Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stage 2: Shaking, Trembling

Bob Ballard - 2nd from the right

About a year ago, I had the distinct pleasure of happening upon a man who would become a personal idol of mine, my very own real-life hero. Dr. Robert Ballard (Bob), best known for his discovery of the Titanic and other (much more enormous but potentially less famous) contributions to the field of oceanography ('contributions' could not be a tinier word for this, really). He's essentially the man, the pioneer, the Godfather when it comes to ocean exploration - more or less everything that's currently possible in the field, he either discovered, invented or had, at the very least, a fairly strong hand in.

Anyhow, so there I was, at the 125th anniversary celebration for National Geographic (swoon-festival, don't even get me started), which centered around a guided discussion with various notable explorers in honor of the pursuit of exploration. Good ol' Bob was on the panel and I fell in love with him nearly immediately. Bob can pinpoint the start of his study of oceanography to his reading of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when he was seven years old (or some similarly ridiculous young age). He essentially became obsessed with the idea of the infinite possibilities held beneath the surface of the oceans and has pursued ocean exploration SINCE THAT DAY. Long story short, he is now 70 years old (quick math: 63 YEARS) and has contributed obscene amounts to the field and invented so many things to help make exploration possible and founded an institute for oceanography and teaches and travels and lectures and writes and has a submarine - a submarine! The sub is named 'the Nautilus', after Captain Nemo's ship in 20,000 Leagues. And I will never forget how his eyes, his smile, his whole face lit up when he was talking about the ocean, about being an explorer, about his JOB, for pete's sake. About this incredibly noble thing he has dedicated his entire life to, and (from the looks of it) will never, ever tire of until his last breath leaves his body. This guy is, I repeat, 70 years old and just looked so hungry for more. He looked just as young and enthralled as I imagine he did that day when he was seven years old and decided that ocean exploration was going to be his life's journey, his own personal legend.

I remember coming out of my slack-jawed, glassy-eyed state of awe into a feeling of complete emptiness as I realized that there was nothing in my entire life that I had ever loved as much as Bob loves the ocean. And I honestly didn't see that there ever would be. This guy dedicated his life to being an explorer of the infinite abyss, and I work in advertising. The whole thing both inspired and completely crushed me, because that's the ultimate, right? Being able to have your life's work be the thing that scratches all your itches and fires up your very soul - this is the dream, amiright?

Well. To me it is. And to not only not have that in your life, but to not even be able to fathom what it might possibly be, was something just short of devastating.

I mean, good for him though.


Fast forward a year later, and here I am in my yoga teacher training - something, as I said, I couldn't explain why I wanted but flat-out knew, I just KNEW that I needed. We're about a month into the training now, and I've found myself entirely unable to write anything about the experience thus far. So much has gone down in the past few weeks and I just haven't been able think of anything adequate to organize it all around. It's physical, yes, but it's so much more a mental game, a complete reorganization of my brain and my synapses have not been firing correctly as a result. Plus, some of it is just too personal and some of it is a bit frustrating/negative, and that's not really an image that I like to project here (although I have well learned that image is not something meant to be concerned with).

The moral of the story is, the training has thrown me for an absolute and total loop. To the unaided eye, I've been acting like a total lunatic. I'm a complete mess, I'm emotional for no reason, I can't get my head together. I am talking in incomplete sentences and thinking in unfinished thoughts. But in a fantastic, unbelievable sort of way - I just don't know how to process it. Friends, coworkers, if you've felt like I'm on a totally different planet lately, it's because I am. Wait for me, I beg you. I've never felt so alive - I had no idea, but apparently I was starving for this expansion and the process of getting me there feels like it's killing me, burning away at me, at all the buildup surrounding who and what I thought I was.

It sounds so negative, but I mean it in such a good way.

Either way, now I'm writing you a tiny glimpse of the thing because I found it, I found my organizing principle! I found it when my incredible and gracious friend/yoga mentor (friendtor?) Be said for the fourth, fifth, sixth time? in class today - from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, we move through experiences in three stages:

First, perspiration, as heat builds in the body, 

then quivering (as a muscle will quiver/shake/tremble when you hold any strenuous position for a while), 

and then finally moving into steadiness, into stillness - that's the reward, if you can make it through the trembling without throwing in the towel. 


PS - mini lesson - if life, or your teachers in their various forms, keep repeating to you something that sounds super basic or potentially irrelevant or maybe even a bit like a weight-lifting strategy, keep listening. It'll click eventually.

This teacher training is my experience. I built up heat, perspiration, anxiety as I worked through the book report and got myself all nervous to begin. Now I am thrashing against all the internal walls I've built over the course of my life and the intensity of it all is causing me to shake, to tremble. And if I can find a way to allow this apparently necessary expansion, if I can push on and breathe through this test, I will find steadiness.

And, I know I can do it. The hard part - admitting I needed it - is already over. Now it's time to ride the tremble - maybe until June, maybe for the rest of my life - until I reach stillness, and can relax in my own reward.

I mean, COME ON. Right?! I could not have dreamed this up any better.


So back to Bob - you guessed it, yoga is my thing. I have a thing now!

I mean, I guess I don't know that. I guess it could be a phase, and I am definitely not seven years old. But one thing I know with absolutely certainty is that I saw myself in the mirror today and saw in my eyes the hunger, the joy and the complete adoration that I had once seen pour forth from a man who inspired me, and it occurred to me that I've happened upon a path that I am able to pursue for the rest of my life. I have happened upon something that I have the capacity to love with everything I have for the rest of my life. I have found a path that can BE my life, that will make me better while simultaneously improving the world around me.

I AM an explorer, and my mind is my ocean.

I'm so excited. I'm so everything. And I can't stop shaking.

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