Give & Take

The other day, I was walking to the studio when a bright-eyed young man began to desperately pursue me.

No, he wasn't an admirer. And he wasn't a homeless guy begging for a handout. He was a salesman. His product? Salvation.

I'd seen him around the area a few times, his yellow robe flashing brightly as he bobbed and weaved through the crowds. My opinion of proselytizers generally wanes between extreme annoyance and sympathy -- it can't be an easy gig, trying to capture the affections of  bewildered tourists and annoyed locals. So I stopped and smiled.

He eagerly shoved a small gold card into my hand. A good luck talisman was etched across the front. I bowed my head,  clasping my hands to my heart in thanks. Our transaction settled, I continued on my way.

I'd gone just a few steps before I realized he was still following me. My smile slightly more strained, I turned and bowed my thanks once more.

He gestured to a book, wanting me to sign something. My patience thus exhausted, I shook my head and quickened my pace.

He did not give up the ghost. When I stopped again, he scowled at me, pointing to the amulet.

A bit deflated, I returned his charm. He left without another glance.

I guess I shouldn't have expected something for nothing, even if the something - in this case, God's good graces - wasn't exactly the giver's to dole out in the first place.


My 28th birthday is approaching.

It feels so weird to type those words. Deep down, I feel a lot like Josh Baskin in Big -- this perpetually awkward preteen who wakes up one morning to find herself living this grown-up's life.

It's so strange.

I've been thinking about wasted time.

From a yogic perspective, there's no such thing, right? You walk the path you're supposed to be on, you learn the lessons you're meant to learn. Etcetera.

But I can't stop thinking about how much time I spend doing things I don't even want to do. Things I do out of obligation, or boredom, or lack of imagination. And the longer that mental list gets, the more I start to feel like -- Yeah. I wasted some time there.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. To be savored. So that's my goal for 28 - to savor every experience. To make sure every goal I set is something I truly want to achieve for myself, and to enjoy the process of achieving it. To stop putting so much stock in what other people think I should do, or what they think about me.

To learn to trust myself more.

Happy birthday to me.

Seeing the Pose

In my second ever art class, my instructor came up behind me, took one glance at the figure I was constructing, and declared, "We need to have a conversation."

My primary offense? Copying shape instead of exploring gesture.

When we copy a figure, said my teacher, we neglect to really see it. We put down lines based on a stored memory of a similar shape. We think "triangle" and draw memories of a thousand other triangles -- instead of drawing the wholly unique triangle that's right in front of us. And we lose the entire point of art -- process. Discovery.
Once my ego got over the sting of his critique, I saw how apt the advice really was --not just in relation to art, but to yoga as well.

How often during practice do we desperately attempt to contort ourselves into a vision of what a pose "should" look like? We've stamped in our minds a certain Yoga Journal cover or an admired teacher's version of the pose, so we focus our energy on copying that shape -- like we're only doing it "right" if we're doing it like someone else.

When that happens, we stop enjoying the process of exploring. We no longer care to see what happens if we move our front foot out to the side in Warrior I, or tip our weight to our heels in Down Dog. Our own bodies cease to hold interest as anything other than a barometer of comparison to someone else's version of perfect.
No matter what, you're gonna need to alter the pose and make it cleaner or more clear for you to understand.... You're not copying. That's a very important aspect. You don't copy what's in front of you. You take it in, you interpret it, and you put it back on the paper, as your interpretation, to help clarify.... you're adding to what is there.
- from Gesture Drawing with Mark McDonnell
When you practice yoga, you're using your energy, your body, your breath to create something that's never before existed. And you allow for constant change, because it's from that place of continuous conscious movement that growth occurs.

The process of finding and refining, searching and adjusting tenders potential. So when you stop copying and start discovering, you begin to spend your mat time not just as a yogi -- but as a living work of art.

Minor Miracles

I believe in angels. Just throwing that out there. Call them spiritual guides, ghosts, God, universal consciousness, whatever -- I know there's a higher power out there working with me to lead me where I need to go. I don't think everybody needs to believe this; it just works for me.

But like many seekers, I find it hard to dwell in the happy haze of blind faith. I'm constantly searching for affirmative signs from the universe that what I believe true, is indeed true. I mean, I'm not looking for Jesus' face in a grilled cheese or anything, but I do love discovering hints of the divine in the mundane.

So last week I went to get contact lenses. Pretty mundane. I was forewarned by the doc that because of my astigmatism, they'd likely have to order my trial lenses. Which meant waiting. Which I hate.

I sat down with my contact lense instructor, who started searching the drawers for my lenses. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, she muttered that we'd probably have to order them.

Come on, angels, I thought. Have the Goddamn contacts.

She opened the drawer above, sifting through the rows of carefully arranged lenses. "Ah! Got one. You are lucky..." My heart jumped. "Now let's see if we can find the left."

I sighed, instantly disheartened. Knew it was too good to be true. Then, figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided to put my energy towards manifesting that silly contact lense. Angels, find the other lenseI chanted, my silent mantra as she kept searching. Open the other drawer. Funnily, as I thought it, she did it. And a moment later --

"Wow! Oh my gosh, I got it. We never have them." She held it up triumphantly, shaking her head in wonder. "The girl is lucky. Either that, or very blessed. You must have someone watching out for you."

I smiled, thanked my angels, and spent the next 10 minutes poking myself in the eye. (Putting contacts in is hard.)

On the drive home, it struck me once more how anything -- even silly things -- are possible with a little faith and a little extra help. And as I rubbed my palms together and laughed evilly*, I wondered what I should manifest next.

*Disclaimer: I would never actually use manifestation powers for evil. Also, driving while rubbing your hands together? Not recommended by the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles.

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