The biggest challenge of this day, day one, wasn’t my snowy bike ride, though I would have sworn it was at the time, with tight thighs, cold fingers and toes, achey lungs. I was so nervous riding out that I almost turned around at my last opportunity, but I didn’t. I rode on, feeling the scarf around my face turn icy from the condensation of my breath. Midway through the six mile ride, my muscles were warmer but my tires lost traction, packed smooth with snow. I would’ve thought at the time that keeping balance and focus on the slick berms and steep slopes would be my biggest challenge of the day. It was certainly a contender for the riskiest ride of the season.
But I was wrong. It turns out, the biggest challenge I’ve faced today is this moment, its mole hill, the mountain I’ve made of it in my mind. Drum roll please. It’s a ban saw. And an album I can only assume is entitled “nothing but bass.”
Let me explain. I came up with the idea for a thirty-day commitment to yoga this morning, during a lively inner dialogue that was effectively distracting me from sinking deep and sleepy into a post-flow savasana. Which is par for the course, really, but more on that later perhaps. Today is the first day this season that the ground has been cold enough to collect snow. Just a light, pretty dusting of powdery flakes. It was sunny this morning, I woke early, drank coffee, and felt rested and restless enough to talk myself into yoga clothes and out the door to yoga class. Not just any class. The most difficult class on the docket, from what I could see. And a Saturday class, to boot. Read: full of people, likely more confident people than I when it comes to fast-flowing in public. Scary.
But necessary. The snow was lovely this morning with the sunshine, but I’m no dummy, I’m a Michigan native. The snow is also a premonition. It’s the feeling of putting on socks for the first time in months: coziness and grief, both at once. Settle in. It’s gonna be a while. After thirty Michigan winters, it has been my experience that the novelty wears off by January, and then depression sets in. This year, I’m taking my fish oil and vitamin D and I’m getting my ass to yoga.
Also, my groupon's about to expire.
So. As I was saying. Internal savasana dialogue went something like this:
Wow, self. You sort of kicked butt in class today. It was a pretty tough class and you didn’t fall down. You even took the bind a couple times, despite the fact that you had never heard the phrase “take the bind” before in your life. Very impressive work, really. Maybe yoga should be your new thing. You should probably make good on that groupon, at the very least. Let’s see... It was a10 class package and this is your fourth class. The promotion expires in six days. You’d have to go every day for the next six days to get your money’s worth. Huh. Every day. That sounds kind of cool. Sounds like a challenge. But why stop there? Why not two weeks, or a month even? If I committed to thirty days, I could totally justify buying that expensive lululemon mat I’ve been eyeing... Yeah. That sounds good. I think I’ll do that. Good idea. And while I’m at it, I should probably start a blog. That seems like a thing. A thirty day yoga blog. Yup. Perfect. Okay. Now where was I? Om... Om….
Which is about the time the instructor rang the singing bell and told me to start wiggling my fingers and toes, ostensibly to bring myself back from the deep yoga trance I was in. And so it was settled. I drove home visualizing myself sitting serenely in front of my laptop, waxing digitally poetic re: Zen and the Art of Doing Yoga for Thirty Days in a Row. And when I swapped my yoga pants for thermal leggings and loaded up my bike this afternoon for what’s likely to be the last ride of the season, there were all sorts of transitional metaphors dancing through my head. Lots of mountain bikey lessons reiterated through yoga, all the growth and challenge, the falling down and getting back up.
But now all of that has gone to shit. And it was this easy: I came home frozen solid from my bike ride, thawed out in a steamy shower, did my daily Oprah meditation, put a load of laundry in the washer, lit a candle and did a sun salutation for good measure. I opened my laptop and googled “how to start a blog,” which was, interestingly, the second “how to start” that popped up in autofill. No sweat. I read the wiki instructions and followed the links and voila! ...Nada! Empty page, some text boxes... I have no idea what I’m doing. But that’s not even the thing.
The thing is this. It’s the sound of a ban saw coming through my window and music coming through the vents as my handy neighbor Don cuts pieces of laminate flooring in our shared driveway and then pieces them together downstairs. You see, this is not what I planned. I had a whole “Namaste” playlist loaded up and ready to go. I was almost positive that I'd successfully tapped into my creativity and my spunky, catchy blog voice during meditation as I chanted Om Bhavam Namah: I am absolute existence. I am a field of endless possibility.
Apparently, not so much. All it takes is a ban saw and some power ballads to knock me off my game and into crazyville. My shoulders creep at least three inches closer to my ears as I sit at my lap top and wrack my distracted brain, start and stop, delete, grunt, growl. I lecture myself about the futility of my annoyance. I turn up my namaste playlist to compete. I am determined to write something really profound about my inaugural yoga practice and my season-ending bike ride, dammit! But it isn’t meant to be. There aren’t any interesting thoughts in my head worth writing and remembering. There's just the sound of my own not-so-centered voice shouting NOOOOOOOOOO (mostly internally and occasionally out loud)--as screechy and abrasive as a ban saw.
And that's perfect. I mean it; that’s exactly how this needs to go! As I embark on a thirty day yoga voyage, this is precisely the right place to start: the NO I’ve been screaming, mostly internally and sometimes out loud, for thirty years now. The NO I’ve screamed with all of my brain cells and all of my muscles and all of my creative energy--every day, sometimes all day, sometimes at myself, sometimes at traffic, or my boss, my patients, my boyfriends, illnesses, attitudes, aches, pains, minor inconveniences, whatever. Doesn’t matter. You get the point. Day after day, moment after moment, I've routinely decided I don’t want things to be the way they are, for whatever reason--I label reality too noisy, too soon, too late, too unpredictable--and I use all of my energy to scream NO. Today my NO leaves me at my laptop, wearing my shoulders for earrings, clenching my jaw, at a total loss for words.
So. After the sweaty yoga class, after the snowy bike ride, this ends up being my deepest practice of the day: releasing the NO. I sigh and delete the bitter, preoccupied blog starts and stops and close the laptop. I walk into the kitchen and my feet feel the bass on the floorboards. I dump some leftover mongolian beef and rice into a skillet and watch it bubble. I crack open a beer. I carry the greasy food and the hoppy beer into the living room and chew and sip and chew and chug and breathe, and breathe and breathe. That’s all. That’s the kind of yogi I am today. I choose stillness with a side of salty beef and a microbrew. There’s a part of me, I admit it, that thinks there might be a reward for this act of acceptance--the miracle of a power outage, perhaps. But instead, I’m handed an even greater gift. In my own silence, without my competing sitar and sanskrit dirges, I can hear each note of the song below me as the music begins, frantically, to skip. I’m not kidding. The sporadic staccato of the music, ripped to shreds occasionally by a piece of flooring shrieking through a saw blade, is nothing short of absurd. If silence has an opposite, this must be it. I keep chewing, keep sipping, keep breathing; nothing has changed. Here, cross-legged on the couch, balancing a steamy plate and an icy bottle, still breathing, the tiny seed of acceptance cracks wide open, cracks me open, cracks me up. For this moment, the only one I have, the loudest sound I can hear is my own laughter.