Meditation
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Swimming Through

I’m sitting at a corner table on the second floor of a public library in the part of DC known as Upper Caucasia. It’s a short bus ride from where I have lived 20+ years, but with more consistent (and luxurious) city services, such as an aquatic center with an Olympic-sized pool, a giant hot tub, a spin machine which extracts water from your bathing suit, and long hours to please any lap-swimmer.

When the temperature hit the 90s in March, I decided that I couldn’t take another terrible summer. Given what we know about climate change, we’re bound to feel hotter for longer. I tend to pass out and speak in tongues when the heat index goes over 95; far worse is the sense of being trapped that no snowcapalypse can match. So, I vowed to implement two summer-fun-sucking preventative measures:

  1. Getting my fair share of electrolytes to avoid heat exhaustion and kvetchiness
  2. Swimming a few times each week

This commitment has kept me busy, checking out the array of public pools throughout the area. At some, I’ve hung out with friends in shallow water that was almost as steamy as the air outside.

Not typical of most pools I visited. (This one is invite only and surrounded by lushness.)

Indoor pools were never my thing. But suddenly I’m amazed at how many laps I can d, how deliciously wrung out I feel after.  And how I can mentally recite mantras as I do breaststroke in the 50 meter lane. (Instructions: while underwater chant to yourself OM, then come up and inhale, then go back under and chant NAMA , then come back up and inhale, then go back down for SHIVAYA. Rinse and repeat until the monkeys in your head have all taken a nap, and you can let go of the mantra and enjoy how cool the water feels, how strong your muscles.)

I’ve even had my first swimming-related injury trying to learn the best freestyle method. So now I *have* to stretch afterwards in the gargantuan whirlpool, no?   While I wish the pool five blocks from my house was the “premiere” facility in the city, I’ve gotten used to hopping on the cross-town with a good book.

It’s the want of a juicy novel that has brought me to this LEED-gold certified library just a couple of blocks from my upscale public pool; it’s got a green roof, counter tops made from recycled materials, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a funky orange color scheme. Oh, and space for 80,000 books and 200 people, some who can hang out in lounge chairs and others in private study rooms.  I choose my spot for its view of the rain and the tall trees and the busy main street.

I’m almost finished with David Whyte‘s The Three Marriages (about three most important commitments: to one’s work, oneself and another person).  This morning, I came upon a section about how so many of us go through periods of uncertainty with regards to our calling.

“We could describe the inability to focus on our work as a kind of vocational promiscuity — an unwillingness to be faithful to a central theme, an indication that we have either chosen the wrong work just as we may have chosen the wrong partner, or that we are afraid of the deeper context to which it is leading.”

Whyte gives the example of Jane Austen as someone who was decidedly married to her work and reached a point when she was unafraid to of the depth of her vows.  She completely revised Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (both of which had been penned years earlier) and wrote from scratch Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion — all within a seven-year period while using the family’s living room as her study. (She purposely requested the door hinges be left unoiled, so that its squeak would warn her of visitors, and she could hide whatever page she was working on.)

At the end of May, I went on a week-long retreat for women writers in Taos, New Mexico, led by the prize-winning Canadian author Eunice Scarfe. (I mention her nationality because she’s tremendously proud of Canada’s strong literary tradition!) I taught yoga twice daily, and participated in three-hour long writing sessions.  My personal writing intention, as I had written to Eunice some weeks before was “to walk away with some small but meaningful writing project in mind.”

Nothing new came to me, so as I left, I decided to focus instead on revising older work, much as how Jane dove into her productive years, or how my friend Jose Torres-Tama (with two new books in the works) describes immersing himself in new writing: by studying the remnants of his past.

When I got home, I realized that my revision process would have to wait until after I finished my polarity therapy finals and clinical evaluations. (Check! There’s still some paperwork that needs to go through, but I’m almost certified in this Ayuvedic-based energetic bodywork.)

And then came the heatwave, spending my free time swimming, the people who suddenly decide they want to spend their summers taking care of their bodies and business, and the corresponding increase in my coaching and yoga and energywork portfolio. (For which I am grateful!)

I have just under a month left in DC this summer, then I’ll head up to Kripalu to spend two packed weeks taking part two of my Integrative Yoga Therapy, and then decide if I want to pursue another 550 hours of training in that — which is what is now required to call yourself a “yoga therapist.”  (There is a tension between being a life-long learner, and not being independently wealthy, but we’ll save that for another post.)

So for this next month, I’ll continue my latest passion — and make it part of my ritual to come here afterwards, to this corner, to write surrounded by students and homeless men doing crossword puzzles, and grandmothers lying on the floor next to their charges by the graphic novel section, engrossed in a vision of possibilities. May your summer be delightful!

This entry was posted in: Meditation

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I'm a yoga therapist and coach who is fascinated by the ways in which scientific inquiry has converged with wisdom traditions in concluding that our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are intrinsically connected. I try to use this knowledge to help people feel more resilient, courageous and alive.

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