Let the Music Play

Sophomore year. 19 years old. I was studying in France. Traveling alone half the time. I had taken a night train to Milan to meet a boy (don’t ask). We were going to spend two weeks in Rome together. After breakfast, he put on some music and laid there on the couch. “What are you doing?” I asked, puzzled. “Listening to music,” said he, equally puzzled that I had to ask about something so obvious.

“You, you… you would just lay there listening to music?” I really did not understand this phenomenon. “Don’t you?” He asked, like I had been missing out something great.

And I had.

I had never, never ever, just listen to a song while doing nothing. The whole entire song. To me, what this means is I’m unable to focus on just one thing, not even for less than five minutes. This is a serious bug. In the software world it’d be something classified at, like, Sev. 1 Pri. 1 (Severity 1, Priority 1).

I don’t know how I got to be this way. I don’t know what this is a product of. I’ve got no one to blame. Oh, sure, I have a few suspects. I might bash the easy scapegoats. But in the end, I’m responsible. It’s my own fight, my own battle. It’s starting to look oh-so-Bhagavad-Gita-ish, isn’t it? “Oh Arjuna, resolve to fight!”

As you can see, like a lot of things, it goes back to yoga.

A Walk To Remember

This afternoon, I took a walk along the shores of Richmond Beach with my mom, a beach not too far from my house north of Seattle. I had introduced her to Iyengar yoga a year and a half earlier, and she has gone twice a week religiously since then. During our walk, she said to me, “My body is finally starting to do what my mind asks it to do.” She was so excited! We stopped on the beach and she showed me how she now knows what to do when the instructor asks her to bend at the hips. “Normally I’d bend here,” she said showing me her spine. Then she said something fantastic, “I’m starting to see my mind and body uniting.”


Let me tell you a little about my mom. She’s an Expert Worrier. My mom worries. She worries a lot. If you’re not worried about anything, that’s because my mom is worrying about it for you. She has the greatest imagination in the world, and it’s often used to worry about things with the most remote possibility of happening.

This is a woman who knows nothing about the latest yoga trends. I doubt my mom even remembers that yoga means union. She doesn’t study the Sutras, the Gita, or Tantra. She’s not out there rocking to yoga music for ecstatic bliss. She just dedicates herself twice a week to going to class. At night, if I am home, she often lets me put her in a Restorative pose. That’s all.

To hear her say that was so awesome that I screeched and jumped up and hugged her, startling other peaceful beach walkers, but if they had know what was happening, they’d be ecstatic too.

You’ve Got The Music In You

In one session during my 500-hr teacher training, we discussed the appropriate use of music for each type of asana (standing, twists, backbends, etc.). I brought in La Soledad by Pink Martini as music for the standing poses. “I don’t know if I can practice to this, I’d have to lay down and just relax because it’s so beautiful,” my teacher said. “I know,” said I, “my pace is really slow.”

This slow pace hasn’t always been my favorite or forte. But, it’s my Chinese bitter medicine. Breathing slowly, practicing Asana slowly, walking slowly, it is the hardest thing in the world for me. Just as my mom’s practice is showing her she can gain mastery over her body, starting with intellectual knowledge, my practice is starting to let me gain mastery over my mind with the physical work of not rushing from pose to pose. I’m learning how to Keep Quiet and let the music play.

This is a favorite poem I read daily lately.

Keeping Quiet – Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

On the beach with my mom for Mother's Day 2010.

On the beach with my mom for Mother's Day 2010.