On the Elusiveness of Contentment


A line from a letter written by a close friend:

“What else is it to feel pretty than to be happy to be oneself, just as one is?”

What else indeed? I don’t know. I’m hardly modest, but it wouldn’t occur to me to call myself pretty, let alone imagine what it feels like. Like most women who started out as little girls who felt grossly unattractive, I decided to be very, very smart.

(Unfortunately, being very smart can also add to one’s unattractiveness. But I digress.)

This doesn’t mean that I went to the extreme of not making an effort entirely. I liked to dress well (and I still like dressing well, though wearing a uniform seven days a week doesn’t leave much room for fashionable self-expression) and I like to keep fit. I just don’t pay attention to makeup and I will almost always ignore my reflection in a mirror (unless it’s to examine my alignment in a yoga pose).

(Funny how we instinctively and inerrantly evade those parts of ourselves we don’t quite like.)

But to go back to my friend’s line, what is it to be happy with oneself, “just” as one is, if it isn’t to be pretty? I don’t really know, because to feel that kind of contentment is almost as alien to me as it is to feel pretty. It’s a strange thing to admit, given where I work and what I do for a living, but then again, we search hardest for that which we feel we lack the most. If I work in a wellness studio and teach yoga for a living, it’s precisely because, like most of my students, I’m looking for something (even if it’s just a ten-minute respite from thought borne from intense physical exertion).

In the end, maybe all I’m really looking for is a respite from looking.

And where I am is a pretty good place to start.

On the Love of Siblings


So, my sister flies out today after spending the last three days of her vacation in Manila doing reception work, answering calls, encoding client forms and doing various kinds of errands at the studio.

She had fun, she said, before kissing me goodbye at the taxi stand.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Thank you Lainey. I don’t know what I’d do without you and Bub and the parental units.

Hugs.

On the Imprecision of Words


Energy.

It’s a fraught and over-used word in my line of business, one that captures an entire constellation of meaning and whose very broadness and imprecision risks making it an unintelligible concept altogether.

Here are some of the ways it’s most commonly used and their closest plain English equivalents:

1. She’s got good energy. She’s got good vibes.

2. The class had great energy. They were really into it.

3. That student really drained my energy. He made me do all the work.

4. I didn’t seal in my energy. I let them get to me.

5. I had low energy this morning. I didn’t get a chance to drink my coffee.

6. She brings really bad energy. She gets on everybody’s nerves.

7. How’s the energy of the space? What’s the atmosphere of the place?/What does it feel like in there?

8. What’s the energy exchange? How much does it cost?/What do I have to trade in exchange?

9. He’s got way too much energy. He’s hyperactive./He needs to let off some major steam.

Have you got a pet phrase involving the word “energy”?

On the Vividness of Color


(CHINA, Tibet) Window feature at the Pelkor Chode Monastery in Gyantse. (Photo taken by the author.)

I remember being arrested by this image while wandering around the monastery: this huge swathe of yellow framing a canvas blind; and right underneath it, another splotch of yellow from a bundled up robe.

Sometimes, life can be all about such captured (and captivating) moments.

On the Prettiness of Churches


(NORWAY, Lærdal) Borgund Stave Church. (Photo taken by the author.)

I remember taking several shots of this church, because every image that cropped up subsequently on my DSLR’s LCD screen looked unremittingly…toy-like.

(So, no, it’s not a toy or a model or a picture from a storybook, but an honest-to-goodness real-life church. Down to the charming cemetery in the foreground.)

Funny how reality can get so surreal at times.

On the Exceptions to Achievement


Earlier today, a student asked me if I’d seen fitness chain Equinox’s YouTube video featuring yoga teacher and model Briohny Kate Smyth. I very rarely watch YouTube videos, not even to watch yoga clips, but this was one I’d watched on the recommendation of a fellow teacher and practitioner.

It was so fluid, she marveled, that it almost didn’t seem like yoga. Then she added, a tad wistfully, Kelan ko kaya magagawa ‘yun?

Best not to think along those lines, I told her smiling. It will only breed discontent.

She paused at the doorway, then nodded. Oo nga. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Then she looked at me and waved goodbye.

Truth be told, I’ve had countless moments in my practice when I’ve looked at other practitioners (on the mat or on the page) and wondered (with envy or with despair): When am I ever going to do that? When am I ever going to move with that kind of ease and strength and grace?

And a sneering little voice says: Never. You’ve gone as far as you can go. Leave the acrobatics to the superstars.

The fact that this kind self-doubt and self-deprecation is a constant presence in my practice makes it a minor miracle of sorts that I actually teach yoga for a living (among other things). Until I became a yoga instructor, I only ever ventured into careers where I was clear that I could excel. What, after all, was the point in doing something that you couldn’t do better, or just as well, as the best in your field?

There’s no point really; there’s just the quiet happiness that comes from doing something you thoroughly love and unabashedly enjoy (which is also, embarrassingly enough, how I feel about singing).

Sometimes, and this still amazes me, life isn’t about achievement.

Thank God.