Short Cuts and Term Papers 

My friend Andi is a part time yogi and a full time mom. In addition she’s a writer, a horsewoman, a dancer and a speed-walker- slow-jogger. She also asks the best questions like, “Where are the short cuts in yoga? How long does it take to feel better, calmer, able to let things go?” I explained that unlike vacuuming, yoga is a steady, committed practice.

In college I was a master at shortcuts. I used the same three part, Mad Libs style, template for every paper I wrote. Each one started with the title,
“(Insert Chimpanzees, Sexism, Sign Language, Self Defense, Public Speaking or Ethan Frome here) of the Newer World”. This brilliant idea came after reading “Explorers of the Newer World” in an Encyclopedia Brittanica back in 7th grade. Some things just stick.

The second part was the content and I use the word loosely. 

The third was the summary, one line, “Thank you for your kind attention”.

I thought I was quite clever and I was also content with mediocre grades.

There are five Niyamas in the eight-limbed path of yoga. It’s basically a list of things to do. Santosha asks us to be at ease, appreciate and be content with what is. Sometimes  however, as in my case, it leads to complacency. 

It was easy to come up with a term paper topic at the last minute. I appreciated that editing was for English majors not me. I was also quite content with a passing grade until after I took an independent study self defense course in town. In order to satisfy the physical education requirement I wrote a quick paper. All my part-time sensei required was the class fee.
I received a grade much better than I deserved or expected. Of course I boasted about my “B+” to my instructor. Of course he wanted to see the paper. I couldn’t do it. I knew it was lame but I sure didn’t want anyone else to think I didn’t know it. Time to stop practicing fake Santosha.

Incidentally, all I have to do is remind Dee of my academic history and her concerns about my nieces’ schoolwork goes out the window. “Don’t worry so much; look at my pathetic papers; I turned out fine!”
Considering one of her college works was titled “My Life as a Black Man”, I’m not sure why she’s concerned about anything.

Santosha requires a little effort on our part. It requires a commitment to be our own true selves, our own best selves, by appreciating and accepting what is now. Looking back with regret or forward with anxiety isn’t part of the deal. This is the practice of yoga.

Sometimes our physical yoga practice is frustrating. One day we feel like tired old farmers and other days as nimble as monkeys. One month I may have to vacuum the kitchen twice instead of once. It comes down to being content with what is and what is not.
There are no short cuts, it is a continuous way of living and thinking. It’s enjoying the long haul.

Perhaps we could practice yoga, on or off the mat, the same way we write a thoughtful paper. 

Start with an introduction by taking inventory of ourselves, thoughts and circumstances. 

“This is how I feel and what I’m thinking.”

Then get into the important message, the content.

“The only thing that matters is that I pay attention to this moment.”

Wrap it up.

 “I’m content because I’m me and only me. I appreciate all experiences.”

Namaste- will this template ending ever go away?

Tag Sales

I used to like old things. I bought a light brown, beaded sweater at a church rummage sale and wore it for years. I’m wearing it in most photos taken in the ’70’s. I would never buy it now, even for a couple of dollars. The color isn’t really brown or tan, it’s more like the color of Georgia’s physical reaction after I added old vegetable and faro soup to her dog food mix. 

My father and I went to tag and rummage sales when I was putting together my first apartment. That was fun because he paid for everything and I felt like an only child. It’s not like Had, Dee and I vied for Hopper’s attention, (that’s what we called him…another story) but more so that we vied for making him laugh. Having him alone meant he was a captive audience.
Hopper was 22 when his ship was hit by Kamikazes in WW2. He spent one and a half years in the hospital recovering. Some of that time he was in the psych ward because no one knew or believed that pilots were intentionally killing themselves in order to kill others. The government had a part in that.

He was 90% disabled. His right leg was fused at the knee. Excellent for kicking but not so good for running bases in a game of kickball. His left arm was reshaped into a curve. I think the elbow joint was removed. No muscle left, just skin and bones. Although Hopper had long fingers, the ones on his hurt arm were incredibly thin and incongruous with his body. He was lucky. Born a lefty, as a young boy in school, he was forced to become a righty. 
We never really noticed that he was physically different from anyone else. He was just Hopper. His dry sense of humor was his greatest gift if I say so myself.

Every morning we heard him sing “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got this wonderful feeling, everything’s coming my way”, along with a pause after each step up the steep stairs. Funny now, not funny when I was a teenager. 

I had a tag sale a while after Hopper died. I was married, divorced and remarried at that time. It included a few ancient kitchen items bought from tag sales past but mainly books. As I spread them out I noticed the titles. 

“Creating Your Own Wedding Vows”

“When to Call it Quits”

“How to be Your Own Best Friend”

“Weddings For the Second Time”

“Children After Forty”

“Tantric Sex”

“Our Bodies, Our Selves”

“Oh my gosh” I said to Dee. “This is the history of my whole f*cking life!”
“Maybe you should display them in alphabetical order so no one notices”, she advised.
Dee is pretty funny. Funny as a crutch as Hopper often said.

Here I was bemoaning that fact that strangers could pass judgment on my life because of my old books. In all the years spent with Hopper I never heard him wonder if people were judging him for how he looked.

Dee owns a consignment store filled with old stuff. People bring in all kinds of things. Are the consigners ever embarrassed at unloading old collections? Do they pretend the junk belonged to a relative so they themselves aren’t pegged as crack pots? 

What did one crack pot say to the cracked pot? “I know you are but what am I?”

 I know Hopper finds that funny.

Dog sh*t happens

At 12 I loved reading in the grass in between the house and the barn. It was the perfect spot to keep an eye out for the two hippies living in the octagon up the road. They came down often to buy milk. I assumed others lived with them, maybe girlfriends? I think it was a commune. How cool is that?

One day I took a break from Spiderweb for Two (one of my favorite books) and got engrossed in a love comic. Women in pencil skirts and sweater sets often crying over the guy with the chiseled jaw.

“Whatcha readin'” drawled Keith.

I was startled and then mortified. A LOVE COMIC OH MY GOSH!

I did what any 12 year old girl would do and jumped up to empty the dishwasher or something equally absurd. I didn’t look where I was going and stepped my bare foot in dog poop. Could things get any worse?

I hopped inside crying tears of embarrassment. My father took me into the bathroom, sat me on the sink and washed my foot.

It was a pivotal moment. For some reason I assumed I’d be stuck with that muck between my toes forever. That’s not the case, excrement can be washed away.

Saucha (sow-cha) means cleanliness. It reminds us to be clean, not just physically smelling good but also being pure of actions and thoughts. Get rid of stuff that lingers unpleasantly. Better yet help someone else clean up the muck.

If I hadn’t been reading that love comic who knows how long it would have taken me to turn on the proverbial faucet. Let things go down the drain.

Namaste- getting laundry done today.