Writing and editing

Today I googled “animal friends’. Why don’t I do that more often? Honestly, so great.

I am working on Kapotasana this week (and forever). David told me on Wednesday to pick up and jump back right afterwards. Wow. Every single bone, muscle, particle in my body is screaming to sit down after that pose. Today, I managed, shaking with claw hands and my belly sticking out, to crawl back slowly into the vinyasa. Gross.

Cabbies in Ottawa:

David: I got a strange cab driver in Ottawa.

Stan: Oh yeah.

David: Yeah, I told him what I did for a living and he told me, “All my friends are amazed because I don’t have a care in the world. I never worry.”

Stan: Wait – you told him, “I’m a yoga teacher.” and he said, “I never worry.”?

David: Pretty much.

Stan: That is strange.

David: Well, actually I told him I taught yoga and he told me, “Oh yeah, I do that.” but he looked crazy, kinda big with hair sticking out in all directions. And I said, “Oh yeah.” And then he told me about how he never worries.

Stan: That would be nice.

David: He said he used to live in Toronto when he first came to Canada, but that he likes Ottawa better.

Stan: Hmm. That is also strange.

Today walking home from Indian food:

D: Look at that van “Mobile Tanning Service”.

S: Hmmm.

D: Now that is a weird job. Some people say my job is weird. But that has got to be strange. Going into people’s houses to give them a spray tan?

S: Yeah, you are right.

(I start thinking of typical Mobile Tanning Technician’s day. Where do they spray? The bathroom? Do you get naked for the MTT? Does the MTT have 911 ready on their cell phone before entering your house?

Most importantly: which crackhead in my neighbourhood is paying for at home tanning service? And how bummed would you be if you got the call to come out to crackville and spray tan the bedbugs?)

What is it about needing a break from everything when you have been away for a full month? I have been meaning to post so that my poor grade 3 remora readers aren’t subjected to angry vegan missives for weeks on end. Every once in a while something will happen and I think to mysefl, “Ah, yes – gotta blog about that.” But then the day passes like the day before and I’m in bed before I can put a few thoughts together.

This past week, I actually avoided my website like a late homework assignment. Which is pretty sad considering I’m the frustrated teacher as well as the delinquent student in this case. I’ve been catching up on my New Yorker reading since I have been home – and trying to wrap my head around the business in Egypt and Libya. And this is totally a silly lame excuse, but sometimes blogging is so writing-lite. Like Japan is underwater and radioactive, and I want to write about going to the park.

Incidentally, here is a picture from the park that David took. You can really see his front teeth while he is on the swing. Good stuff.

But anyway, I am steeling myself to go back to work soon, which is terrifying on many levels. Mostly because there is no job to go back to. I feel pretty floaty about the whole thing. I am so busy everyday, but I accomplish next to nothing. There is such a strong ambivalence. I desperately want some time to do things that don’t involve wiping someone’s bum and then I have moments of thinking he is only this age once. I have regretted working too long at a lot of jobs, but I can’t imagine that I will regret spending more time with him. But then there is the question of my sanity, as Tova pointed out to me a couple weeks ago. My grasp on reality is on a bit of a slippery slope currently, and although I’m not positive – I believe an extracurricular activity might help provide some grip.

The longest amount of time I have been away from Holden was his first night when I was in a hospital bed and he was down the hall in the NICU. He is nine months old – so I’m pretty sure that can change. And I have help. I am almost sure my mother would take him until next Christmas if given the opportunity.

Giving birth is a big whirlwind, particularly when you have a c-section. I just sort-of gave birth and ended up in my room. Holden was tucked under my arm and David and Mercedes went out for pizza. I didn’t really notice the train of nurses and doctors coming by. I felt nervous to be alone with the baby, but a nurse showed me how to feed him lying down and we just lay there cozy as the sun went down.

During the night (David was back at this point of course) a doctor came to my bed and told me that he had to take the baby because he seemed to have fluid in his lungs, and although Holden looked great, he had very little oxygen in his system. So, I politely told the doctor, no – he couldn’t take the baby from me. We could think about it some more and talk later. And the doctor said, Umm – the baby will have to go to the NICU And I said, Ummm. No. He is better off with me. And the doctor said, You don’t have a choice. And then I cried and the doctor told me not to cry and got me some kleenex and then took Holden out from the crook of my arm. He told me that the nurse would be in early the next morning at 6a to take out my catheter and help me walk to the NICU.

The nurse was 2 hours late. 2 hours.

Catheter came out at 8a, I popped out of bed (not really) and she led me a few steps towards the door. Then she turned to me and said, “Great! that is all you can do for now – let’s get you back to bed.”  Bahhhh! Holden was 10 feet down the hall – he might as well have been on the other side of the world.

When you have a baby there is certain knowingness about looking at them You just feel compelled to stare at your baby. Somehow that looking is a way of getting to know them, fixing them in your mind – how did they manage to arrange themselves, fully formed, inside you? Not seeing your baby right after birth is really disturbing. Even seeing them wrapped up in blankets is a bit crummy. You have a compulsion to examine them.

And I think I still feel that way. Luckily, I get to do that all day.

Practice Notes:

Last week I had the Laghu vajrasana walking down the stairs thing where you have to turn around and go down backwards clutching on to your burning thighs as you think to yourself, “Why the fuck do I do this?” At the end of this week, David gave me Kapo. I feel good, elated high from the backbending – which means next week it will kick my bum. Ok. closer to my made-up goal of Yogi nidrasana by June 16th. Really, having those goals is pointless because beyond Yogi nidrasana is endless misery. I should really make my goal getting a good well paying job so I can help support my family. Sadly, that doesn’t seem as appealing. Again the sanity thing.

Next post: Cab drivers in Ottawa as told to me by David.

David went to the last conference on Sunday. The Baby was sleeping and so I stayed at home. It turned out to be about ahimsa and vegetarianism

I became vegetarian on my 8th birthday. I am blessed with very patient and understanding parents and they spent the rest of my childhood cooking extra tofu or beans on the side for me. When I went to university, I began eating meat again. I stopped when I moved back to Toronto. Interestingly enough, I think of my university days as some of the most unhappy times in my life. I was away from my family, a little sad and lonely – trying to figure myself out, and I ate meat, drank and smoked.

I do really believe that the reason I fell into Ashtanga – and not say Bikram, where eating meat and wearing leather is Ok – was to put me in touch with other vegetarians and create a vegetarian community. Being vegan is the single most important lifestyle choice I have made. It is also easily the most important part of my practice.

There are many parts of the practice that can make it challenging for my body and my ego. Waiting in the vestibule to be called in sometimes really bugs me. I often feel itchy and irritated when I don’t get new poses that I think I deserve. And then there is the usual thought garbage that comes up during practice: envy, competitiveness, anger, weird mat-territorialism, self-pity. I can make these feelings about the teacher: Why doesn’t he notice me?; the students around me, “How come she gets that pose and I don’t.”; or myself, “I just had a baby, my body is so broken.” Sometimes these feelings lead me to thinking I should quit, get up  and leave and take up running or something where I don’t have to deal with other people in the room, the teacher, the tradition blah blah. I do truly believe that this is part of the process and an integral piece of the practice.

In this blog, I like to explore the things that come up in my meditation – and I know it is about me, my own issues,  and not about Sharath or the person practicing next to me.

I have been thinking about this a lot in terms of veganism, because the tradition advocates dairy consumption as well as the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), and I don’t feel the two are compatible. This is one instance where after some reflection – I don’t believe it is about my own neurosis getting in the way of my practice or listening to my teacher.

Sharath told students at conference to eat ghee as part of a healthy vegetarian diet. He said that calves were given the milk first and the rest was used for human consumption. He also mentioned an organization in India that is working towards having no cows slaughtered in the country. I had several conversations with friends in India, who told me that drinking milk in India is different than drinking milk in the West because the cows are treated fairly and can roam the streets, eat what they please and generally be free.

To be totally honest, those conversations and the teachings from Sharath really aggravate me. There are a billion people in India. If you seriously believe that there are no factory farms in that country then you are, frankly, deluded. I think it is one thing to drink milk and say, “Yeah I drink milk – I participate in this.” It is another to pretend that the few cows you see wondering around Mysore are supplying the milk in your chai. They aren’t. And before that milk was extracted, it certainly wasn’t given to a calf. As lovely a story as that may be. Having had some personal experience with this, mammals tend to give birth to males as well as females. And while I see quite a few mama cows around town in Mysore, I see very few grown boys. Whether you sell the male cows to Muslims or Christians to slaughter them in India, or take them out of the country and slaughter them in Pakistan or whereever – it seems the outcome is pretty much the same. The cows are not free, their lives are short and brutal if they had the misfortune of being male; long, confined and painful if they are female.

Often people complain to me that fake meat or soy is not healthy for your body and that it would be better for you just to eat butter or free-range chicken or whatever. And while I am obsessed with digestion, and I know that those fake meats and margarine are pure garbage (and I choose not to eat them most of the time), I would rather eat garbage than participate in the industrial farming of animals.

The separation between animals and us is dangerous because it leads to other “us” and “them” thinking. I believe it changes the level of compassion and understanding we have towards other humans. If there are a group of living things that don’t deserve to be happy or free why should that be limited to the non-human variety of beings?

My type of animal activism is certainly the Farm Sanctuary variety. I like to pet the cows and make the connection to their sentience from their heroic rescue stories. I choose veganism because I can only imagine the hideous and brutal treatment animals receive in factory farms. I usually can’t watch insider footage of those farms because it is much worse and more inhumane than I can even fathom. It makes me feel hopeless and angry, but I know it works for some folks.

Here is the link to Earthlings, you can click and view if you are interested. The movie documents the way we use animals as pets, clothing, food, and entertainment. The site streams the whole movie as well as the trailer. I personally couldn’t make it through the trailer without crying, shrieking and hiding my face in my sweater. It is extremely violent and disturbing. It is probably a good view if you do decide to eat or use animal products. Ultimately, this is a personal choice and knowing what you are supporting is an important part of that choice. I choose to drive a car and buy plastic, and knowing some of things happening in Libya make this decision pretty uncomfortable for me. I suppose it is mine to live with and hopefully I can strive to make better choices in the future.