the yoga sutras of travel: part 8
1.8 viparyayo mithyanjananam atadrupa pratistham
Alpaca are bright eyed and cute as all get up. They are actually a domesticated species of camelid, that looks like a baby camel mixed with sheep. They are cute until you get spit on by one and let me tell you those suckers can get some distance. Fortunately I was standing just far enough back to only catch part of it on my forehead and miss the full face blast from the critter that was having a bit of a spat with his buddy near the fence. The idea that they would be super fun to nuzzle up against faded quickly. In my mind they had soft fur and big eyes like sheep so they would be just as cuddly. I discovered this was not really the case. I had perceived the alpaca to be like the sheep and it was far from it. ahhh sutra on incorrect knowledge and assumption, you got me first thing in the morning with a lesson of alpaca spit!
We had stopped off the side of the road to great the alpaca and get a few photos. The owner of the farm came out to meet us and invited us in to see his operation and told us all about these furry friends. 1. Do not stick your hand over the fence. They may eat grass but still have sharp front teeth. Instead you can put you face down and they will sniff you and press their nose against you. (This made me hesitate. What was going to keep it from biting my nose instead of pressing against it?) 2. Alpaca have an 11 month gestation period and we were luck enough to see a two week old baby. They only have one at a time. Twins are extremely rare. 3. They sheer the Alpaca once a year. The fiber from them is super soft. To make even softer blends it is sometimes mixed with silk.
The farmer was very talkative. We get the full tour of the tiny shop where the wool would be carded, spun and woven or knitted into various items. I think the gentleman would've chatted us up all day, but we politely made our way back to our journey towards Rotorua.
Rotorua is home to the Maori villages The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. The tribesmen and women are known for their Haka (vigorous chants with movements) and extreme facial tattoos. The area also draws in tourist to see the geysers and geothermal activity of the land.
Our hotel, Pohutu Lodge is backed up to a geyser that goes off every 35 minutes. It is quite a sight (and distinctive odor). The town has commercialized everything so it is hard to get to any space without spending a bit of money. The owner of the lodge, gave us access off the back of the property to go see all the geysers and views of the villages with out being charged. He also clued us into a local space called Kerosene Creek. The creek runs at about 105 degrees and is a short drive out of town. It was easy enough to get to and secluded enough to not be crowded. The water was clear and its heat felt amazing to my body after all of the time spent driving to get to Rotorua. It was amazing to me how the creek looked like any other and you could not tell that it was heated until you actually got into the water. A passer by might assume that it was cold and clear. I pondered how we filter the world through the lens we already know and how often we can make assumptions about a place, person or state of being that might not really be in line with what is actually occurring.
We we lucky enough with time to get back, clean up and have a short nap before the bus picked us up for the evening activities. We had booked a tour of the Mitai Maori Village. Our driver, John, was one of the Maori tribesmen and our guide for the evening. He was a sweet and gentle soul with an amazing ability with language. He greeted each group we picked up with a phrase from their native tongue. During the course of the evening he talked to the larger visiting group and called us the tribe of many nations. There were 23 different nations represented and he spoke to all of them with humor and special insight into their people. I was moved by the fact that this small tribe would make such and effort to connect with cultures and languages from all over while most of the people visiting could barely say Maori.
The remainder of the evening was a mix of Maori history, culture, performance and of course food. You will certainly not go hungry on these tours. The meals were prepared in a giant in ground hole with hot stones. Lamb, chicken, potatoes and sweet potatoes had been cooking in a traditional fashion for the better part of the day. Brian and I suspended our vegetarian methods and agreed to graciously eat what ever was provided by the tribe. The food was delightfully tasty. Unfortunately, I eat meat so rarely that it sat a bit heavy in my belly and I got full really fast. After dinner we were taken for an evening walk into the forest and at a certain point asked to turn off our lanterns. The edges of the cold water spring glowed a soft neon green. We had just experienced the glow worms. I have always been fascinated by species that exhibit bio-luminescence.
The face tattoos are really amazing. There are four birds represented in the tattoos and each marking is earned by the warrior for duty, and education. The right side of the face will exhibit the story of the father's side of the family and the left side, the mother's family history. Women are only given one bird on the chin and a women's tattoo may progress down towards her throat if she has provided the tribe with many children. If a warrior has provided many children he receives ink also on his private region. The art of ink for the tribe was a very painful method of piercing the skin deeply with a chisel and using an ink made of a certain tree gum and dog feces that forces the wound to heal open and scar along with maintaining the deep green markings. Today more modern methods are used. The Maori believed if you could not take the pain, you id not deserve the markings. Ink is an honor and a right of passage.
The culture is filled with contrast between aggressive and sharp practices and tender moments of loving expressions. The Maori greeting is to gently touch noses two times. One touch symbolizes the families before them and the other bounds you in friendship. There are clear an specific gender roles, but the women are cherished and deeply protected. Song, dance and play are abundant. Wooden carvings now hang where the heads of the enemies used to around the camp.
The facial expressions of the people were very different and I realized how it would take time for me to be able to read the emotional state of this culture. I thought again about the lens with which we view the world and wonder how many times we get it wrong when it comes to what another person may be thinking. A stern look from someone might not have anything to do with us at all. Perhaps they were deep in thought. Maybe a person has a nervous laughter and smirks when you talk to them. I thought about a recent disagreement with a young women I know. I felt her expression gave me no indication of caring at all, what does she really feel. I can not assume to truly know her inner thoughts. How do I navigate future conversations with her to avoid any misconceptions on either part. I supposed it first begins with trying to cultivate the ability to ask more questions than assume we know what the other person is feeling based on a random glance or tone that might not fully express what we mean. Add into the mix the less than emotionally telling or easy to read into sensibility of email and we are in a whole new world of potential mistaken knowledge.
Awareness- willingness to look deeper- open to shifting patterns
We will be spending the day in Rotorua and then back to Auckland
the yoga sutras of travel: pART 7
1.7 pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani
I saw a Tee shirt when I was about 12 that said “Question Everything”. I was already an inquisitive child so I didn’t need a big push to take that statement to heart. I had forgotten about that memory until I was writing just now, but I realize that it was at that age that I fully stopped taking things at face value. Well most things actually. I had to learn to apply that same kind of reasoning to boys and relationships a bit later in life. My relationship with the world around me and particularly my relationship to authority took the greatest shift at this very tender age.
Flashback to 1985; we were getting ready to move towards our confirmation day at Faith United Methodist Church. Our minister, Pastor Bird, was going around the table and asking each child to confirm their belief in God in hopes of helping us make our public declaration of our beliefs and for us to seek the confirmation of stepping into the full responsibility of joining the congregation as an adult. One by one my friends nodded and words of unquestioning belief spilled across their lips. The world seemed to come to a halt when my tiny voice exclaimed, “I don’t believe in the “God” you are selling me”. I can still see the horror on the faces of everyone around me. The silence washed through my bones and I searched for all of the reasons and questions that prompted me to unleash such madness. What was wrong with me that I simply couldn’t accept what everyone else so willingly followed? My Pastor was one of the kindest and most loving souls I have ever met and was the only one who didn’t judge me. He smiled warmly and told me that questioning was healthy and I must follow my own experience and discover the world for myself. He told me to keep up my inquiry but not to simply dismiss what challenges me outright without deep investigation. I think Pastor Bird is really a Yogi.
I crashed hard last evening watching young girl’s race snowboards and chilling speeds. Bodies hurled off of slopes with amazing accuracy and hang time in the air that left me breathless just watching them. Try as I might I couldn’t keep my eyelids open anymore and remember only a warm kiss on my cheek as B turned off the TV. The early bed time worked to my advantage as I was up in time to make coffee and pull Brian out of bed and into the hot tub at the inn to watch the sunrise. Adventures today will keep us in Whitianga.
There is a unique hot spring beach about 20 minutes south of our motel. We went out at the recommended time of low tide to check it out. Hoards of people were gathered on the beach digging little holes in the sand and sitting in shallow, sandy filled gullies. B and I had rented a tiny shovel of our own and waded through the mass of bodies to find our own beach territory. The first hole I dug in the earth still felt like cold water to me. We looked around and saw people on either side of us camped out in their ditches. This could be it I thought. Brian confirmed that this was really silly if all we did was dig a hole in the sand to sit in cold water. We tired another space closer to the main grouping of bodies. Still, this was not what we were expecting.
We listened to several people around claiming the water was warm. Two people were sitting in the first hole that Brian and I began and were convinced they felt the warmth. I could see areas of the beach that seemed to have steam rising from the surface and felt before we threw the idea out completely we needed to investigate further. Bingo! The water under the sand toward the beach front in the middle of the tourist brigade, was not only warm, it was scalding hot! We moved up close to the shoreline so that the cold water of the sea would mix with the intensity of the hot spring. I turned back to see more people sitting in chilled sandy tubs because they decided to go with the flow of the heard digging holes and not look one step further to find the real deal. I mused over the phenomenon.
The sutra today was sitting here in action. 1. Direct experience; find the spot of the hot spring. 2. Reasoning and Deduction: Continuing investigation until the full experience could be achieved. 3. Validation: Many people in the true hot spot had to step out because the temperatures were too great.
Why then did so many people stop when they didn’t really feel it? Why did some people try to convince themselves that they were feeling something? Did they just want so much to be a part of the group that they would go along with the experience of someone else without any direct relationship to their own experience? Why wouldn’t you seek experience instead of mere belief? Why do I always end up with three or more questions for every step I take towards an answer?
Pastor Bird, I thank you wherever you are for encouraging my path of inquiry. I still don’t believe in a God head calling the shots of my life. Instead I feel a call towards something even more amazing. A connection I can’t quite label. Pastor bird used to sing us a song while playing Guitar.
“Have you ever stood at the ocean with the white foam at your feet, felt the endless thundering motion, then I say, you’ve seen Jesus my Lord, you’ve seen Jesus my lord.” Standing at the ocean I feel the white foam and Jesus is nowhere to be found. Instead there is a profound love that I felt as deeply today as I did when I was a child, before adults tried to gum up the works with stories of guilt,sin and dogma.
I can also say from direct experience that tonight’s meal at the Squid was fantastic! All the seafood is local and as fresh as you can get it. There is nothing quite as good as seeing a happy Brian with a full belly.
One last thing before signing off for the evening… The little place we are staying in tonight is run by two little old ladies. I love them! The room reminds me of my great grandmother’s place. There is even one of those toilet paper cozy dolls. My gram used to have those silly plastic dolls with the crochet dresses. Big red and frilly pillows decorate the couch and I feel so at home.
Tomorrow we head to Rotorua where we will spend some time with the history of the people from here.
Yoga sutras of travel; part 6
1.6 PRAMANA VIPARYAYA VIKLAPA NIDRA SMRTAYAH
Today we journeyed to Coromandel and then to Whitianga. It was supposed to be a relaxed midmorning drive ending up with a day of sitting on the beach. Well sometimes the best laid plans take a turn or two. The short story is we left Auckland at 11:30am and ended up in Whitianga at 6:30pm. Several factors contributed to an arduous day of driving.
First off we begin with attempting to rent a car. Brian is in charge of travel logistics while we are here. He was beginning to nudge me out the door when I checked for the rental email confirmation and found that the transaction had not gone through. B wanted to head over to see what was going on and I suggested a phone call instead. Good thing we called because they were out of cars. B heads back to the drawing board and I finished up my last blog post and gathered what I would need for the next few days on the road. The new confirmation comes through and we scurry out the door to try and make the next ferry. The brisk walk turns out to be good for both my energy and in perfect timing to catch the boat. 15 minutes we are in Auckland and ready to go get the car. Note: I am the worst with directions and trust everyone when they send me someplace out of necessity. If I ever say turn left, you might want to turn right… That said, I am also pretty good at knowing when I am not where I need to be. Brian had suggested that the car rental place was within walking distance. It wasn’t miles off, but trekking through the city with bags was far from our wisest choice. Some comic relief is thrown in when B takes us to the wrong rental shop. We have a good chuckle and make our way across the street to get the car. So much for right knowledge; It is back to double checking and preparation to avoid unfortunate mistakes in the future. We are now running a bit later than expected, but not worried. It is a holiday and we aren’t on a tight schedule so we can breathe a little easier.
Dilemma number 2: Driving on the left side of the road. Brian and I have never driven a car with the steering wheel on the opposite side and in left handed traffic. It seems like such a small and easy switch, but it really messes with your special awareness. The cars are now coming at you on the right instead of our usual left so there is this knee jerk reaction to keep veering toward the left. Not only is this unsettling for the driver, but the passenger gets to experience several near misses of guardrails and close calls to posts. Brian will say otherwise, but after a few hours of traveling up and down the most curvaceous hills with extreme drop offs (no shoulder and in many cases no guardrail) I was wearing shoulder blades for earrings and had cramps in my hands from gripping every time we went around a curve which was every second of the trip.
Coromandel town was short lived. We grabbed some food and decided we wanted more beach area than small fishing town so we decided to cross the peninsula. I tried to go to my Zen place and see if I could relax for the second part of the drive. I hadn’t noticed that B didn’t get on Rt 25 that would take us across; rather he was on a different road that was taking us north. We didn’t figure out that we had an unfortunate detour into no man’s land until we were an hour or more into the drive. We turned around and made occasional comments on the tremendous views and steadily held our course.
After some major redirection we finally made it across the peninsula. Finding a motel with vacancy proved to be another challenge, but we settled into the Beach Front Resort. The town was pretty much shut down by 7pm so we had some tapas and beer.
All day I danced between the 5 types of mental modifications. Right knowledge/ valid knowledge seemed to elude us today. The incorrect knowledge was throwing up personal road blocks everywhere. It is funny how you know something isn’t right, but your mind will adjust to help you convince yourself you are on the right path. Why do we feel we can’t stop and ask for directions? Imagination and fantasy, well I don’t know where B’s mind was drifting to during our travels, but I can really make up some crazy stories in my head. In one version I take over driving and we arrive at our destination in 10 minutes with the rest of the evening running smoothly (no ego involved there, I continue to laugh at myself). In another scenario Brian and I have our first real fight. It doesn’t happen and there is no reason to day dream about such nonsense but my worried mind plays out a ridiculous scenario. This too passes and I come back to being uncomfortable.
I spend the later part of the trip between sleepy moments. I nod off here and there and feel disoriented each time I wake up to traffic coming at us from an unusual side in my mind. When I am fully awake, I filter between imaginative moments and memories of vacations past. My friend Pau sits heavily in my mind today. I haven’t thought of him in some time. I don’t know what triggered that train of thought.
Today was definitely all over the place both in physical space and time and in mental processes. I let the chaos of the mind wander while trying to observe the phenomenon of how the mind plays out its patterns. I guess for me it was less important that I categorize my thoughts into a neat little list, but that in looking at them as patterns and through the lens of these fine types I could see that as a witness to my mind there is more opportunity to acknowledge the patterns and create discernment. It is a way not to get caught up in my own story.
This day and this topic are really challenging me. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I believe that I have the space now to filter out some personal rubbish that has been brewing for a while. This sutra project and travel time is a catalyst for personal clearing. I don’t think that growth can occur without discomfort and a few bumps that give you the contrast to appreciate the other things that are so amazing.
I cried out of sorrow for the first time in a long time. I am experiencing real grief and I choose not to push it away or pretend that it isn’t there. I really thought about stepping back toward fantasy and telling myself some feel good story. I mean why get sad on a vacation where you are supposed to feel wonderful and have the chance to tell everyone else how perfect it all is. I decide instead to sit with what is and let it be ok for now. Brian has a beautiful way of letting me be in my personal state where I know he is there for anything I need and at the same time he doesn’t try to force change or fix it for me. I love him for that.
I sit with the klishta(painful) so I can recognize where it is truly coming from. I work to cultivate discernment so I can move toward the akishta(painless). This will take more practice and in the meantime, the space around me is truly beautiful so I think I shall go exploring.
Yoga sutras of travel part 5
Vrttayah pancatayyah klista aklista
According to Patanjali there are 5 kinds of fluctuations in the mind divided into 2 categories, One type brings pain, suffering and moves us away from enlightenment and the other type is painless, avoids suffering and moves us toward enlightenment.
How will my thoughts be colored at any point during this trip. How can I use the tools of my yoga practice to avoid suffering. I find it interesting that the terms klishta and aklishta refer to pain or painless, suffering or non-suffering, but it is not pleasure versus pain, simply the absence of suffering that we are looking at. Perhaps this is the first real glimpse into contentment.
More questions surface for me on this matter. How can I step off the extremes in the hamster wheel of happy/sad, ease-ful/mad. I have certainly been able to bear witness to the extremes during the preparation for and moments during the trip. Happy moments than crash and burn when something begins to feel stressed; Worry about what I need to do to get to where I need to be; Feeling the unbridled ride of joyful waves of anticipation followed by riptides of anxiety as I stammer through new locations noticing how far I am away form home. How do I balance the contrast of my joy with my hesitations.
This day was one of meeting more people and getting the opportunity to play at an Acroyoga jam in Western Park in the Ponsonby area of Auckaland. It was such a treat to receive such a warm welcome from strangers and to all be playing together like enthusiastic little children in such a short time. There were many new students who were here on holiday and a few AcroYoga Montreal teachers from Vancouver. It was great to practice together and share our skills with one another.
Brian must have flow everyone in the park and was working his Jambassador skills to woo perspective students into the practice. I took great pleasure in watching how students gravitated to his easy and confident demeanor. Many of the students were brand new and there might not be anything better than watching the intensity of joy bubble out of people the first time they experience a flight.
We enjoyed yet another cup of coffee even more amazing than the last, on our ride back to Devenport on the ferry. I am enjoying the peaceful rides home each evening where I can sit and watch the water as I reflect upon the day.
The evening activities including Brian and I making dinner for his family. The market here is filled with fresh herbs and vegetables so I decided on a homemade Pesto (heavy on the garlic) with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and chicken. Brian made a baby kale salad. We topped it of with wine and some good bread.
Food is one of my great pleasures in life. Cooking itself I find to be very grounding for me. I also love to cook for others and nurture them with food. I may get his trait from my Great grandmother Rose, who showed every ounce of love she had for you with her efforts in the kitchen. Simon, Claire, Brian and I talked and laughed for most of the evening. Simon had pulled out a little book he made about his travels to the US from Great Britain when he was 9 years old. His little tale chronicled his adventures with Brian on this visit almost 30 years ago. We felt our bellies juggle with the roar of uncontrolled giggles when Simon's 9yr old mind took us through the adventures of the most amazing Chucky Cheese and the sadness and boredom of having to wait for Brian to go to church on Sundays. Klishta / aklishta
Swami Satchidananda reflects on this sutra as thoughts that are either selfish or unselfish. Selfish thoughts bring us pain and attachment where as pure and unselfish thoughts bring us freedom from suffering. This translation feels closer to my heart. In essence I often feel discomfort when I am not "getting my way". I muse over my moments of crankiness at the bus stop feeling uncomfortable because the bus isn't there yet. We have all been in these impatient moments (I know you have too). It is funny to look at it from the outside. I think about my inner child just all twisted up because I am not getting what I want right now. Where is that stupid bus. I chuckle and have a great laugh with myself. I think the more I begin to recognize the spoiled little child of my inner mind the better I can remove myself from my own silliness. For now I have a feeling I am going to amuse myself for quite sometime until I can get a better handle on it.
Next stop: The town of Coromandel
Yoga Sutras of Travel: Part 4
vrtti sarupyam itaratra
What is our identity?
It is not uncommon to mistake our personal identity with the temporary nature of the thoughts and the body. We say things like "I am sick" rather than "I am experiencing sickness", or "I am angry" rather than "I am moving through my anger". It might seem like I am playing mere semantics, but the difference in our internal experience can shift dramatically when we look at what things really are rather than attaching to a mistaken identity.
I had the opportunity to visit an art exhibit at Silo Park. The artist had taken a series of time lapsed videos of some of the most scenic views in New Zealand. Each shirt film was set to see the entire day in a few moments. You could observe the rise of the sun, the shift of the shadows across the mountains and the simultaneous setting of the sun with the rise of the moon. I found it fascinating to pay more attention to what stayed the same rather than to see what was so quickly changing shades of light and grey as the moments passed. How we just get so caught up in the changing tides of the moment that we think we are the shift rather than the constant.
We ventured to Waiheke island to visit the Saturday farmers market and then go spend some time on the beach. I tried to take this view of noticing what I was experiencing at each step with out fully attaching to it. When we arrived at the market I felt the normal morning hunger begin to kick in. hmmm Hungry, is not who I am, but I am fully experiencing this sensation. We found some amazing homemade treats and It was interesting to me that in the recognition that the hunger was a momentary shift, I could slow down and really sit with the sensations and fully live in the contrast of the first signs of discomfort all the way through to delighting in the tastes that danced on my tongue and satisfaction of a full belly when it was over. The awareness made the moment feel more alive and potent than my usual grab a bit and simply stuff down the hunger. I continued to observe my reactions to the play by play of my daily activities. When I started to feel a bit off from too much sun, it was really interesting to step back and allow myself to feel what was coming up and breathe more into the temporary nature of it. I actually found I could relax more even though I was experiencing discomfort. I was not indifferent to my experience. I was more present with my experience.
The ferry ride home I lost some of my concentration and kept nodding off on Brian's shoulder. I didn't want to sleep too early so I tried to read a bit more. I am currently reading Bill Lowenburg's The Zorki Chronicles. 200 pages in and I don't want to put it down. Bill's Characters are also on their own little search for who they are. Funny that I should start to read this now while I am on my own little journey.
Our next day or so will be more social and connecting with the local AcroYogi's in the community. We will head out to a park and play with the students.
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.