The Unruly Ascetic

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Posted by on 9:47 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Here I am in Mysore and the birds are chirpin’ for some blog posts.  Everyone is dying to know all of the secret information Sharath confers on us during these elite and occult daily conferences.  As it turns out, he doesn’t want us spouting knowledge on the internets (who knew!?) so I’ll spare you the details.  Long story short: teach because you want to learn and be nice about it. In other news, I’ve been thinking and dialoguing (with authorized future Gurus as well as mama-shala acolytes who are admirably mature and dedicated despite the...

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Open Letter to the open ear.

Posted by on 1:44 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

You shouldn’t be hot headed unless you want to rock the boat. Mixing metaphors (or whatever), sue me. I have a friend who really inspires me in how chill he is.  I don’t mean he’s lazy or unmotivated.  He is an impressively successful artist and works his tattooed tail off.  He’s just steady by nature. When problems arise he keeps a level head and handles challenges reasonably and responsibly.  He’s not one to rock the boat and I respect anyone who can be diplomatic and altruistic enough to think that way. Some people are earth shakers. ...

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Podcasting with Peg

Posted by on 11:11 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Who likes listening to the sound of their own voice? I think I am one of only a few people who actually prefers my recorded voice to the one I hear between my ears. This podcast was really fun to record, mostly because Peg encourages me to ramble on until I get to my point and also to says what I think, no matter how undiplomatic or controversial. I can’t say whether I’m reasonable or outrageous. I always feel like I say obvious things and am a bit surprised and confused by the responses. Generally people have been very sweet and...

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What makes a model student?

Posted by on 1:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Someone asked me a while back what makes a model student.  I provided an answer that got lost in the ether. I remember thinking that since it didn’t show up in the publication it was requested for, I must have been to harsh or dictatorial.  I can be unintentionally difficult or abrasive at times and assumed that was the case with this piece. The topic came up again recently and I was interested in touching base with the answer I gave a few months ago and I think it must have fallen through the cracks because I didn’t cringe and...

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Fear is the mind-killer.

Posted by on 11:12 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

“The only this we have to fear is fear itself.” -FDR Why is it that so many women are drawn to Ashtanga these days?  As a practice that has been historically and/or critically linked to the youthful masculine, why is that women are moving into the upper echelon of teachers and practitioners at a much steeper rate than men? Feminism? Women’s lib? The straightforward stubbornness that women can do everything men can do and sheer determination to prove it? Maybe we can make the gender-balance assertion for the general population, but...

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Social Media and the Wickedness of Minds

Posted by on 11:44 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Despite the fact that it makes me social media awkward, I am so grateful that I didn’t grow up with Facebook and Instagram and internet blogging. For some people social media is fun.  I guess they like the opportunity to share and the feedback they get from it. For me, it’s stressful: What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t look as good as everyone else? What if someone doesn’t get my sense of humor? WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME!? easier just not to ask too loudly what people think.   I am beginning to realize that NOT asking what...

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Privilege and Good Intentions

Posted by on 11:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

It is really easy to see the worst in someone. It is much easier to see the worst in someone we don’t know, rather than in ourselves. Maybe this is why we offer each other so much advice. I read (or hear) the perspective of the folks who feel alienated by the American Yoga machine and I sympathize with their plight.  Yoga as it is presented in American culture can be super intimidating.  Whether it is the advanced asana that we see on instagram or the svelt, fair, perfectly manicured practitioner herself. The sheer abundance of pretty, white...

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Managing Pain (and other bossy ideas)

Posted by on 9:42 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” ― Bob Dylan We get a lot of criticism, as a community, for the ‘no pain no gain’ attitude that is encouraged by the Ashtanga practice.  I have had my share of pain, soreness and stiffness as well as genuine injury. It can be difficult to know how to cater the practice to pain and injury and the ups and downs of this past practice year have given me a lot to think about. Sometimes the body is sick.  Sometimes we have pain or discomfort because the body is not functioning...

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Correct Method?

Posted by on 5:50 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

For anyone who hasn’t checked out Ashtanga Dispatch this week, here’s a repeat for you… Hey, you know what people like to argue about?  The different ways Ashtanga teachers progress students through asana. The world is full of opinions and blanket judgements on what is “correct method.” I figured I’d throw my rooster into the fight. I have read (and been told) that some old-guard teachers will allow their students to determine for themselves how far they should practice.  If students want new postures, they can do new...

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Is your Teacher more advanced than you?

Posted by on 3:27 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A Menninger   A fellow practitioner asked me this morning if I felt that a teacher needed to be more advanced than their students.  This is a complex question and without more specifics about the situation that provoked the query, I gave her a simple answer: Yes. The answer of ‘Yes, you need to be more advanced than your students’ is every bit as complex as the question itself, and while I may not be able to speak directly to my friend’s question, I can go on at...

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You know what I think, this is what I feeeeel.

Posted by on 5:20 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I think sometimes I share my convictions without doing a great job of sharing how I got there.  I can explain to you why something about the practice is fair by the standards I’ve been given, but I don’t always include why I believe in it. I see that my belief can be off-putting.  Let me explain. I really want people to be happy and kind.  I am a firm believer in the phrase “you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right.” I love seeing people do whatever brings them happiness.  Doing my practice brings me so much happiness that it has...

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Wild Speculation

Posted by on 10:03 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Holy Lord Ganesha, the times are a changin’. Today someones noticed that the KPJAYI has posted a new requirement for practicing with Sharath:  You must have at least tried to study with someone who is in his lineage. Gasp. The horror.  So many people won’t be able to go now!  It’s the official policy that you can’t learn from youtube. How can he say that? That someone who tries each morning on their own, despite not having a teacher, is not ready to come to Mysore?!  So many prospective exotic Indian adventures thwarted. I am being sarcastic,...

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Brothers know best.

Posted by on 11:46 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

My brother has been practicing Ashtanga for a few months now.  Mostly behind my back, but lately he’s been coming to my class, willfully refusing my advice and getting distracted by badass ladies. It’s fun. He’s pretty cool: 25, super fit, into rock climbing and slack lining, building skateboards, riding his bike, and drinking craft beer.  He’s smart and nice and generally a good sport. He asked me during practice today if we can cater his practice to suit his interests and goals for his body.  He is concerned that he will be expected to put...

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Posted by on 6:24 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Well apparently Yoshimi did not protect me from the evil natured robots (any Flaming Lips fans out there?). Obviously they attacked my awesome blog because I have so many righteous followers. But they have been smited by the glorious and powerful Jimmy Crow. Long story short, I know the blog got hacked. Thanks for all the heads up and sorry for the crushing disappointment that I am sure you felt when you realized that it was not the insightful and inspiring, totally grammatically correct writing that you usually get emailed about. I’ll...

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Long hair, don’t care.

Posted by on 8:51 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Practicing Yoga is like getting a haircut… There’s no right way to get a haircut.  It is based on preference, intention, and need.  The client  is working with a very specific amount and type of hair.  The stylist has a specific set of tools and skills.  Some people like short hair and some barbers like using trimmers.  Student and teacher (oops! client and stylist) work together out of logic and trust. If I want a military haircut I can get a decent one from most barbers around, but I’ll do best to go the barber who does the most of...

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Smooth Sailing

Posted by on 7:31 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

One of my all time favorite analogies comes from Sharath (surprise, surprise).  He says that Yoga is like the ocean (off to a good start, who doesn’t like the ocean?).  If we sail on the ocean and experience it from above, meaning intellectual study that does not include a true practice, we can only see a few feet below the surface. We can only make inferences about what happens below.  We can not know how the ocean feels, or tastes, or looks in all its glory from the deck of a ship. The only real way to know the ocean is to jump in. I love...

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It’s just like riding a bike.

Posted by on 10:15 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Dropping back is like riding a bike (but not because you never forget how to). Students frequently ask why they should try to stand up and drop back before doing the backbends of the Intermediate series when those postures seem so much more approachable.  I have a very long answer and about fear and trust and big picture ideas that includes the bicycle analogy (which falls flat on some Russians I know who never bothered with bike, what with all the snow, so I already know it’s not universal). When I learned how to ride a bicycle I took a...

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Analogies, an introduction.

Posted by on 12:37 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I’ve found myself thinking in analogies lately.  I know this is the result of doing a lot of teaching and trying to come up with understandable ways to explain something unfamiliar… but do analogies work for everyone or just for a certain type of person, like me? Ian the Giant says emphatically, YES.  Analogies are universal and the foundation of human communication.  Words are tiny analogies (a stretch in terms of the literal linguistics, but I get what he’s putting down). I like how his brain works, but I’m talking...

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I could be nice…

Posted by on 11:23 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

and the nameless “you” of the internet might not ever know.     I haven’t written this sort of post in a while.  The sort of here’s-my-life-and-how-it’s-going type of writing.  I have been vaguely opposed to it, for myself at least.  I am aware of my tendency to over share IRL, so I suppose I deny myself this outlet because of the disaster potential. but I’ve had a number of requests for (or questions concerning) a new blog post and all I have is real world personal stuff to talk about.  No big debates of internet or...

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Conference Notes

Posted by on 8:13 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I may have tricked you with that title… these aren’t conference notes the way you probably expected. I almost asked a question in conference yesterday. If you have spent much time with me in Mysore you have probably heard my stand up routine entitled “Don’t Ask Questions in Conference.”  It gets the standard laughs and usually leaves a couple eavesdroppers calling me a bitch (but that’s a story for another day). But I really want to ask Sharath something and I want everyone to hear what he says. The world is changing, and fast....

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and now for some unsolicited advice…

Posted by on 2:08 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Oh Mysore.  This place is tough.  We have isolated ourselves, deliberately, for the purpose of pursuing an incredibly arduous practice while closely confined with a few hundred other people going through a parallel, though totally different struggle. Is it any surprise we have the tendency to go a little mad?  In an effort to help the masses with the madness (and interject my own bossy opinions), I have compiled a list of behavioral choices that tend to be, shall we say, off putting.   Don’t be that guy. 7 things to avoid: Being self...

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Don’t give up.

Posted by on 2:44 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

“Fitness can be a fortress built on good decisions, or a shack plagued by shortcuts. You decide.” —Josh Bunch, of Practice CrossFit in Ohio   Okay, okay, don’t get your back up.  I know that Ashtanga Yoga is not fitness, it’s a spiritual practice, blah blah blah. I get that, let’s just head off all the nay saying at the pass, shall we? Because asana is based in the body, just as fitness is.  For many badass friends (and family) of mine, they have a fitness routine that serves them psychologically, as any steady, dedicated...

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Posted by on 3:56 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

During the interludes between my first few trips to Mysore I would wax poetic to friends and fellow practitioners about the beauty of the experience.  Not the collecting of postures or the ‘energy’ of the shala or the magic of practicing at the source, but of the community.  I loved and longed for the friendships from Mysore: the delving, languid conversations about life and practice over breakfast or chai, the kindred spirits and isolated closeness that comes with practicing here.  I was eager to return and feel the support and shared...

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No complete beginners…

Posted by on 2:38 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I was recently involved in a retreat that advertised ‘All levels of Mysore welcome. No complete beginners to Ashtanga.’ The obvious discussion ensued… What makes someone a “complete beginner” to Ashtanga?   There are a lot of ways to pose and answer the ‘beginner’ question.  How does one determine their level of advancement in the practice?  Is it by postures earned?  By trips to Mysore?  By the number of classes attended?  Is it based on how stressed or calm we are when we walk into a Mysore room? Yes and No; all of these...

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Art and Science

Posted by on 12:19 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I found myself in a coffee shop this morning (as I do many mornings) talking to some kids about Yoga. I don’t mean children. I mean kids, young minds and bodies who are fresh to the practice of Yoga in general. Just the interested, motivated types to have recently completed Vinyasa teacher trainings. I like people and chatting in general, so I frequently find myself getting into a particular discussion. It inevitably follows with well intentioned Ashtanga curious Vinyasa kids: the push-pull of Ashtanga verses Vinyasa in the minds of new...

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I like writing.

Posted by on 4:00 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

It is a chore, but it is a gratifying one. I like having my thoughts clearly organized and presented in a tangible, visible, (potentially) audible way. I find a sense of peaceful serenity when I am able to write out my thoughts on a topic and know that I am being honest with myself. This is therapeutic in many ways.  Striving for honesty with the reader allows (forces) me to confront my own hypocrisies and admit them to someone.  I think that this is part of why some people (woohoo!) like to read my writing. Because I try to admit, genuinely,...

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Taking a picture…

Posted by on 7:32 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

…does not make you an asshole.  But judging someone for it does. Are any of you a part of one of those internet/facebook “discussion” groups where the mediator brings up controversial subject and says “what do you think?” only to have the discussion (and I use that word with a raised eyebrow) over run with people being insane internet bullies? When we think of internet bullying most of us think of a gawky teenager who’s classmates make memes of them or ethnic, social, and religious minorities being trolled by anonymous assholes who...

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Wait up, slow your roll.

Posted by on 5:31 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Cheating in Bakasana!? Oh dear lord, don’t ever imply to the greater world of the internets that people cheat in asana.  You will be vilified as vain and arrogant… and no one will actually read your article, they will just rage against the photo/caption. In the latest Kino-gate YJ (such a well rounded, open hearted publication… ) published an article by the inspiring Ms. MacGregor on the ‘cheat’ verses ‘challenge’ version of Bakasana. And the online yoga community spit their extra hot organic soy chai latte all over their macbook pro… and...

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Why I Quit Ashtanga Yoga

Posted by on 2:31 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I quit Ashtanga for so many reasons. It’s really hard. It’s inconvenient and makes me socially awkward. It causes me to suffer and experience failure perpetually. Ashtanga is so hard. I mean, physically. Hard. I’ve gotten reasonably good at the basics of it and it’s still hard. It never really gets easier, I just keep upping my expectations (or my teachers keep upping their expectations). It’s exhausting. Kapotasana was so hard the other day that I quit. I thought about Dwi Pada and Nakrasana and the utter ridiculousness of tic tocs and it...

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mind vs body

Posted by on 8:17 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

What do we need to be able to do a pose? I’m not talking about the deeper sense of knowing and being and awareness that can result from the practice of Yogāsana. I mean, what is required in the physical body and the conscious mind to make it happen? That is what I have been interested in lately.  The difference between understanding an asana with the physical body and understanding with the mind. Sometimes my mind understands what is expected from the body… theoretically, intellectually.  I can conceptualize the necessary joint...

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the mind of a student

Posted by on 9:47 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

The mind of a student is an exceptional thing. Anyone who finds themselves regularly taking on the role of a teacher (or information provider) knows that students don’t always know how to learn. Sometimes they know too much of the wrong thing, sometimes they don’t want to admit what they don’t know, and sometimes they simply don’t know that they don’t know. But sometimes you’ll get one (or a few) of those wonderful students who know that they don’t know. They come into the room looking for newness and...

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the Yoga is working…

Posted by on 7:49 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I’ve discussed my motivations for going to Mysore… to eat dosa and make friends! and to deepen and further my practice of Ashtanga Yoga. But then I wonder, why do I want to deepen and further my practice of Ashtanga Yoga? The answer is obvious (to me). because deep down, I’m a jerk. left to my own devices I am a living, breathing over-reaction. I can’t help it (well, not on my own). I am easily overwhelmed. I worry about pointless things. I get my feelings hurt easily.  and the practice of Ashtanga Yoga gives me...

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gifted bodies

Posted by on 8:03 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 1 comment

Some people have gifted bodies. The ‘gifted body’ expression is one that Kino used to describe a lovely student in one of her intensives in Miami. It really rang true with me as a way of concisely acknowledging that some bodies just know how to work. some bodies are naturally strong or flexible or  coordinated (or all of the above).Sometimes people are born with gifted bodies; their limbs and spine follow direction easily and can create the shapes of the practice without many attempts or excessive effort. and sometimes,...

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one day on the wagon

Posted by on 2:18 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

a friend told me today that sobriety is synonymous with honesty (I don’t know if this is linguistically accurate, I didn’t investigate).He told me, in reference to his struggle with a physical addiction, that “if you are not spiritually honest you are not sober.” another friend, in another conversation told me that I’m bored “and you’re creating interest in your life.” Now (without trivializing the very real struggles of a physical addiction) I am wondering if I am an addict. I am addicted to...

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the new normal

Posted by on 1:03 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Last spring I began having a new experience of my body during my practice. These sensations had persisted for a few months and when I asked Kino what she thought of it she told me that it might just be the new normal. That sometimes things change and they don’t change back.and this got me thinking…My life is a little bit nuts. I travel a lot. I teach in new cities and new countries, different environments and with different students, mentors, and bosses. I practice in even more varied circumstances and environments.  Ashtanga...

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Be afraid

Posted by on 11:17 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

and do it anyway.fear of the unknown often stops us. fear of the known stops us even more. we have to remind ourselves of the good that has come from enduring our own suffering.  we must learn to embrace our suffering, and our fear of it, for the good it will bring us. be afraid and carry on.

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Posted by on 10:28 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 13 comments

This system is inherently catered to the individual while being one-size-fits-all, because in the end, we are all the same. I practice ashtanga yoga in Mysore, at the main shala.  Sharath is my teacher.   I have the honor of assisting  him and working with 80 or so of the lovely aspiring yogis who come to the shala each morning. I have the privilege of attending conference and laughing at Sharath’s little jokes about fear and pain and opening.   Many of us who have dedicated our lives, or at the very least our mornings, to this practice...

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Venn windows on the scale.

Posted by on 1:37 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

How appropriate that today is Valentine’s Day.As you know, if you read this long winded blog regularly (and by regularly, I mean whenever I irregularly post), you know that I faced some heartbreak this year.  I was in this really great phase where practice was king!  Sharath and Mysore were my priority. I was happy and confident. I knew what my priorities were and how to meet my goals… and in walked someone who made me push against the walls of my window, begging it to stay put.  Someone whose dot was pretty firmly...

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The next thing I learned:

Posted by on 10:37 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

The window is not fixed.It is not so simple as figuring out what suits and what doesn’t and sticking with it.For a time, I let an outside party convince me that the only way to be a genuine yogi was to live at the austerity end of the scale. I found that by pushing my little dot toward the end of discipline, my window followed.  Sometimes I was living outside my window and it was very uncomfortable, but sometimes I would manage to keep my little dot right on the edge of my window of productive behavior and I would feel immense...

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Continuing with that train of thought…

Posted by on 12:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Sometimes I figure things out that are so obvious, I surprise myself.  That seems to be how it works, the simplest answers (and realities) are often the hardest to see. But I’ve been really challenging myself to open my eyes to my reality and I’ve seen a few things.And the sliding scale helps me make sense of them.The first is that we all live on this scale.  Most people live somewhere in the middle.  But not all of us. Different choices and challenges will register differently, as discipline or chaos, for each of...

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The sliding scale

Posted by on 1:29 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

On a scale from ascetic to heroin addict, some consider me an aspiring yogi.The “unruly” is the important part of my label as an ascetic and as Sharath would remind me, I’m not a big yogi.  Most people consider my life as a traveling student of ashtanga yoga to be pretty disciplined, practicing in the wee hours (debatable middle of the night), ethical vegetarianism, and a steady, if not absolute avoidance of seriously mood altering substances (coffee doesn’t count, no coffee: no prana).  To some, my self...

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Welcome, Madame.

Posted by on 6:58 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

This will be my first attempt at bogging on an iPad mini. Thus far it is a success.I fear that I will have to abandon my fondness for emotional capitalization (or lack of capitalization) with the autocorrect that remains necessary as I get used to this tiny, touch sensitive key board.(I also fear that the inconvenience of accessing the parentheses will cause me to reduce the amount that I uses them, with debatable effect)INDIA!Yes, I have returned. I arrived a week or so ago to Mysore, eager to practice and see some much missed...

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…but don’t get crazy.

Posted by on 12:22 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

wait, I said what?what was that about starting new things and being inspired to make the most out of my last few weeks?  let’s not misunderstand, now.Yes, I am feeling inspired these days.  Yes, I am really diving headlong into some new(ish) activities and attitudes in the hopes of setting up a behavior pattern that I will carry with me when I leave this place and this daily structure. Yes, I am welcoming new ideas and giving them each a pretty thorough try (or at least a solid consideration).but these are activites. ...

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on a scale from one to fun…

Posted by on 11:43 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

It isn’t supposed to be fun.I have had kind of a lot of “making it fun” references to practice lately.  I find that for my friends and yoga peers, I am happy to encourage them to do what is necessary to “make practice fun.”  I generally like the old adage, “if you’re not having fun, then you’re doing it wrong.”  But I realized, during my practice today (which was not particularly fun), that I encourage fun for my friends.  I encourage fun for those struggling...

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be cool.

Posted by on 1:28 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The crazy is trying to creep back in.One thing that’s hard about leaving for months at a time is that feeling that there is a lot to do. that sense of “maybe I’ll never be back!” that desire to squeeze in one last thing and to count down the opportunities to fit it in.and it all has potential to make me a little crazy.  As much as I want to just carry on, knowing that I won’t really remember or care if I got to do every little thing on my yearly America bucket list, things usually can’t help but get a...

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try less hard. you do.

Posted by on 12:31 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments opening?  or sometimes it’s just pain.  this yoga business is hard and it keeps getting harder.  I was really enjoying those lovely few weeks where practice felt good, steady, consistent, managable.  and now it’s back to a whole slew of stuff I can’t do and weird phantom pains that I resign myself to.But it’s not so bad.Muscle soreness, even at its most intense, is not really pain in the problematic sense.  Maybe it’ll make you (me) want to be lazy or take an extra day...

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am not! (much. okay, maybe some)

Posted by on 4:07 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I have been accused of living in denial. me?!no way.I am observing that ashtangis tend to be forward thinking people.  They like to plan and work toward their goals.  I suppose I fit into that category.  Maybe my goals are not as tangible as the next person’s, maybe my goal is usually more an experience than an outcome, but they are goals I work toward none the less.This week in Miami has been a little mini-mysore.  at least in that the day starts out with whispered good mornings and groaning smiles,...

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Grumpy like a crocodile

Posted by on 3:38 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Boy, did I ask for it.The suffering came back into my practice today. Getting new poses at this point feels a bit surreal.  I never really feel like I am doing the last one well enough to justify moving on to the next (or the next).  So I am not surprised that I missed the point both of the times Kino said “okay, one more.”  Not one more try, but one more pose.  In the moment of the first attempt, the first ever genuine attempt at mayurasana and nakrasana, I sank into my general m.o… to be the comic...

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Posted by on 11:23 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

the topic of the day was suffering.well, we’re alive, neh?  which means the topic of most days is suffering.let me clarify, the topic of the day was the acceptance of suffering.Kino talked about tapas as accepting suffering that leads toward purification.  Most of us down here in my little Miami family are facing our suffering a little more directly than usual.  Accepting the pain that comes with the intermediate series as purification.  Accepting that facing that pain is the point of the second series....

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oh yeah! I have a blog!

Posted by on 12:07 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

“there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” -Chris McCandlessIt seems that every time I start to think about blogging again someone pops in my life to tell me that they miss my blog.  so, Mattheus, this one’s for you.Each time I think about blogging I think, I have nothing to say!  I’ll wait until I have something to say and then I’ll write.  but that doesn’t work (obviously).  anyone who knows me in a real time, real...

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Opening is there.

Posted by on 4:55 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Something about the derailment of my practice last year had not really settled until recently.Something about my relationship to change had been incomplete.Something about what I expected from all this was lacking.I’m not going to go so far as to say that I think I have found any of these (some)things.  But I will risk the arrogance to say that I’ve realized a thing or two in the last few weeks. Some big idea that I was passing by obliviously, as ships do in the night (or so I am told), not realizing that the idea was even...

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Conference! (find your own balance)

Posted by on 2:13 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

What kind of Mysore Blogger am I!? hardly one at all if I don’t post about conference.I have gotten different reactions from different friends about conference today.  One said she felt it was a flub, another said he thought it was spot on, others failed to mention that it even happened.  For me, it was middle of the road. Some good laughs, some dopey comments, some answered rhetorical questions (that made us all cringe at the attempt… word to the wise: don’t talk during your first month’s worth of...

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me and my narcissism, hand in hand.

Posted by on 9:48 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

So I’ve been thinking I need to get back on top of this whole blogging business.  I have recently been presented with a friend’s very clever and self proclaimed pretentious internet based self-exposure and it brings out the narcissist in me.I joke that I can’t really get into the whole blogging thing for fear of becoming narcissistic (“you are in no danger of becoming narcissistic” says the most beloved narcissist I know).  But that’s not true. I am already a total narcissist and living...

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Slip sliding away

Posted by on 3:00 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

(My love for you is so overpowering I am afraid that I will disappear.)A variation on a theme… I love you. I love you so much I can’t stand it. But you might slip away. I might forget that I love you. Or you might not. I might love you intensely every time I think about you for the rest of my life.We all know I like to throw around the word “love.” I have a problem with it.  Not with the throwing around of the word, but with the throwing around of the emotion.  It is so easy for me to fall deeply and maddeningly into...

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Don’t fear.

Posted by on 1:25 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 4 comments

But I am fearing. Fear is there.What does it mean to be afraid of your practice?  I know what it means to be afriad of the teacher (or more aptly, the assistant).  I know what it means to be afraid of an injury (or the pain).  But I have never before known what it means to be afraid of the practice.  I have never known the practice to seem so foreign. so strange and unmanageable.Don’t fear. You come.Okay. that’s why you’re the Boss. I will come.He may be the boss of me, but he’s okay with me being...

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Practice, practice, practice. (or don’t.)

Posted by on 2:49 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Have you ever faltered in your practice?  I don’t mean mentally.  I don’t mean, have you ever forgotten why you love it or why you do it.  Maybe you have. I haven’t. I can’t speak to that.  But I have faltered in my asana.  I have made choices that caused considerable backsliding in my physical practice.  It wasn’t clear to me the damage I had done until I was in Mysore last year.  All the planning and all the hard decisions it took to get me here, and I had somehow managed to...

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Love is a many splendored thing.

Posted by on 8:01 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 3 comments

There is something about knowing that I will never be where I am again that makes each moment worth experiencing and cherishing. Sw Asokananda said that having a wide open heart is not painful, what’s painful is when you start to close it (and he’s right).  When my heart is wide open I am happy.  But we, as a culture, don’t know what a wide open heart looks like. We misunderstand it. It makes us uncomfortable.  I am constantly being required to compartmentalize my relationships. You fit here (and you fit...

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Home Sweet Home

Posted by on 1:47 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

No more numbered days.  What was I counting up to, anyway?  Who knows.  Sometimes the OCD brain that inhabits my skull likes the idea of tangible beginning and ends. and then sometimes the person who inhabits the brain realizes I need to cut that shit out.Can you believe I went to France and didn’t blog once!? I can. As will probably come as no surprise, France was fantastic (a word I am still overusing daily).  It brought about more transition and settling as only facing the unknown can.  We had quite an...

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Day 119: Westward bound

Posted by on 9:53 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Wow. 119 days. 4 months. India.Finished.Somehow whenever I go on one of these “put my life on hold and disappear for a while” trips, whether it is India or Yogaville or Ocracoke or wherever, I never really wrap my brain around the fact that life will continue and the trip will end.  I guess I was more aware of that inevitability this time, but still.  I kind of can’t believe it.and I kind of can’t wait to get out of this 3rd world country.No, don’t get me wrong. I love India.  This...

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Day 117: Delhi

Posted by on 2:06 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Well, things don’t always (ever) turn out the way you (I) expect them to.  Maybe we should learn from this and give up expecting.  I think that I am beginning to be able to do this.  I had planned to go to Mumbai, but I seem to be the only person in India whose waitlisted train tickets don’t get confirmed.  But it is always a result of the universe looking out for me. I am happy to be in Delhi, the one city that so many people told me not to bother with. First of all, those naysayers are not friends with...

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Day 102: This is what we came for!

Posted by on 12:06 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

As dumb as it was to hike into the Himalayas without a guide or any confirmation that we could survive, it turned out to be a great call.We were there about a month ahead of tourist season.  The temple in Gongorti, the literal “end of the line” for traveling by motorized vehicle, opens May 5 (or 6 or 7, depending who you ask), so the roads in the area are only just beginning to be repaired after monsoon season and a long winter.  The same goes for the trail to Gomuhk, except that by “just beginning” I mean “they haven’t really...

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Day 101 Gongotri and beyond.

Posted by on 4:29 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In the morning we jumped in yet another 4 wheel drive, having been arranged by a Danish trio on the way to Gongotri for a little sight seeing.  While the 4 wheel from Rishikesh was chosen as a 5 hour form of transport (as opposed to 7-8 on the bus), this 4 wheel was necessary and private, since the road to Gongotri was technically closed.  No buses running, no shared 4 wheel drives running.  We were lucky to get a cheap ride up, splitting it 5 ways, even if it meant not knowing exactly how we would get back down.More on this...

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Days 99-100: life is an adventure!

Posted by on 3:51 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

After much questioning at “trekking and tour” stands and reading borrowed tour guides, Megan and I determined that the only way to know whether or not we could actually hike to Gomukh Glacier was to go to Utterkashi and see.  Utterkashi is the last main stop on Gongotri Rd, the towns beyond amounting to little more than tea stalls and the occasional guest house.  More importantly, Utterkashi is where one procures a permit to enter Gongotri National Park, the home to Gomukh Glacier, the source of the  matchless Ganga. ...

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Days 82-98: Copout.

Posted by on 3:43 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jaipur to Rishikesh Okay, so I acknowledge that I am skipping some steps here.  I know that I have written nothing about the Vipassana, but you know what?  I think that it is silly to try to explain to others why an experience is so valuable and life or perspective changing.  I think the most we can do is just acknowledge that it was powerful and encourage others to give it a try.  So there it is, do a Vipassana retreat.  Patiently and persistently, you are bound to be successful.  I think the things worth...

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Days 80/81: Holi Jaipur!

Posted by on 7:31 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Wow! What a weekend in Jaipur. By the time I am able to post this, my weekend will be long past and I will have entered and exited the tunnel of Vipassna.  I figured I should write about the madness before going into my mind, rather than after (knowing full well I wouldn’t end up writing more than a passing reference to the weekend if I wait until after the retreat).So, Jaipur may not be a wild place in general, but in the universe of my mind, I will always think of it as such.  Unknowly, I arrived in this mid sized northern...

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A word on practice:

Posted by on 6:04 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Are you injured? Physically? (I mean, we are here, in the illusion, right?  We all must be somewhat karmically injured)But I mean, in the normal, “ow, that hurts” sense. Well, I am.  All over. Seems like something new every day.  And I am now a firm believer that this is good. I am no masochist. I am not about to seek out an injury.but finally, I have felt the benefit of pain.As a teacher (okay, okay, I’ll stop trying to deny it, I am a teacher.  I am just also a student), I have been able to see value in pain. ...

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Day 74: Purple Progress

Posted by on 1:13 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Well, I left Purple Heaven  today.  I left Mel and Susan (Kelly left us yesterday and we lamented the absence of her willowy, graceful, and downright silly presence at dinner).  I left the energy that remained from Kino and Tim and our two weeks of practice and teaching. As wonderful as it was and as much as I would be happy to stay there with all those wonderful people for ever and ever (and ever), I am not sad to be moving on. As I discussed with Megan on our cab ride to our new digs, this moment marks the transition from...

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Day 66: Rest Day

Posted by on 5:24 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Man, this place is sick. I mean, terminal.  I can’t really believe that this retreat center is in India.  It seems like a romanticized hollywood version of India.  Not that I am complaining… I have to admit, there are challenges to this situation, as ideal as it is.Mysore has a certain energy to it.  It is in India, so it is hectic by nature.  But also, the shala has its own energy.  It is less chaotic, but still very intense, almost rajasic.  So many people coming throughout the day and working...

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Day 60: Goa Express

Posted by on 10:15 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

If you ever come to India (when you come to India), it is important that you travel some leg of your journey by train. I have come to feel that this is a necessary rite of passage.  If a sleeper car journey is possible, then that is the way to go.  You may be tempted to take the 1st class sleeper.  Lucky for me and Megan, we were not aware of this as an option.  3rd class, baby, ghetto India style. So, we left Gokulam at about 9:00 pm on Friday night, heading to the train station will ALL of our luggage and our two bendy...

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waiting is filled.

Posted by on 2:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 1 comment

So, here I am. Nearing the end of two months in Mysore… and nothing has changed. except everything.It can be such a struggle to see change, to see progress and transition when that shift is coming in the form of an attitude or an outlook and not in the form of something physically tangible, like an asana.Last week I was miserable.I didn’t blog because I didn’t want to drag you all through the muck and mire of my own self doubt.  Part of me didn’t want to admit that the doubt and misery were even taking...

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Day 37: Sita, Ram. Hanuman… Baba.

Posted by on 3:46 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 5 comments

What is it about kirtan that is so powerful?  It can’t be just the sound.  If you walk by someone’s house and you hear people singing in a foreign language, it doesn’t usually inspire you to let yourself inside and snoop around until you find them.  But something about the bhakti, the love and that longing that draws people in. as it did tonight.So, tonight I was lucky enough to get David Garrigues to come to my house and to play his harmonium and chant.  I was also lucky enough for him to bring an...

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Day 35: India; it’s more like guidelines than actual rules.

Posted by on 6:28 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

After a number of questions about day to day life in India (and complaints that my blog is not straighforwardly narcissistic enough), here is an account of my day (No yoga involved):Moon Day!  Moon days are a mixed blessing.  One the one side, it is lovely to sleep late (7:15 o.m.g. I am such a bum). On the other side, as I pass the half way point on my time at the Shala every practice becomes more and more precious and I lament superfluous days of rest.  But, since it is out of my control… ah, sleeping late! It is...

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List: things I like about India (part 2)

Posted by on 12:38 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sharath my mosquito net princess tenthilarious road signsfruit stands (that never appear to close)fruit vendors who ask “eating today? eating tomorrow?” and chose for you a different fruit depending on your answer.enormous papayateeny cantaloupepower outagesbeing called MacGyver for having a headlamp during a power outageplaying cards by candlelight even after the power has come back onfruit ice cream at Anu’sCrepes at Anouki’srikshaw drivers saying “Good night madam!” as a greetingsunday...

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Day 26: No Coffee, No Prana.

Posted by on 12:01 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Why did I come here?  To eat dosa and make friends! To get out of my comfort zone (and into my comfort zone)! To show off my lulu and killer backbends!…? Oh right… to TAKE PRACTICE. How has his taken me 3 weeks to remember this? Sure, I have been practicing, trudging to the shala each morning and dragging myself through my poses, but I have not been doing Yoga.Thank Ganesha for Sharath.  He is one shining ray of cheerful, mischievous light. Right in time, he reminded me that this is a spiritual practice.  This is not...

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Take Action!

Posted by on 7:16 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I am not brave. or courageous.I am not inspiring.or at least not any more than you are. and you need to know need to know that in your heart.I am lucky. We have been through this.  I have been presented with a number of opportunities to live an incredibly fortunate and blessed life.  Each of these opportunities has been presented to me by a person or people who care very much for me. As I see it, I have been offered these lives (or potentials for lifestyles) by  people, not so much by the universe at large. ...

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Day 11: Rajas to Sattwa

Posted by on 11:06 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Okay, so I think I am beginning to settle in.  I am feeling decidedly less manic about everything going on around me.  I told a friend last week that I had been laughing more in my first week in India than I could remember laughing in a long time (and that is saying a LOT because I laugh freely and loudly).  It was wonderful; I was constantly entertained and everything I faced brought an excitement and joy that was hard to contain. As a bit of a clown to begin with, I was more than happy to perpetuate this phenomena with cheap...

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List: things I like about India (part 1)

Posted by on 2:30 pm in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 1 comment

the head who run up to you grinning to wave and say “hi!”kids who run away from you grinning when you respond in kind (not the running part, just the waving and saying “hi!”).cows.being encouraged to go to this dude’s cafe where he serves cannabis oil in coffee. “it’s like, boom shaka laka” (I am not kidding). the smells of the market (flowers and incense and oils). bright white teeth set against lovely dark skin.snickers bars with hindi wrappers.pairs of men/boys holding hands...

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Day 5: Where are you now?

Posted by on 2:39 am in The Unruly Ascetic, Uncategorized | 3 comments

How about an update on some logistics?My address, for those of you dying to send me CCNO bars (holla cville) and chocolate covered espresso beans, is as follows:Zoe Ward (KP Jois Savithri)#251 2nd Main, Gokulum 3rd StageMysore 570-002, Karnataka, India…a mouthful, I know.Well, here I am in Mysore.  Practicing Yoga and eating Masala Dosa and drinking coconut water like it’s my job.  Well, it’s as close to a job as I a get.Practice is going well.  Surprisingly, Sharath and his assistants seem to be somehow...

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