It was a grey day in every way. Post-Thanksgiving quiet. Chris and I testy at each other. Paperwork. Writing work. House work. Work.
In the late afternoon, not quite ready to start the next round of what felt like a list of “have-to’s”, I unfolded my mat. The mere unfurling of that piece of rubber – such an unlikely symbol of calm – is Pavlovian. Here. Now. Be. And there for 30-40 minutes — I couldn’t say exactly — not enough and yet just right — I moved — prayed — unwound — settled — and, finally, arrived. Beauty, right t/here all of the time.
What a gift is this practice that I happened on to twenty-five years ago to help cure a sore back. I got there by way of Julia – thank you, thank you Julia! – who had done it in New York. There were a handful of studios in Seattle at the time, and one was near my apartment on the top of Capitol Hill. Run by an Iyengar teacher named Denise – though “Iyengar” meant nothing to me at the time – with other teachers who I think were from different traditions. We did a lot of work in partners and even trios. There was a kind of roly-poly friendly glasses-wearing guy who often came to the same class and we would partner. There were folding chairs and lots of props. Not so much on breathing or meditating – I didn’t even get that this thing I was doing for my back – thanks to my long hours at Microsoft and an hour-long commute – had anything to do with the beginning meditation classes I was taking in a little bungalow down the hill.
I kept going when I moved to Iowa City, seeking out one of the only two teachers in town then. I started in the tiny studio space above the crunchy private school, and each class was saturated with the smell of baking cookies from the kitchen below. We meditated in this class – sitting facing the wall. I kept at it knowing there was something in it I craved, even if it had yet to entirely click. It felt good in my body but not in my heart.
And then I tried the other teacher. I arrived. Fully.
Jenny in the long church social room with the carpeting and the faint scent of potlucks. We brought our own mats – nary a prop. The class was laced with other traditions, as Jenny is nothing if not a curious experimenter. In particular, I’ll always remember the class just after 9/11 when we sat in two long rows, back to back, side to side, in meditation, tears flowing.
I only knew dimly at that time that Jenny had trained at Kripalu. Years later, at a packed holiday party, the two of us talking loudly over our sparkling waters and wine, l learned that she’d been an initiate of Swami Kripalu. I’d already been to Kripalu myself by then – she’d even written my letter of recommendation – and now she offered this so lightly, as though she were softly passing me a golden thread.
The thread that had begun in Seattle continued – all the way to Kripalu – all the way to teaching – all the way to the many studios I’ve practiced in over the decades – and next, all the way to a new training journey. Each experience, each practice a blessed space. None more so that my livingroom floor and that thin, used piece of rubber mat.