|Portable portrait of Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), which travels with me.|
Makeshift altar at La Zone, Maadi in Cairo, where I am subbing for friend Iman Elsherbiny.
It's not perfect. But I've stuck to it--out of some deep internal compulsion, out of a great need and desire, out of love. And even though, on occasion, especially as the alarm harps on at crazy o'clock in the morning and there is this small sense of drudgery, that oh-here-we-go-again! feeling, mostly I wake up joyfully knowing that I will be met with both its unpredictable spontaneity and steady consistency. My eyes open and I am happy to breathe with it. The longing does not abate. I know that it is there for me, waiting and welcoming. Mostly, I can't wait to be with it, to spend the hours touching an intimacy like no other.
After seven years, this is the longest relationship I have ever had, this partnership with this mad beautiful ashtanga practice.
I realize that I've never been so committed; that no other part of my life has ever received such attention, such loyalty, such love and devotion. And while that in itself may be flawed, I cannot help but feel gratitude that something has inspired me so, calling me on to act day after day with remarkable presence. Even if the sense of fullness is sometimes fleeting, it has made me look upon each day as filled with the potential for growth. It has inspired me to love in so many levels--to love yoga, to love the practice itself, to love my teachers, and to love my fellow beings. Most of all it has helped me cultivate a profound sense of self love that I hadn't realized was even missing.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article likening my relationship with the ashtanga practice to dating, that we'd moved beyond flirtation and how we were properly, happily seeing each other. And what a beautiful time that was, how joyful to see our bond blossom.
We've been through a lot more since then, the practice and I.
There have had some golden moments. The last couple of years have taught us to be easy and comfortable with each other, more forgiving, more patient.
But there have been difficulties too. Being with practice is not easy. Frustrations at feeling stalled have played on me. Things don't always move forward at the same lightning pace. Being unable to move beyond one posture, for example, made feel as if we'd reached a plateau, that nothing new was coming and I feared the stagnancy of routine.
I phased through moments of doubts. I scrutinized our compatibility. I wondered whether we were truly right for each other, whether it could truly satisfy me, and whether I could truly represent it and be the kind of practitioner/teacher that I felt like I needed to be for it. I feared its rejection, that I wouldn't be good enough. And then there were times that I felt fidgety and nervous and craved for more. I had to ask: could I truly commit?
And, yet, here we are: wandering the world together, navigating the strange unknown with remarkable strength and flexibility, adapting to different cultures, coping with the stress of work, travel and movement, being mutually supportive but allowing each other the space to be. I could not imagine this life of mine now without it.
The question of commitment, a non issue at this point, as I survey my life of, well, commitment to practice. The challenges come and go, yet the practice remains, however sweet, however difficult. It would not have stuck around if I hadn't willed it. If I hadn't stepped on to the mat and breathed it into my body day after day.
These days, I feel committed on a whole new level.
That while the practice continues to be deeply personal, it has also become greater. That by teaching, my relationship with my own practice now extends to others.
The authorization, the blessing from Sharath Jois to teach, I must admit, has brought a new sense of commitment to it. Fear, as well. Like a marriage, it feels a great deal more official. More serious. There is a greater sense of responsibility and accountability on my part. That comes with its own set of worries. But this, too, we are navigating together. The practice seems to understand my deeply ingrained fear of commitment and makes no demands. It accepts me just as I am. It bends to my need for independence, it allows me to be the autonomous, creative being that I need to be.
And what I've realized is, that despite the piece of paper, the intricacies of our relationship is up to us, that we create the kind of loving, respectful exchange that works, that allows love to simply flow easily.