love the idea.

But maybe what balance really is (for me) is loving the wobble, loving the moments when you fall down, when you’re selfish, when you’re less-than, just as much as the moments when you take flight, when you hit the ball squarely, when you reach the high note, when you’re radiant.

It’s a challenge, what with my sensitive shopping feelings and all. But I think it’s worthwhile.

Love and rockets,

Alexandra


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