On the Emergence from Isolation

Finally! A new post from my friend J.’s blog—which means I get a breath of fresh air in my otherwise hermetic world.

I’ve always loved reading J.’s posts, now more than ever since it gives me a glimpse of a life I could have had (would have had, actually, if the universe hadn’t dropped opening and managing a yoga studio onto my lap).

J. is currently a doctorate student in a well-known university in Singapore. She often writes tangentially of the academic life—and not so tangentially about minor epiphanies gained from the practice of yoga. These two things alone—the oblique style of writing about a pursuit around which her whole life revolves and the long-term shepherding of a practice that has become surprisingly precious—would be enough to guarantee my devotion. It’s a bonus that she happens to be a very dear friend who also happens to write exceedingly well.

Today, J. wrote about passing the written component of her comprehensive exams. Her next task will be to pass the verbal component. I get the significance of these milestones while also marveling at how remote they now seem. (Isn’t it strange how the things we have to survive isolate us? My crises always occur to me as greater than yours and vice versa. The miracle of friendship is how it allows us to traverse the icy waters between our respective floes.)

At any rate, this is me celebrating J.’s recent victory. The fact that I have enough emotional and mental space to even pay attention to her triumph is another cause for celebration altogether.

Everything’s going to be alright.


On the Tenacity of Spirit

Ah, the adaptability of the human spirit.

This is the 9th straight Friday I’ve had that didn’t herald a weekend ahead (week what?) and, ominous warnings from all the burnout literature aside, I’m doing pretty okay.

A large part of this comes from a personal predisposition (also culturally inherited and aided) to forget everything except the very short-term past. It’s only been eight weeks, but I can’t quite remember anymore what I did during the weekends (what did I do with all that free time???) and what it’s like to leave the workplace earlier than 8:00 pm. So there’s no grief, no resentment and no sense of loss—just a faint bewilderment that life used to be lived so differently.

(I’ve experienced this puzzlement many times in my life: as a high-schooler reminiscing about grade school life; as a college freshman reminiscing about high school life; as a fresh graduate reminiscing about university life; as an overseas Filipino worker reminiscing about life back home; and so on and so forth. So many selves acquired; and just as many selves discarded and forgotten.)

So my life right now occurs to me as normal, though just four weeks back I was railing precisely against its abnormalcy. And there’s an odd solace to be found in this acclimatization: that in spite of our worst fears and our own inner terrors, we get up, we survive, we make do, and we (surprisingly) even flourish.

It’s Friday after all, and even if I don’t get a weekend, I’m still inclined to celebrate.

On the Failure of Force

Here’s a recent resolution I’ve made—born mostly from the belated, persistent failure of my usual application of brute force and willpower:

In situations of duress, I will only ask myself either (or both) of two things:

1. Will I allow my internal state to be determined by external affairs?

2. What lesson am I intended to learn from this situation?

So far, it’s proven enormously helpful.

(Bolsters her resolve.)

On the Bankruptcy of Strategies

Growing older is about understanding what all the clichés mean.

Today’s cliché was handed to me by my friend and mentor Honey in a brief exchange over Facebook: The quality of your life has nothing to do with your circumstances.

This is a notion I’ve heard before and read before in countless literary and verbal incarnations. I’ve even practiced it to a certain extent. For the most part, however, I’ve devoted my time and energy to ensuring that my circumstances will conduce to a mostly pleasant quality of life. Why? Because while clichés are blindingly obvious in theory (the intellectual equivalent of pap), they’re frustratingly difficult in practice. (Here’s a classic example: If you really love someone, you’ll let them go. I rest my case.)

The thing is, one can only dodge the truth (or life’s lessons) so long. For me, I’ve wrung all the happiness and contentment that’s possible from focusing purely on re-arranging my circumstances. I’ve gone a long way with this strategy (a run that’s lasted a good thirty years) and I’ve finally exhausted its possibilities.

Which means that from this point onwards, it’s about finally turning inwards: about creating a state of mind (or a way of being) impervious and immune to what goes on outside.

As my other friend and mentor Aljor has told me: It’s simple, Eileen. It’s just not easy.


On the Tenacity of Insecurities

(KANGOO Jumps) As if rollerblades weren’t tough enough. (Image sourced from Google.)

So today, I was White Space’s representative (along with friend and fellow yoga teacher Kat Albano) at the Fit All You Can event held at the Rockwell Tent. There, sandwiched between half-a-dozen skimpily-clad women hopping on Kangoo Jumps as if they were born with the things on their feet (they’re apparently NASA-certified; the box says: “Rebound Exercise is the Most Effective and Efficient Form of Exercise Yet Devised by Man“) and half-a-dozen fortunately-not-as-skimpily-clad men doing suspended push-ups with TRX equipment (the blurb read: “Fit for Victory. Ready to Win.”) I felt much the same way I did when I was a clumsy and bespectacled fourth-grader stranded amongst athletic peers.

In other words, I felt bewildered, ill-at-ease, insecure and out of place.

And yes, I teach people how to do yoga (for a living; among other things).

This is not as ironic as it seems. Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve talked about how I fell in love with yoga because it was precisely one of the few, overtly physical things that I could actually follow. Previous attempts at other group fitness classes always failed because I could never figure out what a grapevine was, couldn’t isolate my hips to save my life, and was always just moving to the right when everyone else was already moving to the left. It was a huge bonus for me to discover much later on that yoga actually came with a philosophy. The greatest gift it gave me was a sense of repossessing my own body.

So today’s experience was a humbling reminder of how tenacious childhood insecurities can be. It took just ten minutes of wandering around the different booths to undo five years of hard-won confidence. The thought that kept running through my head was: They’re what instructors should look like or should be. What can I possibly do that they can’t outdo?

The honest answer is: probably nothing. And that, strangely enough, is likely my greatest asset as a yoga teacher. I have to struggle twice as hard as the average athlete to get my body to do half as much. I know what it’s like to try again, and again, and again, and to fail again, and again, and again. And what’s born out of all that struggling is a deeply-felt sense of compassion for all who strive and fail.

So, no, I’m never going to be a superstar on the mat. And so will almost all of the other people I’ll be teaching yoga to. Which means: I’ll know exactly what they’re going through. And I can guide them through all of it.

On the Challenge of Not-Doing

There are days when I have these pockets of time that are too short for accomplishing anything and too long for just sitting and twiddling one’s thumbs.

It’s during these moments that I become keenly aware of how uncomfortable I am with doing nothing.

(Doing nothing means several things to me, to wit: I’ll regret not using this time productively in the future. There’s something I’ve obviously forgotten to do. I haven’t done anything yet to deserve this break. I’ve got too many things on my to-do list to indulge in a break. And so on and so forth.)

The most insidious expression to date of my need to fill all the empty moments has assumed this form: Why don’t I just sit still and meditate?

Who am I fooling? I’m still making a project out of it.

Which simply means that even when it comes to doing nothing, more practice is necessary.


On the Earnestness of Wishes

Just for one day, I’d like…

…the sun to shine without burning.

…the roads to be clear.

…friends to come.

…gifts of food.

…friends to come with gifts of food.

…to eat gifts of food without consequence.

…to read a riveting book.

…to find a riveting book.

…to have a massage.

…to sit in a park without an agenda.

…to lie down in the shade and doze.

…to walk by the beach.

…to lie in bed.

…to have a movie marathon.

…to have a foot spa.

…to daydream.

…to write stories.

…to think up stories.

…for everything to be easy.

Just for one day.

It’ll be enough.