Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I sat across from Richard, watching him intently. Of all the people I knew, he was the most graceful and poised. That is not to suggest, effeminate. But as someone who has been practising yoga for nearly half his life, and someone who spent a year in Burma as a monk, meditating, he is probably the most controlled and deliberate person I know. There is no wasted motion here. Precision is not just for the asanas. It is for every movement.

The thing about sitting zazen every day, even if for only a limited time, is that after the discomfort in the legs sinks into numbness, the psychic pain surfaces. And I would find myself anxiously thinking, OK, how many minutes more, I need to do this, I need to do that. Just sitting, observing my breathing, watching my thoughts, had me scuttling for cover. I don't know what I was so afraid of. Or maybe I do.

I have only been sitting zazen for a week. Maybe a little more. But I guess, even a week of effort has its rewards. I realised suddenly that my life was so untidy, because frankly, I was a mess. I had no structure, my bones were made of jelly, I did not sit so much as flop forward, I did not walk so much as shuffle, I banged into everything along my path vaguely aware of the dull pain and the bruises, I did not step lightly, I treaded heavily.

I did not have a practice. I stuck to nothing. Once I had yoga but after a while it seemed like I was doing it out of a sullen resentment. Part of the resentment had to do with the fact that the one who owned the yoga centre was surprisingly mercenary and tried to make as much money as she could off me and was not accommodating if I happened to miss a class. You miss without warning, you forfeit the class. That's just the way it was. That's just the way she wanted it.

But if that were the real reason I would have jumped at the opportunity when I bumped into Richard earlier this year and he told me he was starting his own centre. I didn't. I hemmed and hawed and said, maybe, sometime, whatever.

He didn't push it. Richard isn't an in-your-face marketer.

But yesterday when I realised how flabby my life had become (I guess physical flab reflects a sort of mental flabbiness, a laziness, a lack of discipline) I thought of Richard and suddenly, I longed for the simple discipline of his classes. Extend your hand, breathe in. Pull back your hand, breathe out.

I wanted bones rather than jelly. I wanted structure. So there I was, in Richard's office, looking over his schedule.

"What are you doing tomorrow?"

"I have an interview."

"What time?"


"Well, there's a class at 9.30 in the morning. You could make that one."

Huh. A morning class. Wouldn't it be great? Especially since I usually spent the mornings tangled in my blankets, willing myself to get up, never quite making it, the guilt building up. No wonder I was so full of self loathing.

"9.30 it is. See you tomorrow."

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