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Lions Roar : November 2013
taught me. I had not suffered through ten years of philosophy only to have a yoga teacher—a man in a sarong—tell me that I needed to find God. So I left. And slammed the door. I took me and my petty worries to the gym. When I was thir- teen I had discovered that I could reliably beat my worries into temporary silence with heavy weights and excessive running. Not eating also tended to help. Hungry worries are generally not as talkative. But today they were. They told me that I had been cruel and unfair to that man in the sarong—that I had failed, and failed at something pathetically easy. What was easier than “just being”? I was a failure at existence. This came as no huge surprise, but I was a little upset that yoga had to reiterate the obvious. For most anxious people, being “a little” upset is only a tem- porary state of affairs. For me, it usually turns into “moderately” or “extremely” or “uncontrollably” upset. I couldn’t stop thinking about that man in the sarong or that incense or about that stupid elephant. For the next three years, I intentionally avoided walking past yoga studios, but those scantily clad women were everywhere. Just everywhere. I dreamed of telling them that they were not wearing pants, firebombing their Lululemon, and using their yoga mats as pastel pugil sticks on that man in the sarong. Deep down, I knew I was just jealous. Somehow I knew that they had, with sur- prisingly little difficulty, achieved the uncanny state of “no mind.” The thought that some people have a head start in this pursuit pro- vided little solace as I lay awake with the thought of my elephant. And that elephant seemed to grow larger and more menacing by the day. I say seemed because I had some vague understanding that the beast’s size didn’t change, but appeared to grow larger by virtue of its steady approach. Yes, it was after me. It was that type of elephant, the type that we find in the Mahabharata (Stri Parva , Section VI) that is as ominous and unstoppable as the passing of time. With the elephant came all the other things that I wished I could ignore: an unhappy relationship, the death of a negligent father, a lack of friends, a compulsive desire to be per- fect. I knew that my bed was not big enough for me, my elephant, and everything it brought with it. So I usually wound up on the couch—awake, hating that man in the sarong. On one of these nights, I did what any highly competitive insomniac would do. I surfed the Internet for “yoga poses.” According to Google, they had some pretty catchy names: scor- pion, firefly, warrior. This didn’t shock me. (It was probably a marketing gimmick.) What set me back was the difficulty of actually doing these poses. Laugh. Go ahead. But you try stand- ing on your hands and touching your toes to your head—at the same time. I did. I broke the coffee table in the attempt, but for one shattering instant I managed not to think about the elephant. And this began my love affair with yoga. With the assistance of the wall I could sort of manage the poses, but they were still hard enough that I did not have time to do them and also fixate on the approach of my floppy-eared nemesis. This being said, I suspected that I looked nothing like the yogi on the Internet and that using the wall was generally frowned upon by the man in the sarong. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 24