Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bumps in the road.

I've been having an interesting time over the past few weeks. I can't go into detail here (yet) but I have come up against a situation in my life that has shown me great uncertainty - as of now it could go either way. For somebody who likes to know all the answers and to plot and plan around them, uncertainty isn't easy. But maybe I am describing my pre-yoga self, I have less of a need to know the complete road-map these days - which as it turns out might be just as well!

Last week started in a challenging way, as I left my house to head to the shala at 6.20am I saw a traffic warden photographing my car, having just written me a ticket. About a month ago they decided to paint some white boxes on my street indicating parking spaces, and aside from the inconvenience of having to move my car to a neighbouring road while they did the painting, I thought nothing of it. Little did I know that parking where I did (overhanging a box) would lead to not one but TWO fines of £120 each - one ticket was written at 4.45pm on a Sunday, the other 6.20am on the Monday (during which time I hadn't left my house). If I hadn't seen her taking the photo as I left for yoga would I have returned to find 7 more parking tickets I wonder? Anyway I reacted in a classic way - I reasoned with her, I begged, I pleaded, I may have shouted a little, and then I cried (because she said "if you'd only come out a minute earlier you could have stopped me..." I mean seriously - what help is it to say that???) and finally I snatched the ticket off the windscreen and stormed off up the road, slightly concerned what effect this contretemps would have on my practice. 
Oh, you mean I have to park inside the lines??

When I reached the end of my road two young neighbours who'd seen the debate going on mentioned that they'd seen I had a ticket last night, so realising that I had two already I had to go back and move the car for fear of getting more. So I stomped BACK down my road, slightly hysterical about how late I was for practice by this point, got in the car, moved it back into the bloody bay, locked up, back up the road and went to get my phone out to photograph the measly sign (which doesn't mention fines, it just says "park in marked bays"). No phone. So I stomp back down the road, unlock the car, find my phone on the passenger seat, lock the car again, back up the road...and finally on my way to yoga. I wasn't very proud of the way I reacted when confronted with this situation (especially the shouting and crying) and with all the up-and-down the road action I had started to get myself into a panic that I would have to miss practice, or that it would be ruined. So I kept breathing, and told myself that I would let it go, and wouldn't allow it to affect my practice, and headed to the shala where (despite lots of changing-room chat about it both before and after) I did not let it get the better of me. Chatting about it I decided that it was OK that I got angry, as it was a stressful situation and the anger was short-lived - the key is that I did not let it eat away at me, or to ruin my day. Although if I don't manage to triumph in my appeal against the fines I might be slightly less relaxed about it....
Anyway the following day was when I received news of the "uncertainty". And my first reaction was actually very positive: "OK," I thought to myself "Let's see what happens here." No panic, no dramatising, just a straight-forward realisation that without all of the information there was little I could do, but I was confident that things would be alright. Sorry I realise this is all a bit mysterious but it does need to be for the time being!
The following day, Wednesday, was a red letter day for different reasons as I was given the next pose in the primary series: garbha pindasana. I had a feeling it was coming after I started binding supta kurmasana (and got put through bootcamp to "nail the exit") a few weeks ago, and had almost expected it to come on Monday (knowing that it wouldn't on Tuesday!). So I was thrilled, I love the low-key way Cary comes and gives you a new pose, she just comes to you on your mat, says "Now come into lotus..." and begins to talk you through it, no run-up to it, no whistles and bells, just simple explanation and help. Susan was practicing in front of me that day and was doing her 2nd series twists and it was all I could do not to give her a big grin but I concentrated on the job in hand as Cary wrestled and prised my arms through the non-existent gaps in my lotus, sitting at one point with her foot on my knee to give her some leverage while I worried that the new practitioner on the mat beside me (who according to Susan's email had stopped practicing and was "frankly GAWPING") would never come back again after witnessing the man-handling it took to get my arms through! I think I said to C at one point "this is a lot harder than it looks!" but eventually my arms were through, hands under my chin, I breathed there (panted) and then she helped me to rock. I have been doing a version of this in the led class every week (without trying to get my hands through) where I roll right back onto my head as I thought was correct, but having Cary help me rock the movement was slight in comparison - I asked her about it, and she said that this is essential so that you can keep your hands in contact with your head, and to keep your back rounded and your bandhas locked. "As soon as you lose that contact you lose your bandhas" she says and I think BANDHAS?? Are you KIDDING me???!! After the first very assisted attempt she says "And now do it again by yourself" and then walks away to the sound of me laughing my head off. Of course I give it a go, I go and get the water bottle and try and TRY to wrestle my arms through, they try to rock around, beaching myself and calling out to her for help, and eventually she helps me to rock around (saying all the while "I'm not doing anything, you're doing it all, I'm just holding your knees") and then I'm done. Ecstatic I head to work, the first bruises already showing on my hands (I think from where C gripped them to pull them through) and struggle not to spend the entire day telling my colleagues what I just got given. Of course they are not in the slightest bit interested, and if they saw what I was trying to do they would probably think I had completely lost the plot.
Having had a fairly eventful three days I began to wonder what would come next. And what came next? Irritability, restlessness, snapping at my Mum on the phone, wishing I was anywhere but where I was at any given moment, that was what characterised Thursday. On Friday I decided to do my little photo project to cheer me up (and very successful it was too), but then the weekend was an odd one.
After my initial positive reaction, by the weekend I had descended a bit into panic. And the weekend consisted of: a very late night on Friday leading to me sleeping most of the day Saturday and then feeling I'd wasted the whole day; then an evening and night disturbed by neighbours 4 houses away having the world's loudest ever party (after trying for an hour to call the council I eventually moved a mattress into the study at the front of my flat and slept there, being woken again at 5am to find it still in full swing - African beats pounding, the garden floodlit and men in no shirts dancing and singing...); a very tough practice on Sunday; tears over brunch...and finally a decision to start looking after myself. On the way home from brunch I went via the garden centre and bought a load of plants which I spent three hours installing in the garden (which my body didn't thank me for the next day...) and felt so much happier once I had done that. Then on Monday night I went to a singing class with some friends, another positive and helpful step towards a happier me, and on Tuesday had dinner with a wonderful friend who said all the right things about my situation and made feel even better still.
So now having moved through positivity, restlessness and panic, I have arrived at a place of intrigue. Uncertainty means that life could go in many different directions, and what is that if it's not a huge gift? One of the things which helped me to arrive in this place was reading this in Gregor Maehle's book:

"A peasant once spoke to the sage Ranakrishna thus:
 'I am a simple villager. Please give me in one sentence a method by which I can obtain happiness.' Ramakrishna's answer was: 'Totally accept that you are a machine operated on by God."

Reading this helped me to gain a bit of perspective and was the beginning of my "intrigue" phase. You can interpret this as you will, but I have faith that "something will come up" / "the universe will provide" or however you want to put it, that something larger than me is in charge of what happens next, and frankly I am intrigued to discover what this will be. So watch this space...
And I fully intended this post to be all about garbha pindasana and coming to terms with learning new asanas...but I will have to save that for another day!

***********Edit - parking update!! *******************
I have to pay the fines, my appeal was rejected. But it's OK! All things in perspective, this is certainly not the end of the world. And maybe it's karma for all the times I drove over the speed limit and never got caught :)


  1. dear Mel
    in San Francisco, you have to read the signs because on days that there is street cleaning, if you parked the car on the wrong side of the street, it could be towed by the time you wake up. it seems your city has found a new revenue source.

  2. The biggest problem is I don't use my car for a week at a time, so it's just lucky I saw it before I had 16 tickets - and I'd be no good living in San Francisco would I!! But now I am paranoid and keep checking in the street - when I notice somebody else parked outside the lines I try to find them to tell them. Maybe I need to stick notes on the cars to warn's a LOT of money and for lots of people it would be very difficult to find, I'm sure. Fingers crossed I don't have to pay the full fines (I wrote them a letter to appeal) or I might be needing a bit more yoga to calm me down!!

  3. Mel you exceeded the speed limit, noooooo I just can't believe that.