19 February, 2012

The leaning tower of pizza

Today was 90 minutes of Hatha with Patrick.

Yes, the dreaded 90 minute class. And I survived it. I heard tell that the temperature hit 107 degrees in today's class. It did not feel like it got that hot. I really think that, without taking into account humidity, there's no way of judging how hot a particular temperature will feel. That is referred to as the "Heat Index". For example, 99 degrees with 60% humidity has a heat index of 126 degrees (proportional to what it feels like, I presume). On the other hand, 107 degrees with 39% humidity will have the same exact heat index of 126 degrees.

But I digress.

Today was, as Patrick noted, a very "traditional" class. We started out with the Pranayama breathing, which is rarely included in any of the Hatha classes, at Urban Yoga Spa. It is surprising how much exertion can be involved in simply breathing. The class progressed pretty much according to Bikram sequence, until the last 10 minutes or so of class.

Compared to the other 90 minute Hatha classes (and Bikram classes) that I have done in recent months, the big difference with Patrick is that he really draws our attention toward working through the struggle that it is, being in such a hot room. Instead of guiding only through the poses, and the form, as many classes do, much of his encouragement was around the mind, and the struggle. Somehow, this made it a little easier. If nothing else, calling the attention to the struggle that we must all be feeling helped me muster the will to fight through it.

It was quite a crowded class. If I counted correctly, there were about 36 people in the small room (3 rows of 12), and this may have contributed to the heat index (to use the correct term), since all of our perspiration serves to drive the humidity up in the room quite a bit.

At one point, when talking about the distinction between the "ego mind" and the "observing mind" Patrick asked us to think back to our earliest childhood memory, noting that the way we envision that memory is with the observing mind; that is the only way that we can retain this experience, and that our observing mind develops at a very young age, and remains with us throughout life.

When he asked us to call upon the memory, what came to mind for me was a time when I was probably only six or seven years old, when my sister (who was probably about 22 at the time) took me to a pizza place called The Leaning Tower of Pizza. The building was actually shaped like the Leaning tower of Pisa. We rode there in her powder blue VW Beetle. It was probably around 1975. There are not many memories of me and my sister doing anything together. And this one always stuck with me, because it was such a hugely special occasion for me. It's interesting to me that this comes up now, out of many memories (since it is actually not my earliest childhood memory). But my sister (who is now 58) is suffering from a neurological condition that progressed rapidly over the last few years, and pretty much looks like dementia. My sister, as I knew her, is gone.

Often, in class, instructors talk about finding a dedication as a form of intention for the class. To send love to someone who needs it. And I have, once or twice, had instantaneous fleeting thoughts about my sister, but I have been shying away from making that dedication to her. Because, I have been sticking my head in the sand about the entire thing. My family is 2700 miles away, and it has been easier to just not think about it. To rationalize that she's gone, at least as I knew her, and that there's nothing that can come of thinking about it. And a dedication seems like a painful thing to do, because that means I'd be taking the struggle, the discomfort, the battle to just stay in the moment, and just survive a class, and conflate that with feelings about someone that I actually miss.

But there it was, popping up in my mind. The observing mind, at that.

I can't keep running away from the feelings.

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