Moving through J.’s vinyasa sequences again. The post-Covid restrictions class is full but it’s also permitted to use the space at full capacity, so it isn’t a race to get a spot anymore. I have this odd sense that things are falling into place again. I recognize this moving body. This tight-tight hamstring. This good balance and grounding on the right leg.

Getting some self-confidence back. Headstands and bridges. Running. Though everything requires a push now. Every run or class or yoga session is still prefaced by an argument with myself. A frantic little search for good excuses not to.

Extended side angle and J. comes behind me and gently adjusts my ribcage, fingers, head. Somehow even in the hot room, sweating, her touch is like being nudged softly through pillows. A touch that is barely a touch, but full of connection. I think that is what makes us all fall in love with her. We love her like we love Mary Poppins. If Mary Poppins escaped from her sharp exoskeleton.

I do a half-bridge, and she sits behind my head, feet on my shoulders, and guides my ribcage upward.

I miss my morning flows. Alone. And have no good reason to not be doing them. These mornings, though, I am so aware of time. The time I have – and don’t have – all to myself. From four to seven. Yet every day I find it’s not enough.

R.’s best friend died last night. The man he has called his brother, whose parents will bury their child. Young is relative. But he was young in the “natural order” of things. I look at the calendar and am surprised to see we are halfway into March. More than halfway. And I think about B. The week of chemo she’s been through. The next one she has coming. Not that there is hope for a cure, only hope for more time. Weeks. Months. Days.

It’s never going to be enough.

I feel both greedy and wasteful. And maybe this is all the more reason to get on my mat every morning. J. asks us what we dedicate each practice session to. At the beginning and then again just before heart-openers. Is it narcissistic to dedicated it to doing the best I can? To yoking all of the aspects of the physical reality of my being in this world, to make it work somehow for the best I can do in the world, for the world?

All those platitudes: fill your cup so you can fill another’s cup. I am self-conscious of the triteness. But I keep asking my students: are we done with the irony, the sardonic attitude of post-modernism now? Can we finally be earnest again?

Maybe we need to be?

Pirandello said life is so painful we have only to laugh at it. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe life reaches a level of pain where we break through the l’umorismo and stop laughing. Where we take off the exoskeletons and are soft with one another.

It seems everything is taking more time than it should. The wheels turning slowly. The system gummed up. If my life has been like this before, I am not sure I noticed it in this way. But I am trying to accept this. At least for now.

I was listening to a Radiolab podcast the other day about how lithium works in the body. How the salt mimics and replaces the normal sodium in the brain. But lithium is less efficient and it slows the connections of the neuropathways. The thing is, I don’t feel like I am going slower. The world is slower – and more stubborn. I am fine.

Really.

I move through downward dog and upward dog easily but feel my hamstring taught and dangerous in a side lunge. Breathe. Count on exhalations. Give in, while extending in all directions. Yoga is all about contradictions, about holding several truths at once while trying to find a comfortable equanimity. In out the stillness in-between all flowing together.

Stay in the present. Yes, but on the other hand, there is a query deadline on Sunday and packing to do for next week. Reviews and newsletters and housework. And everything feels as choked and sticky as my hamstring. And if I can’t rush through it, I just want to hop off. I am struggling to hold both truths, and leaning toward either/or. Or nothing: I want to pour a glass of wine and watch soap operas. I tell myself I deserve it. As though life should be like that: work and rewards in turn. Rewards like those flimsy gold foil stars that teachers would stick on our foreheads in elementary school. Making us feel proud and ridiculous in turns. I wanted one, and I didn’t. At any rate, they’d fall off before we got home to show the grown-ups.

I didn’t have the kind of grown-ups around who would fuss over gold stars, or even say things like “work is its own reward”. I had “that’s nice, but stay in your lane” grown-ups. But part of me has always wanted the gold stars. External rewards only abstractly connect to an actual achievement, because there’s no risk involved that way. Really being seen is dangerous.

A gold star is just a little shot of dopamine. A bit of chocolate. A glass of wine. And then it’s over. No vulnerable hopes, no expectations, no disappointments. Just a bit of pleasure. And back to work. The baseline is familiar and easy.

But I am beginning to think that tiny wins can be like pebbles in a jar. Over time, they can add up, overflow the jar and fill the whole room. Maybe the trick is to get to the point where holding a pebble, running a finger along the pocked surface, measuring its weight cupped in a palm, is as satisfying as chocolate. But more enduring.

These things – foil stars, chocolate, pebbles – mean what we decide they mean. Maybe it is possible that we are continually being rewarded by the world for just being here. If only we’d only take the time to look closely.

And breath in a continous flow.

I’ve switched up the mornings: writing before running – or to be honest, run/walking these days on a difficult achilles. I’m not sure I like the new routine. It’s like the pump is primed and ideas come while I am on the trail that I can’t follow through on, and that I forget.

Nothing is perfect, but things are good. Better. I do have a hard time shaking this feeling that I have missed out on these past few months. Missed spring. Nearly all the ferns have completely unfurled their tight, dark fists and the floor along the edges of the grove are lush with a new green, and fairy bells are already past their prime. I think most of all I am sad that for the past few years the ducks and the swans have been so good at hiding their hatchlings one could easily believe there were none. The only sign of renewal is the brown-tinged swan, last year’s cygnet, that has staked out the area next to the bridge. Alone, but for a few bachelor mallards.

But to be honest, I don’t think that I have actually missed out on things. My expectations have just been too high. I’ve been wanting the spring to overwhelm me in some fairy-tale fashion. I’ve been looking for signs. And that is really quite silly. What I am really waiting for is a shift in my perspective.

After a year of near-social-isolation, two gatherings in three days was a little overwhelming. Something of a deluge in a desert. Now just the thought of going to the hairdresser today is a little stressful. Chit-chat is expected, and I have never been good at that.

Now that I think about it, I have always been something of a deluge or drought kind of person. Never quite getting the balance right. Some many words come to mind: temperate, equipoise, equilibrium, symmetry. Maybe the problem is that, although symmetry is beautiful, it is predictable and so often boring. Unless it is a Wes Anderson kind of symmetry. But then the world is periodically on fire, and not everyone is comfortable with that kind of life.

I am.

In the mornings, I meditate for a few minutes on equanimity. Yellow, “Ri” on the exhale. I doubt that the articulation matters, but the vibration does. Accepting and giving. Or sometimes accepting and letting go. All the perspectives, things, concepts that clutter our lives, that come and go like respiration. That should do so easily. Effortlessly. Can they still be wild with energy? Passionate and fallow in equal turns?

The foliage doesn’t fight the winter. It doesn’t resist whatever kind of death winter brings. And it doesn’t hold back in the spring, trying to smooth the cycle into a flat kind of average life year-round. It relishes everything and then lets go.

In circular breathing, there is a moment of waiting (not holding the breath). Then a complete release, that for me feels a bit frightening in its emptiness. Then a so-longed-for, satisfying inhalation.

In another pranayama exercise there are a passive inhalations and forced, energetic exhalations in rapid succession to stimulate the body and the mind.

Leonard has zoomies. Then sleeps on the couch most of the rest of the day. Is the idea of equanimity as a steady hum of tranquility against nature really? I know I am taking Jesus entirely out of context when I say the advice from that hold is to be hot or cold but never luke warm.

I am wondering if all the advice regarding “balance” is not really aimed at a good life, but at an unobtrusive life. It’s more about social control than personal, or even inter-personal experience.

A seesaw is all about balance, after all.

it’s the almost edge
of ripe – it’s the almost void
of new beginnings