The other day I was headed to a yoga class. I noticed that my watch and the clock in my car were 10 minutes apart, which meant that if my watch was right I might be late, which meant I might not find a place to park, lay my mat in my favorite spot by the door, or even get in class. So what did I do? What any good American chasing the American dream going to a yoga class would do, I sped up! Just a tad, though, because I actually took care to think through the idea of how ironic (or ridiculous) it would be to get a speeding ticket on the way to yoga class.
When I turned into the parking lot (on two wheels) I could see several people covertly dashing from their cars, which meant my watch was right. The sight of them all racing sent a reflexive primal release of adrenaline that I could almost feel drip from my adrenal cortex and on down through directly to my extremities. Like somebody pulled the trigger and shot me out of the barrel. Okay-okay, where’s my yoga mat… should I grab my purse or leave it in the trunk? Well, that’s stupid, what if someone breaks into the car? Take it… duh. And okay, well, where ..? I looked up from my flurry of gunpowder only to see three more people scuffling by me. Great! Just take the mat and let’s go, Maryanne! I headed for the studio like a restrained dart, careful not to appear desperate— it just wouldn’t be yogi-like.
As I was about to hop/leap up onto the curb, two people were closing in on me. They were not exactly running but may as well have been; the intensity of their vibe was like a fleet of wild stallions, which sent an additional flush—this time of fury—through my body-mind-spirit. And then out of nowhere, in sudden revolt, I stopped dead in my tracks and blurted out “I refuse—to rush—into a YO—GA class!” Which came out more like a declaration (and a surprise) rather than a blurt.
One of the three bi-athletes that pretended not to run by me (as though her Prana hoodie, Om tattoo and flipflops were competitive camouflage), hesitated for a brief second, quickly determined I didn’t have turrets and that she was not in danger, then hastened towards the door. The other two glanced back at me, arching their eye brows like “What-ever,” while another gal who had just come up on my heels slowed her pace slightly and whispered sweetly as she crept by, “You’re exactly right,” then purposefully slipped in front of me so she could get in the door first.
Still viscerally perplexed by my outburst, I noticed I was secretly happy none of the other people who had beat me to it were in my class. I took the Level One. They were probably in the Level Five or Ten class, or whichever one is for more advanced people. I still have trouble with the names of the poses, I am new. Even so I was comforted in knowing that in three minutes or less, after a gentle invitation back to the present moment, I would all but have forgotten my angst, as I would be tied in knots while trying simultaneously to breathe deeply—which seemed to me an oxymoron (which about sums up how I felt about my abilities as an aspiring yogini as well).
Thank God for Savasana. I had forgotten about the stampede, but chalking it up to another of life’s current conundrums just wasn’t going to cut it. I could still feel the afterburn of the disparaging culture we have become, a people obviously wearied by the chase after the American dream, trampled again and again by the rat race, worn by the urgency of survival (real or imagined), and mocked at every turn by someone who has done it better than we have (who is also thinner and better looking) running to yoga class as though life depended on it, pretending we don’t care. And frankly, that bothered me.
Gimme a B~
Normally my b#@* detector is a long-range internal mechanism designed to see things for what they are; this, however, was a new animal, a hybrid. This kind of BS was new and improved. Once upon a time the cons were the cons, the preppies, the junkies, the snobs, the geeks, the jocks, the bullies, the hussies, and so on. You could spot these personas a mile away. Now the ego has gotten so divisive, and with the help of high tech it can hide behind a cacophony of razzle dazzle, words, sweet smoke and mirrors galore. A veritable “pig in s#@*” for the ego.
Suddenly it’s a free-for-all. We can say anything, be anything we want, as long as we have a web site or a facebook page, we’re legit. As long as we say the right thing, it doesn’t matter what our behavior is. It does not matter that people are not who they say they are, as long as they get what they want. It’s become “the way it is.” And if thou art not hep to this next line of con you best get hep or be trampled.
I think Milly Vanilly started it. You can be a singer who has no voice, famous and have no talent (unless of course you flashed your vag on the internet—if you can consider this a talent), a guru who has sex with prostitutes, a cop who beats his wife, a pharmaceutical company that promotes addiction, a yogini who thinks peace is something that we’re fighting for in other countries, and even a relationship expert who has a scuzzy relationship. You can be a parent who doesn’t like kids, a husband who doesn’t believe in marriage, or what the hey—a U.S. president who doesn’t understand the English language.
Let me just say you are not alone in your confusion. These are no doubt confusing times! Things are not as they appear. Recently I read that Michelle Pfeiffer is afraid to go to the beach because she doesn’t want to see a picture of her cellulite splashed across the headlines. You probably thought, Ohh, a skinny little thing like that is perfect. Who knew, she has cellulite? And that it seems she herself is invested in you believing she doesn’t. Just like those of us who jam our faces up with needles and starve ourselves because we don’t want life to be the way it is.
And you, like me, like the rest of us, fall victim to the vortex, the “say one thing, do another” culture. The proverbial calm duck above water whose feet are furiously paddling to stay afloat. We are creatures addicted to the veneer, Bulls addicted to the sh#@*. Hurry up, rush, rush, rush, get mine now or it will be gone, that this is my last chance, there’s no more, if I don’t act now EVERYTHING will be gone, I won’t get my spot or my turn, if I don’t do whatever someone else will—covered up by fake smiles, deals you can’t afford to miss, false promises, fake orgasms, false pretenses, or worse; false intentions. We say we want to help, but what we don’t say is that we want to help ourselves. We say we want peace…yet we will trample the guy at Wal-Mart to get our 60% off, or free whatever, before the other guy gets it. My current fantasy (not sexy but hey) is wondering what it, life, us, would be like in the absence of fake?
As for the S, my guess is that being in survival mode according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (based on Physiological needs, then Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, and finally Self-actualization or Transcendence) drives most of us and is responsible for what compels most of our unconscious, sh#@*y, fake behavior. Apparently what the last fifty years has taught us is that fake is the new real; when we have the rent paid then comes safety; if we have any energy left over from playing the game of satisfying our psychological needs and if we are among the eccentric few who make time, the last is self-actualization. Peak, or what I prefer to call spiritual experiences, are reserved for folks who apparently have time on their hands or just don’t get it the necessity for all the rest.
The bummer is that spirit is EXACTLY what we need right now. It’s our survival, old-brain, unconscious, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest mentality that is killing us, or at least it’s trying to kill our spirit.
So how do we deal? Turn sh#@* into spirit? Take a deep, audible breath—ujjayi, kapalabhati, whatever—and for one precious moment, slow down. Look inside. (Oh, yeah, Great Relationships Begin Within, right?) Shift the focus.
I would rather spend my day in self-inquiry, any time, than be trampled by a rabid wanna-be yogini. Looks like that pyramid is doing a shirshasana—let’s flip it other-side-up. Who knows, maybe Maslow was dyslexic?