Thursday, September 26, 2013

Santosha and Dragonflies

Hello, I'm Coriander Flax Miracle according to this Yogi Name Generator. I sound more like a powerful pooper mover than someone who can help you wrestle your head to your feet in Bow pose. Disclaimer: You're not supposed to wrest your body parts into position, but it sounds way more funny this way. I'm in the midst of my fourth week here in Austin. As everyone knows, time goes by so fast. I blinked and already I'm a good way into my yoga teacher training and I still feel so wholly unprepared to start instructing a roomful of yogis into position. 

However, life has been good to me lately. Though the universe has definitely thrown some curveballs at me thank you for the broken, dead hearing aid, I've been able to find the shining rays of sunshine that keeps me going on... like dragonflies.

If you believe in such things, I have a totem animal. Totem animals are creatures that you have extraordinary encounters with. I don't mean like a squirrel coming up to you and allowing you to pet him. Even just simple but meaningful eye contact counts. Back in the spring, I started running. (Oh by the way, I'm up to 30 minutes straight, I can call it running and not "running" anymore!) On one of my "runs," a dragonfly came up to me and started flying ahead of me. It would bob up and down, zig zag this way and that, but for the duration of the run, it just stayed right there, flying along with me. I wouldn't have thought anything of it if it weren't for a good friend of mine who was noticing some of her own totem animals and telling me about them. I went home and looked it up. This is what I found:

The dragonfly is generally associated with the symbolic meaning of transformation. Here are common meanings for this animal totem:
Change and transformation
Joy, lightness of being
Symbol of the realm of emotions, invitation to dive deeper into your feeling
Being on the lookout for illusions and deceits, whether are external or personal
Connection with nature’s spirits, fairies realms (Source)
I interpreted it as a sign that I'm about to go through a transformation both internally and externally, and it's true. If you found me from a year ago and said, "Hey, you're gonna be doing this and that and look, you're going to end up in Austin for yoga teacher training." I would've looked at you like you had three eyes. 

I was cheered by my find and started to pay attention. I noticed I would see a dragonfly in strange situations: the weirdest being when I decided to get down and do some yoga in a random laundromat and a dragonfly flew straight in and hung out until I was done. If that wasn't a giant billboard, I don't know what was. Then, I got to Austin and went for a run on Town Lake/Lady Bird Lake Trail I get people telling me both names so I'm calling it TLLBL Trail now. I looked up at one point and saw this cloud of giant dragonflies just zipping around, playing with each other. They might as well have spelt out "Hey girl, you're in the right place!" (For my Isola Bella friends, "Hey girl, I'm Ryan Gosling!")

So I'm diving in headfirst. In my training, I learned about santosha. It means contentment and finding satisfaction in the good things and all the non-good things. Upon further study, I discovered it also meant willingness to take risks. Who knew? Contentment equals being openminded. I would've never put the two together, but there it was, existing in this concept called santosha. I decided then and there, that was it, I had nothing to lose and never would. Instead, I'd have the whole world- no, the universe- to gain.

Even though it seems like you're not making progress or facing one struggle after another. The universe is constantly watching over you and sending you signs. All it takes is to be just aware at one moment, and you'll start finding out your truth at every turn. Whether it's through a totem animal or meeting the right person at the right time, open yourself up and find santosha.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Making Friends and Losing Them

There's an unspoken agreement among women and girls when it comes to friendship. It's kind of like "I give you one of my secrets and you give me one of yours and we'll see where this friendship can go." Females as a general are the more emotionally outspoken one. We barter with our feelings, trade secrets, place our emotional rants out on the table for everyone to examine. It can be freeing and it is very unguarded.

We're asking, "Can I trust you? Will you even out the playing field if I say or do this?" Before we know it, it becomes a therapy session over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Everyone has a story to share, a tidbit to add, advice to give. Each one is from a different background with varying experiences, but it all comes down to one thing: sharing them.

You get lucky and you find the right person, that one friend that you just click with and your risk to trust her has paid off. Other times, you walk away with a sour taste in your mouth and a gaping feeling of vulnerability. You've realized that instead of listening, she was just waiting for her turn to talk. Your risk let your secrets out and now there's a person walking around with them.

I read an article a while ago about how a break-up between two close friends can be more detrimental to one's emotional health than a romantic break-up. After you break up, there's someone out there who knows everything about you- your confessions, your quirks, your bad habits and good- and she is no longer obligated to keep them in for you. They aren't gifts of friendship anymore. They are collateral or the spoils of war. They can be used against you, whether directly or indirectly. And don't forget the loss of what a best friend brings to life: support, love, a sound-board, a shoulder to cry on, a cheering voice of happiness, the knowledge that there is always someone there for you.

When you lose all of that, you lose a part of yourself. It isn't the norm to mourn that loss. It's not like the death of a loved one or a break-up with your significant other. There are rituals in place to deal with those kind of losses. Sitting shiva or eating a pint of ice cream. Allowance to mope in bed for a few days. But no one ever came up with a way to deal with the loss of a close friend. We're supposed to hate them and move on. Start all over again. Find a new best friend.

I had a term for a handful of friends in my life. I called them my Life-Support. Usually I just had one at a time. That one girl who I would go to for everything- every thought in my head, every fight I had with my family, every idea I wanted to try, every happy instance, every sad moment. I would contact her every day, say random stuff that would make sense to only her, and have several simultaneous conversations about various topics. We never needed a "break," and if we did somehow go a while without talking, we'd pick things up right where we left off.

I was lucky enough to never be without a Life-Support for a long period of time, until one friend. For reasons I still can't quite seem to explain, we blew up and stopped speaking to each other. That loss was heart-breaking and I have yet to get over it. Fortunately, since then I've had the privilege to meet fantastic, amazing women who I can never imagine my life without.

But it doesn't make the whole process any easier. In fact, it becomes more taxing over time. Our stories grow heavier, our confessions more contrite, our trial-therapy sessions more demanding. In some small ways, our desperation grows depending on the day, time, and situation. We all want to be liked, and we all want to be loved. We're looking for that Life-Support and as life goes on, friends are less easy to come by. It's not the pure innocent game of playing on the jungle gym anymore. We have busy lives and our own problems to deal with and all we're looking for is that kind face to smile at us and tell us it'll be okay when we need it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Temporary Austinite

The Colorado River on my morning run

It's been a week since I've arrived in Austin and I've basically hit the ground running. Week one of Yoga Teacher Training is complete, my body hates me, but my mind wants more: "Moooaaaar!" That's a good thing right? My shoulders disagree.

So to fill up all of my non-yoga time and believe me, there's a lot of it, I've been trying to explore the city. It's large and slightly overwhelming. I am definitely not a city girl though the potential to become one is very, very good. I knew I would like Austin when I got here, but I didn't think I'd like it this much. To be honest, it just feels kind of normal to be here. Like Cinderella's foot in her slipper, I slipped right in. 

I'm a lover not a loner, though, and there's something to be said about the ease and comfort of good old friends you already know. While I've met so many amazing people so far, there's still the whole process of 'getting to know you, do I like you, will you like me, will we mesh or are we just different levels of weird that we'll never figure out a common ground?' and it's onerous. I'm not going to lie. Plus, I think that "re-joining" the hearing world has sent me for a loop. I feel somewhat spoiled that I've created a huge friend-family of deaf people and people who know ASL that when I go back to lip-reading and trying really hard to keep up with conversations in loud acoustically-unfriendly rooms, I'm lost. I don't know how I've managed to do this for so long before I discovered the deaf community and really, I can't remember how I did it.

I have faith though. Practically everyone is a transplant to Austin so they all have this general accepting vibe and willingness to help the newbies. It's pretty awesome because coming from a place where everyone knew each other for ages, I felt like I could start over. Try on different versions of myself and see what I like. No one's here to judge or to say, "That's not who you are." I'm making myself who I am and I like it so far. Plus, the rate of normalcy that people treat doing things alone is astounding. It's nice to not be gawked at so much.

I just keep telling myself, "Look, you got into a car with nothing but a bag to drive 22 hours all by yourself to go take Yoga Teacher Training at a school you've never even been to in a new city full of strangers. If you got this far, you have no choice but to go further."

"To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive - the risk to be alive and express what we really are."
-The Four Agreements; Don Miguel Ruiz 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In Case of Emergency: Om Namah Shivaya

What do Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas have in common? Besides being in the United States. 

Road, they have lots of road. Apparently, not everyone had the same idea as me this past couple days so I was basically on a free-and-clear highway until I ran into the macho truck idiots with nothing but the wind in my hair, the sweat on my back, and myself. And all that road.

So once the excitement of going off on my first road trip all by myself wore off, I needed something to distract myself from all the perfectly rational scary thoughts such as "Where am I sleeping tonight in the middle of nowhere?" and "Will I get abducted at this next rest stop?" and "Oh my god, this coffee shop is in the heart of the ghetto and I'm gonna get killed and they're going to interview my family and they'll say things like 'She just turned 25!' and 'She was on her way here to start a new life with yoga teacher training!'" I mean, seriously. My thoughts are sinister

Reading was clearly out of the question. And I couldn't call anyone because all I'd do was babble about how I was going to get kidnapped and raped or gush about the 85 bazillion gorgeous trees I saw in Kentucky. No one wants to hear that.

Then, my thoughts travelled to a mantra I found to help my boyfriend on his 50 mile bike ride. Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha. A mouthful, right? I found it because I thought he'd appreciate having a mantra to focus on when his mind went on autopilot. And if it can help us spiritually, all the better. I found a couple other mantras to work over in my head as I drove. When I found myself getting all worked up whether it was because of traffic or sudden rain or my own spooky thoughts, I returned to one of these mantras to help calm my mind and bring myself back to the present. After all, I'm in a car speeding along at 70+ MPH and there were those stupid macho truck drivers to watch out for.

It's not just for driving. I found myself using a couple of these to help soothe my nerves with my first yoga class for my training program. They helped center me enough to relax and go with the flow. And all that with just a few words? Amazing.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
"Om and salutations to the remover of obstacles for which Gam is the seed." (Gam is the power sound of Ganesh.) This is a mantra for Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, who is known as the remover of obstacles. This mantra helps calm the chatter in your mind and grounds you. 

Om Namah Shivaya
"I honor the divinity within myself." This is a mantra to help boost your self-esteem. We have divine energy inside us and remember that in how we treat ourselves. When you are feeling less than whole, this reminds you that you are indeed perfect in its very definition.
I adore this one. It is a mantra to do with your breath. Your inhale makes the sound of "SOOO" and your exhale makes the sound of "HUMMM." It means you are the universe. There is a belief that when a person is born, he or she cries out, koham-koham- "Who am I?" The universe replies, soham-"You are the same as I." The Sanskirt origin this word comes from means "Self-Pride."

When you are feeling overwhelmed or losing control, chanting any of these mantras will help bring you out of that clutter. Will it solve life's problems? I believe with the right state of mind, it can.

Do you have a mantra you like to use? 

Things You Learn on a Road Trip To Austin

Lessons learned during my twenty hour drive to Austin:
  1. Stop at your boyfriend's place and spend two nights with him. Especially if his place cuts about two hours off your drive. And especially more so if there's an awesome outdoor rock climbing wall and an opportunity for a picnic.
  2. There are no toll roads even though Maps on my iPhone says there is. You lie, Apple, you lie.
  3. Cincinnati does have a very pretty skyline.
  4. Kentucky is surprisingly beautiful.
  5. Driving around the ghetto in Nashville looking for a coffee shop that claims to specialize in local and vegan goods only to find a rundown mechanic shop and a dive bar is scary. Maps was wrong however it redeemed itself by guiding me to the second coffee shop. You lie again, Apple, you lie again.
  6. But stopping in Nashville for coffee and cookies is worth it.
  7. People driving between Nashville and Memphis are stupid.
  8. Though Memphis is about halfway, the coffee and cookie you just had in Nashville will manage to keep you awake for another good four hours.
  9. If you don't like the first rest stop, keep going until you find one you like.
  10. When you're an abductable girl trying to go to the bathroom at a dark and nearly empty rest stop, running back and forth to your car is a good idea.
  11. Arkansas is kind of ugly but has very interesting attractions: Gangster Museum of America and Toltec Mounds State Park for example.
  12. You can drive for four hours in Texas and still be in Texas.
  13. You can run over turtles. 
  14. And it does not feel good.
  15. I'm sorry, beautiful turtle, rest in peace.
  16. You will come across two trucks having a macho standoff by refusing to let the other pass, backing traffic up for miles on a two-lane highway. Thanks guys, guess we all know whose dick is bigger now?
  17. Health Camp is a burger and shake place in Waco. Well done, Texas, I like your style.
  18. Texas has lots of land with nothing on it.
  19. I'm over this drive. Oh hey! I'm here. Alive and kicking.
Thank you all for your well-wishes, blessings, and Namastes. It meant so much to me to get all your love and positivity and I'm completely certain that is exactly why my drive was as easy as it was. Your words buoyed my car across the country! Now... for the hard part...