Friday, April 5, 2013

Make it Sweet


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Some friends and I decided to buy tickets to go to a yoga class at the top of a very swanky midtown hotel this past weekend, which included a live DJ, great views of the city, and a couple of ridiculously delicious ginger margaritas after the class.

Mary Oliver has been coming up a lot in our house recently, for various reasons.  So it was delightfully apropos when on Saturday, at the end of a phenomenal yoga class, the instructor read this poem during savasana (for the non-yogis: that is the part at the very end of the class where you get to lie still on your back with your eyes closed and gather all the benefits and effects of your practice to take with you before you leave.  Or just rest and relax after the workout, depending on how you prefer to think about it.  I almost always fall asleep into the world's shortest, most delicious naps.  Regardless, savasana is the definitely one of the best things about doing yoga.)

There were probably about 150 women in the room.  And about four men - I counted.

I have written before about how wonderful, how healing, how spiritual, how restorative yoga can sometimes be for me.  This class was one of those - and it could not have come at a better time.  I have been studying for Step 2 of our medical boards for the past few weeks... and although I have found that medical school induces a rather constant need for this kind of replenishment, there are times when the need is especially severe.  Like now.  I even considered for a split second not going - I had forgotten about the class until my friend reminded me of our plans the night before, and it felt like I couldn't sacrifice the couple of hours it would take out of my study schedule.  (I mean, med school is just totally crazy like that - I cannot believe I have become the kind of person who would ever think something like that.  But evidently I have.)  Fortunately, fortunately, though, I fought off the crazy and went.  And of course it turned out to be exactly what I was needing, both for my body and for my life.  I think that when you need to hear it, it is suddenly apparent that you are not just working on physical poses in yoga.

Our instructor for the morning led the class based around the theme of the sanscrit word Rasa- which, in one of its translations, means delight in existence.

And she was so good at bringing that to life in her class, reminding us to move because it feels good.  To delight in the movement and in what our bodies can do.  To delight in the day, and the good fortune it was to be able to be there, doing yoga, and sharing the experience with our 150 new closest friends.  She was energetic and encouraging and funny.

Hey, we could be telemarketing right now!  But we're here, doing yoga!  Delight in this!

Rasa.  It also means Nectar of the Gods, sweet nectar, bliss.

It was a long class.  It was a really fun class.  It was the kind of class that is so fun that you forget how hard you are working.  She reminded us that this is how it should be - in life, as in yoga.  Make it fun.  Do it because you like it.  Stop worrying so much about it.  Delight in it. 

Perfectionism is your biggest obstacle to happiness. You gotta let go of that shit. 

She said that she can always tell who the advanced practitioners are, because they are the ones that are smiling. 

You are alive; make it sweet.

Taken by my friend Kathy H.

Studying for the boards is making me slightly - how shall we say - cray cray.  I take a quick study break to check a favorite blog and then suddenly a certain picture of this person's babies makes my chest feel like it is constricting.  I get a NYTimes headline alert pop up on my phone that Roger Ebert has died, and I suddenly need to run for a bathroom break, now.  Because I'm all teary-eyed.  I get to the library around 8 am and leave around 5 or 6 pm and I am mostly being studious and diligent all day, and by the time I stand up to leave, I have this wild, intense sensation swimming around through every vessel in my body - it 's hard to explain, but it's like a mixture of wanting to cry and laugh hysterically and tear my hair out and go to sleep forever and run 12 miles and punch someone in the face, all at the same time.  Like every Christmas morning before you got to go see what Santa left in your stocking and every piece of bad news you've ever been given in your life, all rolled into one emotion, chased with a shot of espresso, and then run over by a Mack truck.  It feels like I want something, more than I have ever wanted anything in my entire existence - I want it so badly I feel like I might literally burst - and I don't even know what that thing IS that I want.  

Maybe it's just for this test to be over. 

I am lucky to have lots of people in this life that appreciate its sweetness, and work at finding it.  And so the studying has thankfully had lots of sweet interludes.  I have been grabbing lunch breaks with good friends and enjoying amazing ice cream with my roommates and showing up for outdoor workouts in the evenings, and it feels so good to just turn my brain off for an hour and get covered in dirt and grass and push my body as hard as I can make it go.  And I have also been buying the occasional pair of shoes that makes me happy. 

Gonna make it sweet, DAMN IT.

When our teacher read Mary Oliver's words at the end of the yoga class, this is the phrase that jumped out and seared itself into my attention:

my work
which is mostly standing still and learning to be

Why those words? I'm not really sure. I think I love them so much because they remind me of how much sweetness and beauty and awe-someness there is in the world. We have only to learn to see it. These long, long hours in the library, with this one, seemingly all-consuming and colossally anxiety-inducing goal looming, make this difficult for me to remember, much less do. When it's not this, it's something else. Life is hard; there is always something. I need this constant reminder.

You are alive; make it sweet.

I was reminded recently of this title of an Alice Walker book of poetry:

...which I am taking seriously as my new life motto.  I just love it.  I just want it tattooed on my forehead.  Along with so many other things I need to constantly remind myself these days.  Like: 

Everything is going to be ok.


Life will go on.


My worth as a human is not going to be determined by what happens six days from now.  Or the week after that or the month after that.


Delight in existence.

Maybe especially that last one.  

The new shoes.  I love them.

And, last random thing for tonight - this cover, which my sister Ellen first introduced me to and which will always and forever make me think of her.  It is awesome and funny and it just makes me smile every single time I hear it and I love singing along at the very tops of my lungs in my car or in the shower.  For some reason it has been stuck in my head tonight.

I take my boards this coming Wednesday.  If it's your thing, I would sure appreciate your prayers for the exam and for the days leading up to it.  


1 comment:

  1. I love this. It made me smile and tear up and nod my head. And it's just what I'm needing these days. Also, this song. Just so good. "I say lend me some suga, and I'm yo neighba."


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