Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pink Ladies



When I was in high school, I hung out with a posse of girls. We called ourselves the Pink Ladies. I'm not sure why we called ourselves that. It was an obvious shout out to the bad asses from Grease, but we weren't bad ass like that. I'm pretty sure our Pink Ladies title came from a service project that we did with our Geometry teacher Mrs. Putnam.

The Pink Ladies are all turning 50 this year. It's special, to be fifty. It's a milestone and an accomplishment. Most people in my life in Seattle have only known me as an adult. Sure I've changed over the thirty years I've lived here, but the Pink Ladies knew me when... When I was shy, awkward, scrawny and scared. And I knew them in their myriad adolescent versions. Now we're turning fifty and we're grown up. We're worldly and wise. The first one to cross the half-century line was Judy. Judy and I both live in Seattle. To surprise Judy for her fiftieth, I invited the Pink Ladies out to Seattle to celebrate with  her. Of the five I invited, three were able to come--- two from Wisconsin and one (my twin sister) from California.

The surprise for Judy involved an elaborate production involving my daughter's emoji masks, flashing bike lights, and my back patio. Once the Pink Ladies were revealed to Judy, we proceeded to spend a high school inspired weekend together. We all slept at my house like a big slumber party. We went out to dinner and shared one pair of readers to order our meals. We stayed up late talking and snapping photos of each other doing ridiculous things. Each of our odd little habits dating back thirty-five years showed up at different times only now instead of getting irritated, we'd chuckle with each other about how some things never change.

They all (except Judy) left yesterday morning. I left for work before they headed to the airport and when I got home I found little remnants of their morning--- coffee and tea cups, dirty bedding and borrowed pajamas piled in a heap in the basement, a left toothbrush, a half-eaten banana, thank you gifts. As I straightened up and did load after load of laundry, I was filled with gratitude for having this time with the Pink Ladies. We've known each other for practically our whole lives. We got our periods in each other's bathrooms. We lost our virginity in each other's basements. We went on vacation with each other's families. We stole our first beers from our parents' kitchens. We survived adolescence together. And since that era, each of us has lived many little lifetimes. We've married, divorced, had kids, had breakdowns, breakthroughs, gained weight, lost weight, gone gray, covered it up. We've had multiple careers and achieved countless degrees. We've lived in cities all over the world.

I didn't know what to expect, bringing us all together like this. I hoped. I planned. I anticipated. But I didn't know, couldn't have possibly imagined the power of history showing up like it did. I had no idea that the legacy of the Pink Ladies could live in each of us all these years and reawaken with such ease, as if no time at all had passed.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yoga as Science

Last week we had Lucia's seventh grade school conference. Lucia is getting an A in every class, including science.  But when I ask Lucia what she's studying or how it's going in science, she tells me that the classroom is totally out of control, that she's not learning anything and she can't describe what aspect of physical science her class is working on. I asked how in the world she's getting an A and she said that she retakes every test and redoes every homework. She does this during her lunch period when she should be farting around with her friends and getting a break.

When I expressed concern to her science teacher in an email, the teacher replied, "It's tough. I have 34 students and I do a lot of classroom management. Lucia is actually one of the really good students."
"But she's not interested in science." I wrote back. "She can't tell me what she's studying in science. and the only reason she's one of the 'good' students is because she spends all of her spare time redoing the works and she still isn't getting it."
The conversation hit a stand still and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do next.

I'm proud of Lucia for getting straight As. But I could give a rat's ass that she's getting straight As if she's not learning anything. For girls, 7th grade is the time when they are most likely to abandon math and science, to proclaim that they aren't good at it, to eliminate it from their list of future career options. We have a book about women in science, women who changed the world with their discoveries----Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock, Shirley Ann Jackson, Rachel Carson. I'm bummed about Lucia's experience with science this year. Instead of being part of an environment where she is becoming curious, asking questions, uncovering mysteries, she is doing grunt memorization and busy work and dealing with a handful of kids who mess around during science instead of lunch.

We live in a culture that looks at the end product. What are your grades? What does your body look like at the end of your diet or exercise regime? What kind of house did your big job allow you to buy? Because yoga has become so commonplace and many people put it in the category of "working out," there's a risk that we can get caught up in this idea of achieving a final result with our yoga practice.

Yoga is a lifetime process. It is about finding ourselves through exploration. We do this through postures, through breath, through chanting and meditation. Some of us do all of this, others only pieces. It doesn't matter what you choose to be part of your practice. It matters that you practice. You do what works for you. It's easy to get caught up in the end product--- what your triangle posture looks like or how long you can balance in standing bow pose. But that's not the point. The point is to investigate and be curious about the process of your practice. Just like science. What happens if you don't practice in your favorite spot this morning? What would if feel like to take a totally different class than you usually take tomorrow? Would the world collapse if you gave that teacher you didn't like another try? Yoga is like a science project. Stepping onto your mat is stepping into the unknown. It's a time to abandon assumptions and expectations, to become curious about potential discoveries, to uncover information that could change your world.




Monday, February 5, 2018

Finding your own path

I just came back from my first trip to India. I've been wanting to visit India for a long time but I always got overwhelmed when the idea of planning a trip there came up. India is so big. There are so many people and languages. Then this year one of my teachers invited me to go with her to see her guru.

She asked me during a class I was taking with her over the summer. "Do you want to go to India?" she said, very casually. I said, "I've always wanted to go to India....." but I didn't commit at that moment. I said, "I'll have to think about it." But I knew when she asked me that I'd go. I knew in my gut and with every cell in my body. 

I trust this teacher implicitly and, while I'm still trying to figure out if I have a guru (or multiple gurus), if I were to commit to one, she would be at the top of the list. 

We went to my teacher's guru's Ashram near Vellore in the south of India. My eight days at the Ashram were some of the most colorful, energetic, spiritually rich days of my life. It would take me hours and days to document the different rituals and ceremonies I was privileged to be a part of; and because I was technology free, I have no photos of any of my experiences in these sacred places. It's all in my mind, in my own private little memory vault of life experiences. It feels right that I can only relive these moments in my own mind, free from any outside lens of my own or anyone else.

While we were in India, I had a momentary crisis of faith and I confided in my teacher that I was struggling. In the midst of such intense devotion around me, was my spiritual expression enough? Why did my spiritual path look so different from so many of the people around me?

My teacher looked at me with complete acceptance, openness, and said, "Laura, you have to do what works for you." She gestured with her hand in a circle across all of the devotees sitting near us, "this path is healing for me. I have my own story and you have yours. You have to follow the path that is healing for you."

It was as if a giant blister had been popped. I felt utter relief, a visceral release, to have confided in my teacher, to have been honest and clear about who I was and what I was thinking. For the rest of my time in India I did my own spiritual practices within the other ceremonies and rituals at the Ashram. In making them mine, I was able to connect with myself, and I was able to connect with the people around me. I was on my spiritual path, riding alongside all these other people, all of them on their own paths. It felt real and good and deep. I'm counting the days until I can go back to India.

What am I worth?

For the first time in my adult life I am in the position of not having a "real job." I am on a chosen hiatus from being fully d...