Yoga: A Relationship



Teacher

My old Mysore Ashtanga teacher used to kick me out of class by the middle of the Primary series. He used to say that I'm too weak, too fat, too unsteady in the mind to advance anywhere in the series. And for the longest time, I believed him. Every time I got to practice on my own, I stopped around the part where this teacher would tell me to stop and leave the class. This went on for years.

Few months ago, a guest teacher came from India. Attending his classes meant that, unless something urgent is happening, we don't leave class until we've done the entire series. I ROCKED IT!

He didn't push or holler or tell us to do things. Mysore Ashtanga Yoga is SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT, a guided practice. If the student is able to reach 50% into the asana, the teacher will help make room for the student to reach 55%. If the student is able to reach 99% into the asana, the teacher will help make that 99% last longer. And if the student is able to perfect the asanas, a good teacher will set the stage for the asanas to turn into a practice: A tool for strength and meditation and guidance.

When my fat obstructed my hands from reaching behind my back, this new teacher sat behind me and guided my breath. When my mind chattered, he stood by my head and asked, "What are you thinking about?" - Not expecting an answer, but reminding me to leave the world and return to the mat. And when our breaths softened, he said, "I don't hear anything," to remind us of our Ujayyi breaths. 

I've been practicing Yoga for a gajillion years, but it was only with this teacher I found the confidence to practice an unsupported headstand in a classroom: The one who didn't take himself or his practice personally. The one who facilitated our growth, instead of judging it. 

A Kind of Hell

Nothing beats the fun and ease and concentration of practicing yoga together in a classroom. 

That said, ideally, the practice should remain with us wherever we may be. The reason why I chose to stick with this Yogic path is for its convenience. I don't need weights, shoes, or too much room to practice. I can practice yoga even if there is no driver to take me to the gym/classroom. With a teacher around or none, with a sparring partner or none. 

And there is no competition in Yoga, not with others, nor with yourself. There is no judgement, nobody's asana is better than another. There is only the practice: The body recites the sequence's mantra, the breath is the mind's anchor for stillness. Since there is no winning or losing in Yoga, there is no material reward, no compliments or criticism. You practice for the sake of the practice. 

Which can be very hard on someone who was raised to compete. Which can be very hard when your society expects you to impress. Which can be ridiculous when your face and legs are flat on the mat and there is nothing but your breath as sole company, day in and day out. 

This is a kind of hell, I tell myself on the 123rd breath into the practice. And that is when I usually quit. I usually blame the exhaustion or lack of focus for quitting early. 

But I can't get away with those excuses anymore. Not after I've had so many teachers. Not while practicing on the best mat in the market. Not after half-a-dozen 10-Day Vipassana courses. Meditation and strength and flexibility are not my weaknesses. 

Truth is, I can't bear the thoughts that come forth when I practice alone. 

Focus

If we react to what arises through the practice with aggression, injuries or physical and mental exhaustion may result. If we try to avoid or run away from the difficult postures by breaking the rules and skipping poses or practice, we will fall into the opposite extreme: laziness or inertia. Finding the middle path is usually what we all learn in Ashtanga, discovering our mental, physical and psychological behavior and getting to a place of acceptance and loving kindness towards ourselves and the world around us. 
From Ashtanga: Maintain Focus  by Alexia Bauer


Storage

  • The body we have today is nothing but the accumulation of our past thoughts, emotions and actions. 
  • Asana is the method that releases us from past conditioning, stored in the body, to arrive in the present moment.
  • Practicing forcefully will only superimpose a new layer of subconscious imprints based on suffering and pain. 
From Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, by Gregor Maehle


Setback. Well, kinda.

Few days ago, I did the entire Ashtanga Primary Series. The whole thing. With Vinyasas between the forward bending sequences, and continuous Ujjayi breathing. From Aleph until Khatam. Even did a long, unsupported headstand. 

Then hell broke loose and my hemorrhoids went crazy. 

In the Ashtanga book by Gregor Maehle, there is something about anger being stored in the hamstrings and grief in the chest. During that last practice, I had managed to disregard all the feelings that came forth through the asanas. (I don't know how. I still have to figure out the right combination of eucalyptus balm and sleep to regain that kind of unflinching and continuos focus.)

And the universe just couldn't let too much of a good thing going. Maintaining focus for that long and disregarding the emotional influx backfired on my ass, literally. 

The good side of having an inflamed bottom is the sudden concentration on liquified high-fiber diet. I never thought it's possible, but easy pooping is not a myth, you hear?! It's possible with just enough papayas and apple vinegar! I may never get to do the Primary series ever again, but I CAN POOP!

Ahem. 

Fluctuate 

I had a hard practice this morning. I knew everything I needed to do to keep at it. I just couldn't. By the end of the forward-bends, I couldn't pick myself up anymore. No asana is too easy once the thoughts set in and take over. 

To make things worse, I took it hard on myself. I had to cuddle up with my master and succumb to defeat. 

What should I do?

He patted my head. "Keep at it. Try again tomorrow. It'll get easier with time. Everything does."

So it does. 

The Darling Saudis


A Saudi woman in voluntary exile is visited by fellow Saudis. They commence on encouraging her to end her exile, return to Saudi. She considers her options. 

_______________

Yazan Made of Wonders


I held Yazan's head in my lap. “You masturbated, didn’t you?”
“Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.”
“More than once?”
He turned his face away, his burning cheek pressed on my knee.

The next day, I heard his thoughts. I heard his thoughts through his journey back to Saudi, from the hotel to the airport to the check-in line to the waiting lounge to the passengers cabin. I heard his thoughts about, if he could grow strong enough to make his own choices, he would choose Sarah, the woman he has loved for so long.

I heard, later in the evening, when the plane's lights were dimmed and sleep dawned, his thoughts on how he would have fucked me from every hole and position in that coach cabin. I heard his kink and felt pink. 

Does it effect on a man watching the woman underneath him churn and hurt in ecstasy? Does it make him feel stronger, bigger and closer to his ideal? 

Does a woman feel more woman when she can reach the apex of her womanhood and hold it for so long? What would've been worse, one who comes too easily or one who never comes at all? 

And I wondered if this is just another lusty ruse, if I'm just making up excuses to get laid. If this is just another distraction or infatuation taking force. 

Insane Wonders


Saudi has always been more than just a country. It’s home and family and identity. I adore and hate and lust her, my country. 

Since I refused to go to Saudi, Saudi sent her messengers to me, Mshari and Yazan. And they did as they were bid. Two horrified, oedipal Saudis sat in my living room and encouraged me, as gently as they could, to go home. “Give it a shot. See how it works. Things have changed.”

Saudi, without marriage, already drives me mad. Imagine if I were married and deeply lodged in the social system? There is no such thing as a sane Saudi. I won’t even be sane enough to decide on how to spend my evenings with all that noise.

I told them that I am in Indonesia for sanity. The only thing that would send back to Saudi would be a bout of insanity: Falling madly in love. 

***

Obviously, all this is designed to confuse. I needed to count the pros and cons. What do I get out of going to Saudi, and what do I get if I just stay in exile after all?

Pros of Living in Saudi: 
1. I can make a lot of money. Own things.
2. Get a job. Write. 
3. Get married, get laid, have children.
4. Be with old friends and family.
5. Have every kind of tea and dairy and achar ever known on earth.
6-10. Affirmations: Kunafah. Shawarma. Baklava. Ma’soub. Hummus. 

Cons:
1. "What personal freedom?"
2. A job is only as interesting as it can get.
3. Money can only entertain so far.
4. "What privacy?"
5. If married: In-laws. If single: Mama. 
6 - 10. Abstraction: Culture - Commonness - Comments - Context - Calling.

What's Saudi got that is worth the trouble? What's she got to make me move so far and heavy? What's she done for me that Indonesia hasn't?

These questions will answer themselves when the time comes for me to know. Like all of my questions, the questions that I have asked before and groped for answers, I'll know when the time comes. كل شي في وقته منيح.

And the best thing out all this wonderment, is the realization that I have a choice. That makes me fucking cash. I have a choice and the time to weigh my options. I am that rich. I've been blessed. 

***

I live in a very narrow world. 

I wanted to expand on it, fill it with more oomph and oh-la-la. That was one of the reasons why I left Saudi in the first place; I felt choked. 

Instead, I got stuck there, in the past. Relieved but unpassed. I’ve been twenty-five for eight years. I haven't gone anywhere else. This also illustrates the nature of my relationships with others. Ever since I defied the norms, the norms dropped me too. 

Yazan's Saudiness prodded me with devil’s talk and questions:
- What if I had been good?
- What if I let them have me their way? 
- What if I married like everyone else?
- What if I never left?
- What if...and never the answers. 

I stared long into the devil’s void, challenging its devouring emptiness. "Are you done yapping, ingrate?"

***

It felt wrong for Yazan to leave the house at two in the morning. If the neighbors were going to talk, then I had better make it worth their while. So we took turns, Yazan and I, to shower and unwind. We undressed into sarongs and shirts, then sorted the bed. The silent domesticity affirmed flighty thoughts and purged idle talk. 

I said, “See, I don't got me a man I can call mine, but I ain't alone. I don't get to do everything, but what I do get to do is not bad either. I don't want everything, because having everything would have been boring.”

And the boy who was pulling my bedsheets in my clothes said, "Alia, buck up. You ain't ugly. You're worth the fight."

Happiness is worth the fight. 

Booze of Wonder


I’ve had booze and the Sight hasn’t shut down. 

I thought that committing sin would shut down my Indigo abilities; I would be normal. Normal and homogenous go very well with Saudi. Since the man who taught me to drink was a Saudi, I returned the karmic favor by teaching Yazan how to drink. 

But I can still hear them. I can still hear the voices in my head, of spirits and men. Not as loud as they used to, not to point of distraction. But clear enough. Urgent enough. And it has made me wonder if nothing would shut them down.

It made me wonder if I could ever fit into the Saudi society. Or if the rules only matter when I am with the Timekeeper, my imam and father and guardian.
Then I remembered. What hasn’t the Timekeeper done and given to make my life comfortable, ingrate?

Mshari's Gift


“Well, we kissed,” I said.

Irhan came for dinner after the Saudis were gone. He knew that Yazan and Mshari had left that morning, and I was blue with homesickness. I told him about Yazan sleeping over. Irhan cocked his head to the side. “Did he try to...?”

“No, he didn’t. The very-available and very-tempted Saudi just kissed me. I sensed him, from the way he kissed, I sensed his edge and need. I sensed him trying his damndest to control himself. He isn’t accustomed to being in a situation where sex is an option that is not taken. All the times he’s been in private with women, he has had his heart’s content. Temptation is a terrible thing.”

“But he's Saudi. How could he not…”

“He’s been previously informed, actually.”
“By who?”
“Mshari.” 
“Mshari, who is Yazan's friend and is your family.”

“Yes. Mshari took the time to tell Yazan in private about me. Then he left us alone. He stood aside. That was his gift. Mshari made us happy just by backing off. He must love us that much. We’re grateful. I am.”

Every Time I Tried to Quit Writing

Most of these days, I don't like writing. 

I don't know what happened. Zaman, this used to be the cornerstone of my existence, and now this long dala3 is getting me too lazy to write anymore. Like who cares, no?

WE'VE GONE OVER THIS A MILLION TIMES!! You learn, you teach, you write. 

If you're not learning, you're stuck. If you're stuck, you are regressing. If you are regressing, you are accelerating your age and senility, OY!

The only way you can postpone and fight senility is by keeping your liquid memory fluid! It's the easiest way to regenerate and renew. You read and practice and learn something new every day. And that knowledge is worth passing because you are not the only one on this boat. So write about that!

And even if you're not teaching, even if you're just talking to your own people and community whom you know each and every one of them by name and nickname, your voice sustains gloomy skies from crashing and mistakes from happening even for a bit longer. 

Say that you're learning, but you're not teaching/writing, then your knowledge goes to waste in that thick head of yours! A frigging waste! The knowledge you got came from a long lineage of teachers who have fought and died and suffered to pass on their knowledge. You owe it to them to write.

(I have the meanest voices in my head.)

WRITE!!

Tayeb, tayeb, khalas. I'll write now. Dageega. 

Domestic Suspense

There was this domestic action movie going on yesterday afternoon. First my cleaning mood got so jacked up that I couldn't stop scrubbing and sweeping (oddly enough, the mood didn't go as far as the dishes, dammit).

The cleaning demon possession got so bad that I wanted to scrub the rarely-used washroom. And I did. And I closed the door behind me. FORGETTING THAT THE DOOR HAS NO KNOB OR HANDLE WHATSOEVER AND I WAS STUCK IN THAT WASHROOM.

I said, “Heck, lemmie think about it while I scrub the washroom, the reason that got me into this jam”. BUT THEN LADY DISASTER COULDN'T HELP HERSELF! And she sent Topeng over, who commenced calling my phone (which was in the bedroom) and knocking on the front door AT THE SAME TIME.

I thought, "Okay, maybe that's my chance to be saved. I could yell from in the washroom. Or climb up the roof and Topeng can invite himself in and open the washroom door and be a hero for a change." EXCEPT THAT THE FRONT DOOR WAS LOCKED WITH THE KEY IN THE KEYHOLE AND THERE IS NO WAY THAT HE OR ANYBODY COULD HEAR ME, DAMSEL IN DISTRESS MY DAYS!

The other option was to wait for a few weeks until somebody figured out that something wrong was going on based on the stench my house was omitting. IF A CADAVER COULD STINK THAT FAR AND NOT BE CONFUSED AS REGULAR JAKARTA SMELL.

And there was the last option, which was to break the window nearest from the washrooms keyhole, where we got to open and close the washroom door without a door knob or handle. AN INFALLIBLE SYSTEM PROVEN TO HAVE WORKED FINE FOR YEARS!

It sunk in miserably. I had to break a window. There are a few ways to do that without an uninvited crew of rascals and their choice of accidentally wayward ball. First, there was the traditional Kung Fu way. A foolproof plan because it has been proven to work and didn't require many tools. The last time I did it, all I needed was an elbow, a trip to the ER, three stitches down my forearm and my brothers laughing at me for all eternity.

Then there was the untested procedure: The wimpy witch/housekeeper's method. It only works in rooms with plenty of brooms, and this method requires a sturdy set of core and arm muscles. And a broom desperate for a break.

I had to swing twice. THANK YOU, ENDLESS BOUTS OF PLANK POSITION. The sound of 5mm glass shattering ran cold down my spine, along with the humbling ecstasy of regaining one's freedom from such an idiotic situation.

My maintenance man only needed 10 seconds of my rambling to figure out the entire story, and an additional hour to fix the damage in the next morning AND INSTALL A DOOR HANDLE ON BOTH FREAKING SIDES OF THAT WASHROOM DOOR. Free of charge.

A speck of night

"How dare you doubt me. How dare you doubt my love for thee. How dare you, after all that we've been through, think I would still leave!"

And he stung her spine from the small of her back to the top of her skull. Her back arched in helpless majesty, sending nipples as taut as marbles airborne, filling his horizon with declaration of lust and feral needs. She was no more a woman, nor identity or name. She was his bow, while the electric stabs of lust that stung her spine and numbed her mind, his arrows.

Her arm reached instinctively above her, pressing her palm against the headboard in a reflex of protecting her head from slamming against it from the impact of her orgasms. When her elbow gave, he saw the danger and stilled himself inside her. Breathing whispers of each other's gods and profanities and names.

"My god. Woman. What would it take. To have you. Believe? I am here, wholly and deeply in your soul. I am here, in your arms and cunt and mouth and name."

He began rocking again. Deliberately. His jaw clenched. His words chanted, holy mantras and submission to karma. From the mouths of true believers, words gain power and promises become spells. "I am here, your master and man. Your pleasure and pain. I am here, and you are mine. For we are one. I am here. All of I. I am yours. My love. My whore. My woman. My love. My true love. My all."

And yet when she awoke the next morning, she barely recalled that night’s dream.