Again, the universe is SO silly

This morning I was hydrated enough to get my running shoes on and head out with my loyal running partner for a 3 miler. We wove our way through the cows and puddles and dogs and motorcycles until they gave way to our familiar mountain path, the terrain shifting to a tree lined dirt path. Similarly, our the conversation wove its way from saris to boys and finally settled on yoga. But of course, right? After all, yoga is the microcosmic practice of life.

I shared with her my fear and anxiety about the upcoming week, in which I teach my first full two hour yoga class. Just me. And a class of 20 students. That’s my first diversion from the truth. When my teaching slot comes, I will find myself in a room with just me. Teacher/student. No difference. It’s cliché, but it’s true: we are all here to learn. Life. It’s just that we learning through our bodies.

The universe always brings you the guru you need right when you need them. The same applies to when you need honey lemon ginger tea. True story.


The universe is a silly photographer

A week of straight yoga, philosophy, breathing and awareness culminated yesterday afternoon and I was exhausted. My sensitivity for others energies has been amplified by being around new people all week, always a prevalent if not sometimes debilitating issue for me. With a great sense of relief and joy though, I’m coming to understand that whenever we find ourselves in new environments, it’s not truly new. Rather, old energies take new forms and together we all meet again. So, yesterday I was done and needed a break. I knew where I needed to be and as philosophy class ended and made way for yin yoga, I gathered a bolster, my mat, and two blocks and headed back towards my hotel. The hotel sits at the very edge of town, backing right up to the forest. I climbed up the marble stairs until they gave way to the cracked concrete rooftop, bypassed the rooftop studio and took the iron staircase to the roof of the studio. One more rickety ladder climb led me to the roof of the roof of the roof. I was on top of the city.


Up there and alone with the sun slowly sinking towards the Ganga, I couldn’t have been more grateful. I rolled my mat out and set my camera up to take photos at intervals, a fantastic way to check posture alignment. And wouldn’t you know it, the universe is a silly photographer.





There’s an Irish lass picking on the guitar and singing in the room next to me. The sun is hot with a cool breeze. On our last day of class, when the panic of leaving settles in, I am calm. I am reminded that all we need, we already have. I am reminded that wherever we go, there we are. And I am most acutely aware that everything happens just as it is supposed to. Even as I am typing this, my phone is lighting up with a FaceTime request from a beautiful girl in Denmark, who says “I’m calling just to say hello and that I love you.” Silly universe.

I’m going to round up my books and climb up on the roof. Calm. Grateful. Happy.

20130301-134323.jpg you are looking at two goddesses

A risky move

This may be a risky move. This post may not bode well with some who come across it. And that’s ok. It is more important for me to express myself than to keep silent when improvement can be made. Honestly and often, I am sharing my own battles and triumphs simply because it helps to write them down. It also seems to solidify the experience by sharing it with others. There are wonderful moments when, sometimes, others can learn valuable lessons the easy way, via “testimony”…
This is 2013, people! Get your mind right! Ain’t nobody got time for pacifism. We all must churn and wrestle around with old paradigms so we can come out of it better for the experience. In doing so, we can help the evolution of our creative and collective consciousness.

So. We have had yoga philosophy class everyday for two weeks now. We are studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Trying to summarize the vast knowledge contained in the sutras is like trying to cram your size 8 foot into a size 7 heel. It ain’t gunna happen. But a few doctors who wrote the book Super Science of Yoga did a fantastic job. First, they describe yoga as being a completely comprehensive process, rendering the entire human experience in terms of consciousness. (Taking note here that yoga is much much more than sweating out last nights hangover in your lululemon capris while Rihanna blasts that we are all diamonds in the sky).
Yoga has eight limbs: cleansing exercises, pranayama {breathing}, asana {poses in lululemon capris}, meditation, pratyahara {withdrawal from sensory organs; Catholics read as thou shalt not covet}, samadhi {ultimate goal of enlightenment, to see your true self, to transcend the physical world; Catholics read as gettin into Heaven}, yama {ethical principles, followed physically, orally, and mentally; Catholics read as 10 commandments}, and finally a continuation of yama, niyama {the rules and regulations to be followed by all}. Unlike almost every other process we have available (psychology, the modern medical field, various religions, etc.), yoga is the only completely comprehensive study. At no point does yoga have a “well, it’s now time for faith to kick in” moment. This was an issue I found very difficult to comprehend growing up, and it wasn’t limited to the teachings of the Catholic church, although that’s what bothered me the most.
As a child, I was surrounded by priests, nuns, and teachers who all responded the same way when I asked a question that didn’t have a clean, logical answer: “You have to have faith”. What that means is very simple: the wonderfully manicured sidewalks of these institutions eventually begin to crumble and then, ultimately, trail off into territory of BIG, DEEP ideas {like consciousness, the soul, why are we here, where do we go, and who is this god person, anyway?}. Yoga answers all of these on the grounds of consciousness; and I mean ALL of it. Physical health, life, death, creation, mental/physical illness/health… Ok, now we are all on the same page about yoga. Lets get back to the sutras:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali succinctly outlines the art and science of Yoga meditation for Self-Realization. It is a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through.

This text is similar to the Bible, but with a lot less ambiguous sonnet-like passages and more to the point revelations. The yoga sutras lay all the cards on the table and no one is left out. No question turned away or left unanswered. everything you ever wanted to know, ever wanted to improve about yourself, every bad habit you wanted to shake…it’s all there with an answer and a solution. Right. So, with that giant ball of knowledge being dropped everyday, for an hour, starting at 11AM, I react like this:

20130216-083930.jpg I ask every question I have because I don’t want to miss any detail or misinterpret anything. Mostly, everyone else sits quietly, patiently and I feel bad for holding up progress. But then, we break for lunch, and I feel confused. As we sit around for lunch, I can overhear, “Oh, the sutras are so easy.” Then in the same breath, I hear: “oh man, what I would do for a beer right now, or a massage right now, or {insert distraction}”. It appears that, for some, the sutras aren’t sinking in at all.
Maybe it is a lack of understanding the relevance of yoga philosophy. Teacher training is not about briefly learning the sutras in order to be tested on them, only to leave that knowledge behind here in Rishikesh. You cannot be a yoga teacher without a sound understanding of what these sutras are saying. Furthermore, imparting this knowledge to your students is essential.

Yoga isn’t about tight pants and vegan cookies. It’s a total way of life.

The universe is so silly + a quick update

I have been in India for 24 days now.  It has been rough but mostly because I am holding steadfast to old paradigms.  Today, I had a major shift in perspective…

To understand where my mind had wandered off to in the last month, I’ve taken an excerpt from an email I wrote a few days ago to a very dear friend:

“I am so ready to be home. There are no grocery stores, no sanitary sources of food or drink unless it comes out of a box or sealed bottle. Try and imagine not having a grocery store. At all. Of any kind. Where would you get your food? My question exactly. I’m actually kind of worried about what happens when we run out of the food we smuggled in from the states.
   Initially, the architecture and some cultural aspects were enough to distract me from what reality is like here. But as each landmark was checked off the “to-see” list, my world got smaller and smaller until it arrived at this…staying within the Embassy walls. Where there is a run down bowling alley that no one uses, a gym,and a dusty bar that no one goes to…it’s like a ghost town with a ton of people still living there. I know they are here, I see them in passing, but that’s it. I don’t know where they are coming from or where they are going. I feel like I might go insane; like I can’t think about it too long because if I do, I know I’ll start panicking, my mind spinning out into this cycle of claustrophobic thoughts and having no way out. I get the same feeling on planes…a situation where there is no option but to get your mind under control, even if that means blatant lies to regain control. Venturing outside in New Delhi is OK once every few days, for trips no longer than a few hours. There are so many people living in this city it is hard for my eyes to register all of them. When I go to the markets, which I will admit have the most amazing hippie ally stuff ever, they are fine until you can’t move because you are being swarmed with pushing people who are yelling all kinds of broken English phrases and shoving reusable grocery bags and watches in your face. They are aggressive sellers.”

Since writing that, the universe has sent some guardian angels my way, each angel arriving with a poignant reminder.  Although essential to my journey here, the universe interpreted those reminder as little pop quizzes and hid them in quiet bits of advice or burying them within a email from a friend.  All I needed to do was be quiet for a moment to understand them and take those reminders to heart. 

Reminder One: The time I have spent in India thus far was a necessary process, as is most of life. This reminder came from my mom who, willingly or otherwise, feels the brunt of my unhappiness and discomfort here.  Unsure of the right thing to say but knowing what is best (she is a mother afterall) her reminder came to me in passing, as she went to work and I saddled up for another stretch of wasted day (or so I had convinced myself).

“Think of being sick and not having salad dressing and coming to understand what it is really like in Delhi, having time to research yoga, think of those things as necessary for your yoga teacher training, getting those things out of your system in the comfort of your family home before going out into the world.”  Duh, Allyson. I have been twisting myself into a big knot over my discomfort here when really, it has all been a blessing. And it begs the question, what is my discomfort over? One example I have been using is the food, specifically salad dressing. A strange item to obsess over but one that I feel represents the abundance that I am accustomed to.  Wanting to adorn my first beautifully green and vibrant and alive meal that didn’t come from a box, I walked to the commissary on compound to buy salad dressing.  Being about the size of an average living room, the selection at the commissary is limited.  I was optimistic though and wandered the four aisles that make up the entire grocery store looking for the dressing aisle.  What I eventually found on the bottom shelf of the third row were six bottles of salad dressing, four of which were Italian.  Where was the salad dressing AISLE? I panicked and it has been my mantra of why I have disliked it here so much ever since. Salad dressing. Right. So, reminder one: spending this time in Delhi has been a necessary process, an initiation of sorts.  Being stripped of “comforts” has brought about a hungry sense of resourcefulness…

Reminder Two: “You are an artist, Ally. Art is critical thinking, and you need to be creatively resourceful.”  A fantastic reminder from my soul mate. Also reminded me of college, where my sculpture professor always told us that, after graduating with an art degree, we could put on every job application for the rest of our lives “Creative Problem Solver”.  Employers eat that up.  But really, that is who I am! That is who I have trained to be! A critically thinking creative resource-er.  Business cards, please!   

Reminder Three: Reading through yoga philosophy at 5am, I came across this:

“Surrender to a higher power. Regardless of what your religions inclinations are (or aren’t),Isvara pranidhana means that you should give up the illusion that you have control over everything in your life. How much time do you spend trying to control the outcome work situations, your interpersonal relationships? Wouldn’t it be much more peaceful to allow situations to unfold and trust in the power that made us? Can you believe that your life is unfolding just as it was meant to regardless of how much you attempt to control, or struggle with the outcomes?” – from  

Of course! How could I have forgotten so quickly how easily life unfolds when you stop clenching, how silly the universe is, and how small the world really can be.

Reminder Four: My other soul mate, a true source of inspiration and deep thought (!), summed all things up in a reminder that universe decided to hit me over the head with:

 “And you’re either doing this, or afraid to do this, but you should really take time to just be alone with your thoughts. Not thoughts on how to get food, but on who you are, what this experience means, and what you need to do next. What have you learned from your past, and how can you apply it to your future?”

Why am I in India? When will I be back? Where will I go from here? I do not have those answers and that is 100% ok because right now all that matters is this moment. And at the present moment I have my journal open to a page that has this written, my final reminder for today:

“Life Lesson!!! Most people try to have more things (like money), in order to do more of what they want, be more of who they are, and imagine happiness.  Actually, you must first BE who you really are, then DO what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”  I think I am at the “do what you need to do” stage.