Saturday, April 20, 2013

The little whip and me.

Melting snow and an end to the winter chill leads inevitably, in our household, to the great bike tune-up. I think we get to a point where we just can't bear to look at them sitting motionless any longer, so we polish and tweak and raise and lower and tighten and pump, maybe even trot out the trainer for a test-run. The office turns into a bit of a disaster zone as Clay plays mechanic and I offer very sweet and polite little suggestions (which are often deemed to be wrong, but I assure you, my heart is in the right place). Tubes and wrenches and grease all over, and then the sun peeks out and we're out the door on two wheels.

I have two bikes, lucky lady. Both Treks, both white. I like my stuff to look clean (and Italian) and I like it matchy-matchy, so white bikes it is. Neither are super fancy but both turn my pupils into tiny heart-shaped laser beams anytime I look their way. The first is my road bike, purchased in Chicago in 2009 with a backyard full of lakefront bike path and a heart nearly bursting with triathlon dreams (quick trivia: I have yet to participate in a triathlon). The second is my little whip, a scrappy single-speed purchased in 2010 during my first few weeks in NYC. Completely utilitarian - I honestly purchased this bike with the intention of riding it brunch in Greenpoint and the Ice House in Red Hook, something I wouldn't feel bad locking up.

The road bike is sleek and fast with decent components and a nice new saddle that I spent some money on; the little whip has an off-sounding click somewhere in the crank, dirty Oury grips and an awkward stem and handbar that I've flipped upside-down in an effort to look cool.

I love them both. BUT, I've always, always always preferred my road bike - it was my first baby, my favorite child. I trust it entirely; it makes me feel safe and supported and strong and capable and FAST. I clip in and am absorbed into the machine - it anticipates my every move and I know there's always something that can be adjusted when the road gets tough. I am a cyclist; I have kits and gloves and shoes and hats. I am CYCLING and I feel amazing. 

The little whip is a bit of a wild-card - standard pedals, no gears, nothing to add and nowhere to hide. I am powering the machine, but from the outside, wobbly. I am no cyclist; just myself, with the added element of instability and balanced atop skinny wheels. I don't like to stand, I don't care to push it super fast. I don't trust the machine and I don't trust myself. I am not cycling, just riding my bike - the same way I did when I was ten. And I feel whatever.

The road bike makes me a better rider; the little whip amplifies my misgivings. But there's a time and a place for both - whip when I need to get around and roadie when I want to fly.

The weather is still kind of on and off, so I haven't been riding much - pretty much just to teacher training and back. I ride back and forth to Prana twice a day on training days - Myrtle to Jay, Jay becomes Smith, left on Schermerhorn, right on Hoyt, right on Butler, back to Smith, right at Myrtle. And again and again and again, unless it's raining. It's maybe like a two-mile loop, nothing substantial. Just long enough to feel a bit of pavement pushing past, the wind in my face, maybe dodge a few doors. 

Since my road bike was missing some spacers and a front wheel (my 'mechanic' had 'borrowed' some items at some point over the winter on a foray into bike-building), I set out for the season on my little whip, who was surprised and exuberant to have been selected. He was so perfectly suited to the task! He was ready to help in any way he could. So we set out, me clumsy with loosey-goosey feet and my whip clicking away on the left crank, and we ride like that, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. 

We melt away March and move into April together, me and the whip and the whip and me. My legs grow stronger, my grip more assured. We started to weave in traffic, confident, leaving the wobbles miles behind. I bring myself to stand tentatively, cautiously at first, then with conviction, tail high and letting my back arch as we sail down Myrtle promenade, balanced and somehow grounded through both feet. I am pushing steadily into the pedals, giving the clicky crank a run for its money, and it holds strong. I can feel, I am earning every inch of pavement beneath me.

I don't miss you, gears.

I don't miss you, clippy pedals (well, maybe a little).

I don't need a fancy machine to help me to fly.

Now, I am definitely not about to bring the little whip along with me if and when I get around to that triathlon, or even a road race. He's never going to work miracles for me in Prospect Park, he's not going to help me ride with a pack on the West Side highway. But I will never forget that one time, during a period of rapid personal growth, my jenky little single-speed bike couldn't help me but instead gave me the tools to help myself, to bring myself to stand on my own two feet. 

And at that time, in that moment, that was exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More Yoga Homework: Affirmations

Yes! More yoga homework! Just when you thought the book report was over, it’s time for assignment #2, affirmation cards. Lucky for you, this is a one-post sort of deal, so we can keep the eye-rolling and suffering through my lessons learned to a minimum.

This assignment is to choose an affirmation from a deck of affirmation cards published by Taylor Wells, founder of Prana Power (my training studio). The idea is that you keep your card with you and read it often throughout the day, allowing it to influence your thoughts and impact your life. Maybe in a big way, maybe in a tiny way – I think it all depends on you.

This, of course, is exactly the kind of cheese-ball yoga nonsense (OR IS IT) that makes my inner skeptic start to itch. I don't mean to offend, just being honest.

Anyhow, the assignment remains, so I close my eyes, fan out the deck and pick a card. Makes sense to leave this one to divine providence, right? Pick a random card, let it do its thing?

Here it is:

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

Right. So.


Despite much carrying-on from my inner skeptic, I begin to put my affirmation into action. As prescribed, I glance at the card throughout the day. After a few days, I really start to remember to look at it. Sometimes, I find myself looking FOR it. I want to see it. I need to understand it.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

It bothers me.

I write it on a little post-it and put on the bottom of my computer monitor. I post it as the lock screen on my cell phone. I pen it on the tender underside of my right wrist, where middle-school Jen used to ink the initials of boys she was crushing on. Remember that? Glitter gel pen scrawlings, sealed up in a heart as a badge of allegiance – the earliest indicators of a fledgling tattoonicorn.

This sort of thing is actually really quite well-suited to my obsessive personality.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

When the train is late, when my clients are irritating, when the math isn’t working out, when I am struggling in my personal life, when the cats are destroying the furniture.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

When I start to panic, when I can’t breathe, when I just don’t know what to do.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

Slowly but surely (and let’s be honest, I think we all knew where this was going), it begins to creep in, seep in: under my hairline, in between my eyelashes, into the creases in my elbows, that icy cold spot between my shoulder blades and into the soft flesh between each finger and toe until it’s running through my veins alongside my vital juices, powering my engine from within.

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

Along this process of opening my heart to yoga (which has, at times, felt an awful lot like a physical spreading of my ribcage), I have come up against an undeniable friction – all the illusions I’ve built up throughout my life, about my life and about myself, struggling to keep me within their reigns. It’s physically and emotionally painful, releasing and believing and allowing this great love to worry away at that which is not really me, burning up until there’s nothing left but Self and ash.

And I don’t ever want it to stop. I’m really only seeing the momentum increasing from this point forward – that’s the universe, right? Assisting me?

I feel the power of the universe assisting me.

As previously mentioned, I've found that things tend to play on repeat for a reason. Eventually, it has to click.

When Taylor visited our teacher training, she asked each of us what our word for the training would be – you know, like a defining thought. At the moment I thought my word was BALANCE, but I’m beginning to find that it may be more along the lines of SKEPTICISM.

A clouded, all-encompassing and once quite-tenacious skepticism that continues to crumble, breaking away in small but significant pieces, allowing the piercing light of BELIEF to shine through.

Of course I can feel the power of the universe assisting me. I AM the universe. As an active participant in the whole thing, I have no choice but to assist myself, and be assisted. I cannot help but draw myself in this direction, like a magnet, bringing myself here, right to where I was meant to be.

I was always going to find myself here. And I can feel, have felt, will continue to feel the power of the universe assisting me along the way.



Dear yoga: you win again.


And you fools thought I was learning to teach fitness classes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spotlight Speakeasy.

Friday evening, I took two of my loveliest and oldest work friends to meet some of my loveliest and newest yoga friends for a poetry-reading/concert at a beautiful space called ABC Sanctuary.

<< this is so not the sort of thing i am into >>

I first found the Sanctuary a little over a month ago now, slipping out of work early on a Friday evening to take ever more classes with a teacher I truly adore (the unbelievable Be. Shakti, ladies and gentlemen). I went alone, with only the slightest whisper of confidence in my back pocket.

<< i mean i really hate trying new things by myself, makes more sense to stick with what i know >>

The space was incredible, the community warm and enveloping. Physical asana gave way to dharma and I found myself coming back week after week. Still by myself, but no longer alone.

<< i really shouldn't be leaving work early; why am i sharing myself like this >>

And so I decided I was going to this event, this concert. The concert was part of a series of community events they call Spotlight Speakeasy, featuring local poet Nicole Callihan and local musicians Bird Courage. And I was dragging poor Emma and Allison along with me.

<< how good could this be, really, i've never heard of any of these people >>

I couldn't believe how many people came.

I couldn't believe how much I loved the poetry. I mean, I really, really loved it.

I couldn't believe how insanely exquisite and soul-wrenchingly beautiful the music was. These guys should be so, so famous.

I couldn't believe how exactly perfect that night was; that space, my friends, those people, the music, the overwhelming love. How I had found myself exactly where I needed to be.

I want so badly to believe.

<< who am i? what have i become? >>

There is a school of thought that puts all emotion on a linear spectrum, with fear on one end and love on the other. Fear, they say, is the absence of love, and love, the absence of fear.

<< this is not who i used to be >>

This yoga life, this everyday life is love, pure love. And I am not afraid.

<< i am so much more >>

Yoga poem.

Anyone tired of hearing about yoga yet?

Yesterday at teacher training, Sam said something lovely about part of growth being tied to allowing yourself release. I was probably white-knuckling a pen or my water bottle or something at that exact moment, so I'm sure I have no idea what she was talking about and certainly it has nothing to do with me, I'm totally fine THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

I mean, but clearly not.

I've always kept a very tight grip on my writing, this blog, my image. When I am not writing much, it's usually because I don't think I have anything worthy of putting out to the world (there are a serious amount of partially-edited drafts in the backlogs here). Or I was afraid to write what I really thought because I didn't want to let anyone in. Something along those lines.

Fuck that. I release thee! Here's a hastily-written poem. Welcome to my head.


I permit myself release!

I release control;
I release all emotion;
I release myself

I release these expectations;
I am more/muchier/most

I am strong palms and victorious headstands, splayed toes
five lines of energy, riotous breath

Exhaustion set aside in favor of the non-stop tremble

I am the center of a spinning top
Perpetual motion wrapping tightly 
around precarious balance
please don't let me fall

I don't recognize this person
these explosive thoughts
this strong and capable body
(I am not these thoughts, this body)

I am melting

I don't want it to
I can't