Repeating Numbers

Repeating Numbers

“A B C. It’s easy as 1 2 3, as simple as do re mi, A B C, 1 2 3 … “ ~ ABC, Jackson Five

I was at yoga the other night for an eight o’clock class, and, for the first time in years, the instructor was running late. But that was okay with us, as we ourselves had lost track of time. We were all happily seated in the practice room, visiting each other’s mats, chatting and catching up from the week.

The door finally opened. It was the instructor. 

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said. “It’s already 8:08!”

808 is a significant number for me. When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to learn our home address by heart. That way, if we were ever to get lost, we would be able to tell someone where we lived. Our street number was 808, an easy enough number to remember. I remember practicing my address earnestly, reciting it over and over, like the words of a favorite song. As a result, the lyrics embedded themselves so deeply in my consciousness that, to this day, 808 is a number that’s as fresh in my mind as it was when I was a child.     

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Compassion

Compassion

“Well this good I’ve found, I spent all this time tryna find my way here.” ~ This Feeling, Alabama Shakes

It’s almost dark, and I’m looking at the world from upside down.

I am dripping in a backbend in a room that’s heated to almost 100 degrees. Upside down in my arc, I look out the back windows and see people gliding by, taking footsteps on the sky. A little girl stops to wave. She wants to say hi.

This is the peak of the practice. We’ve finished all of the standing poses, and we’ve warmed up our backs on the mats. We’ve rounded our spines in Camel and Locust and Bow, and we’ve already done our first Bridge. And now the count is on for Wheel.

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Keppe

Keppe

Kiss me on my eyelids, make bad things go away. Kiss me on my forehead, make everything okay. ~ Kissalude, Basement Jaxx

When I was little, I didn’t really have a forehead. I had a keppe instead.

Keppe is the Yiddish word for forehead. As a child, I was always kissed on the keppe, and I was tucked in at night with instructions to put my keppe in the pillow. If I was ever hurt, a kiss on the keppe would always make things better.

Of course, my children grew up with kisses on their keppes, too, and I’d tuck them in at night with a game, a kind of Goodnight Moon for the senses. I’d call out and point to the parts of their faces, starting with their noses, followed by a light tap on each. I’d say eye and other eye, and they’d turn their faces toward mine and close their lids for another tap; then, one cheek and next the other, then their ears, their mouths and chins. And finally, the keppe, and they’d let me put my hand on their brows and rock them goodnight on their pillows.

It was a game of acknowledgement, and they never tired of it. In a few moments with just these parts, we named and recognized all that was them.

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Strength

Strength

Put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place. ~ Put A Little Love In Your Heart, Dolly Parton

How long does it take to strengthen a heart?

I think that depends on what kind of shape it’s in and whether it is a strong one in the first place. 

The heart is a powerful muscular organ that never rests. It beats continuously throughout a lifetime, and so it’s important to provide it with the necessary nourishment, especially if it’s a big one.

I’ve been trying to strengthen my heart.

It’s a long overdue effort, but apparently my strategy to date hasn’t been the most effective. I’ve basically preserved mine rather than fortified it, and it can’t get stronger without the proper nutrients.

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Swimming

Swimming

Rock me on the water. Sister, will you soothe my fevered brow? Yeah, rock me on the water, then maybe I'll remember, maybe I'll remember how. ~ Rock Me On The Water, Jackson Browne

Tonight, I was in a yoga class that took place in what I can only describe as The Twilight Zone.

I call it The Twilight Zone because I literally had no sense of time during the practice. I was so incredibly immersed in the movements that the end snuck up on me, and I only knew it was that time because the instructor dimmed the lights.

We start the practice at the top of our mats, the usual place to start.

We press our feet down and lift our toes up, and we’re instructed to extend our arms up and around and back into place, alternating first one and then the other, until the room is like a pool of backstroking yogis.

And even though we are swimming, the instructor asks us, again, to root down into the earth, to press our feet as if we are instead on dry land, and to lift our toes and glide slowly as if we have many more miles to go.

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Blessings

Blessings

I'll say a little prayer for you. Forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart. ~ I'll Say A Prayer For You, Aretha Franklin

I have a buddha in a bubble!

My children surprised me with a snow globe that houses a golden Buddha, seated in a peaceful womb of gold and glittering with sparkles that alight on his shoulders, his head, his hands, his lap and his feet.

Every morning, I shake my buddha!

And I watch as my vanity lights illuminate the sparkles as they glisten and swirl in a dance to start the day.

At the closing of one of my very first yoga practices, I sat for the first time with my hands in prayer while the instructor said a few words.

He instructed us to exhale what we no longer needed and to inhale some goodness into its place. After the practice, I was so hypnotized, I would have followed any instruction, and this seemed easy enough. I was surprised how visual it was for me, and I exhaled what I imagined as the color gray, and I inhaled what I imagined as the color white.

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Step Up

Step Up

I just take one step closer to you. And even when I've fallen down, my heart says follow through. ~ One Step Closer, Michael Franti

Step to the top of your mats.

This is what the instructor says at the beginning of most every yoga class.

I hear this so much that it’s automatic to simply step to the top when I’m told. I can be finishing a conversation, coming up from a seat or coming down from a stretch. It doesn’t matter. Everything stops, my mind clears, and I step to the top.

But last week, I heard something else.

Step to the top of your mats, the instructor announced. 

And when I did so, my mind, on its own accord, suddenly responded in silence, Reporting for duty!

I’ve never really had a thought surprise me. I usually know what I’m thinking about. But, that day, this response was as automatic as my step to the top. And even though no one could hear my mind speak out, everyone else reported for duty, too.

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Stillness

Stillness

How can I possibly be inconspicuous when my flow is so ridiculous? ~ I’ll Be Around, Cee-lo Green

I was at an evening yoga class with a guest instructor who arrived with a great big welcome, his greeting warming the room, and his smile inviting many in return.

This is a Level Two class, he announced. So, what would you like to work on?

With each answer, he jokingly upped the ante, saying, Oh, hips? That’s a 3.23 class!. Inversions? That’s a 5.67 class! Backbends? That’s a 10.789 class!

He asked us what we wanted and got us laughing when we answered, promising us a high energy class and lifting us with that of his own before landing the room in a quiet meditation with a poem and a chant. 

I was happy to be there, sitting next to a friend who was leaving town and among others I knew as well. I felt cozy as evening fell outside the windows, darkening the room in a stillness filled with the rhythmic voice of the instructor.

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Unwritten Stories

Unwritten Stories

“Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten. ~ Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield

My son was home for a holiday, and we had the rare occasion to tool around town, having lunch and the chance to walk and shop in the sunshine of the first warm day of the season.

I have no place I have to be, he exclaimed, grateful for such unusual circumstances. There’s nothing I have to be doing right now.

We stopped in a refurbished firehouse that was home to a cool, new shoe store. The interior was designed like an old library, and as we sat down on a plush, oversized couch, I pointed out several shelves of blank books, none of which had covers, words or titles.

Look, I said. None of the books are written. They’re all blank.

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'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season

Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. How do you measure a year in the life? ~ Seasons of Love, Rent

When is it time to start something new

And when does that something new become part of what you always do? 

Most things seem to have a season, and I’ve always found comfort in the traditions that follow. 

Come spring, I always find myself out on the porch and planting flowers in the pots outside the front door. The summer often means slowing down and more freckles. The fall has Halloween and sweaters and boots and Thanksgiving. I hibernate in the winter, coming out only to celebrate the holidays and New Year’s. 

Like clockwork, the seasons pass, a quarter of each year like a quarter of each hour; the minute hand like our lives, gliding through what it is we do during those times. 

Off schedule and out of the ordinary, I started going to yoga during the fall season a couple years ago, right before my usual winter hibernation.  

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Sisters

Sisters

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies." ~ Aristotle

The other night at yoga, we practiced with our eyes shut.

We moved without seeing for 75 minutes. Apparently, it was the night to focus on our Third Eye, the body’s energy center for insight and intuition.

I, myself, am more focused on not falling. And, I have to admit that I open my eyes a few times.

The first time is to make sure I’m not the only one with eyes closed, which, of course, makes me the only one with eyes open. The second time is to check the pose. And a couple more times, I have to say, is because I just can’t help it!

Aside from that, I move deliberately through darkness with those around me, listening to the matching melodies of the instructor’s voice and the music. Periodically, we sit back on our heels and bring our hands to forehead center for a look inside.

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Adventure

Adventure

“So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world from upside down.” ~ The Cave, Mumford and Sons

The other night, I was at yoga, laying out my mat, unwinding it from its bag and doing the same from my day.

I prefer a spot against the wall, where I can try a few handstands without going overboard. I walk along my mat and talk with those nearby, enjoying the switch from my work day to my yoga night, chatting and pacing and popping into handstands.

And I wonder, where else, really, would this seem normal?

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My Son

My Son

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy …” ~ John Lennon

I’ve learned that we never stop growing up, but I have a son who I keep thinking is all grown up.

Or, so it seems to me.

I guess I think he is all grown up because it’s hard for me to find anything that I can still do for him or that he needs me still to do. As a young adult, he lives on his own in another city and has a job and supports himself.

When he was little, I’d pack his lunch, hold his hand, buy his clothes, play endless catch, sit on the sporting sidelines, keep him dry in the rain, and tuck him in at night.

Now, he does all that and more on his own, and I’m certainly not the one tucking him in at night.

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False Starts

False Starts

ometimes we only think we know where we should be.

The other night, for whatever reason, I was not supposed to be at yoga. I don’t know why, and I never will, but I was not supposed to be there.

That’s not to say I didn’t try. Believe me, I did!

In yoga, we’re told to trust the process. I’ve heard this saying lots of times, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand its meaning. I think it means that we are exactly where we are supposed to be at the time we are there, even if we think we should be elsewhere.

And the other night I got the chance to trust this process.

For whatever reason, my best efforts to get to yoga landed me right back where I started. I don’t know why, and I never will; but, in the end, I think I have to trust that I was just not supposed to be there.

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Embrace

Embrace

It's impossible to be alone at yoga, even if you walk in feeling that way.

It was a weekend morning, and I was getting myself together for yoga. 

On Saturdays and Sundays, I actually shower, wash my hair and put on a little make up before going to yoga. Sounds strange to do so before working out, but this morning routine is what wakes me up.  

I was like this in college, too, even when just studying. I would wake up, shower, dress and sit among my friends who would all be in their sweats. 

My son calls me the Cal Ripken of getting ready for the day. 

I arrive at the studio and wait for the class to start. I lay out my mat in my favorite spot, and slowly the others start to trickle in. 

I love seeing everyone, and a few people come over to chat and catch up. Some are young adults, the ages of my children, some are closer to my age and many are in between. Yoga has introduced me to so many new people. I did not know that practicing would make me part of any kind of community. 

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Confidence

Confidence

I’m supposed to find my swag in yoga.

Really, I never knew what it was or where it was or even that I was supposed to be looking for it.

What I was looking for was how to drop into a backbend from standing, and the instructor was doing his best to help.

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My Spot

My Spot

I have a favorite spot in each of the yoga classes I take.

At one studio, I like to set up on the left in the front row. At another, I like to be in the middle of the back row. At yet another, I like to line up my mat in front of one of the many windows.

I wonder what I would do if the instructors insisted on our choosing different spots each time?

As a yogi, I hear so much talk about transformation and moving in new directions. And while I think I’m doing my best to evolve and transform, I know my tendency is to find what’s comfortable and set up shop. 

The other night, I was on the later side and someone was in “my spot”. So, I put my mat down a couple spaces to his right. But then I realized I was front and center, and I decided I didn’t want that. So, I got up and put my mat to his left in the space right next to him.

Hope you don’t mind if I go here, I said, as if my indecision needed an excuse.

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Stuck

Stuck

If you think back to where you started, you can always find the joy in where you are.

This is how the instructor opened the morning’s yoga class.

This instructor is such a young man, and I can’t figure out how he has such insights at half my age.

This is what my grandmother always told me, he said.

Aha! 

Interestingly enough, that morning, I had awakened thinking about how far I had NOT come. All I could think of was how STUCK I was, and the day hadn’t even started.

How did I wake up stuck?

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Crown

Crown

Something's going on in my head!

I have to admit that what I like best about yoga is the workout. Each and every time, though, I am surprised by the after effects.

There is something spiritual about each practice. No matter the studio, no matter the instructor, no matter the style.

I’m not always conscious of how the practice touches my spirit; instead, I just know that I feel different afterwards.

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Home

Home

here's no place like home, and home can be any place.

I’ve never ventured too far from home.

I grew up down the street from where I now live. I went to the local university, and my biggest move came after college when I left campus for what was then my ultimate destination—a downtown Mary Tyler Moore studio apartment.

To this day, even though I am hardly home, I remain a homebody.

Having a home base has always secured and centered me, even though its location has changed half a dozen times.

At this point in my life, I am surprised to find another home at yet another location, this one being my yoga mat.

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