Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My exit speech and repatriation anxiety (at length, PART I)

On the plane...

What just happened?

In some respect, it is all becoming a blur to me.

It's not a blur in terms of the whole "it seems like just yesterday I was arriving in Hong Kong for the first time..."

It's a blur in my head... all of my experiences and emotions are blurring together. However, I keep having these flashes of conversations or smiles on peoples' faces or uncontrollable laughter popping into my head and at what seems like lightning speed.

I got very busy this last month and blogged maybe once? I wanted to blog so much more, as I feel like I was probably overflowing more with ideas, emotions, revelations, than ever before; however, I was also ok with it. Maybe I didn't need my blog as a source of accountability as much as I did early on in my experience. Just maybe.

You really just don't get it until you live here. Here? Am I still in Hong Kong? Right now I am. I get this knot in my throat thinking of not being a HK resident. That's really strange to me. At this moment, everything I know is HK. But wait... I just relinquished all things technical related to my position there, aside from my valuable, time-saving, even decent-photo-bearing HK government ID card. Why do I still have that? Will it be void after my visa expires? I guess I won't know until I come back. "It" seemed to know everything else and was even linked to my thumbprint, aiding in rapid entry into and exit from HK. What a concept.

My heart also dropped for a split second when the teller cut up my Hang Seng Bank card when I closed my account today (Tues. 24May), proudly walking out of the University branch with an envelope of the money I had saved. Yes, I managed to save a fair amount of money considering my rent was about 40% of my income! That part felt good, but the knot came when I thought "how am I going to pay for things?" "Will I ever get to say
'EPS ng-goy' again?" Plus, because I was only getting paid in one lump sum each month and paid for everything with either my EPS card, cash, or my Octopus (transit) card, i.e. no credit card, I had become a lot better at budgeting my finances. SHOCK!

Speaking of Octopus card, also a "what a concept" topic, I didn't turn it in to get my balance and deposit back. I ran out of time, but I did have the brilliant idea to spend my meager $40HKD balance as well as into the $50HKD "red" that is what initially paid for the card all at Starbucks ("Tsim-bahk-urrrrh" in Mandarin) where I got my pre-flight dinner, coffee, and water. Good one, Jodie! I will miss the convenience of that card and the convenience, low cost, efficiency, and speed of the HK transit system in general. The rest of the world should take note.

Yesterday (Mon. 23May) I turned in my CityU staff card. Unlike my HK ID card, the photo on my CityU card was bad! I looked like a prisoner, no joke. However, I still got sad when I gave it to Ms. Ankie CHAN at Human Resources. (P.S. Everyone's surnames are always in all caps... I just realized I still wonder about that. It does make it easier to know which is the surname and which is the given name. Maybe I'll do that from now on, ha ha ha. Anyway...) Then, for the rest of Monday and into Tuesday I know I had a smiling -- but sad -- expression on my face every time I rang the bell to gain entry into my office or lab. Whoever would answer would exchange the same expression with me. They were used to that. We (scientists?) are used to that too. There were only two people on campus with which I shared intense emotion upon saying goodbye on my last day... Alice and Dave. I had already said goodbye to my collaborator and colleague, Shuhong, while I was visiting her in China last week. The other goodbyes I had on campus today were just smiles, hugs, and thank-yous. I left boxes of chocolate in the office and lab... it was not big deal, really. I even skipped several goodbyes and didn't think much more of it.

Alice is my stoic friend. I did see on my last day, however, one gigantic tear roll down her cheek when we hugged goodbye. I know she is an emotional person. I have never doubted that. I saw her cry one other time when she and her boyfriend broke up. For the most part, you just have to really know Alice in order to know if she's happy or sad about something. There will be no overt signs that a regular person could decipher... you just have to
know her, and she's a tough shell to crack. Trust me, I do like to tap, tap, tap, knock, knock, knock... let me in... with the people to whom I become emotionally connected. But, sometimes Alice and I will sit together, have a coffee, and barely say a word. I think we liked that about our friendship. I did at least. It was comforting. Even though sometimes her stoicism confused me or even put me off when I was in a particularly vulerable state, I don't think I doubted that she cared. She gave me a lot in terms of a friendship and professional relationship, as she was also my technician and assistant at times. I hope I gave her what she needed too. I think I did, actually. Maybe I'll never know.

My other close relationship on campus was with my colleague/collaborator, Shuhong... Charlotte. Charlotte is her English name. This is the one we decided on after at least 2 months of deliberation after which time I promptly bought her the book Charlotte's Web. Her position ended a week before mine, and so Alice and I went with her for 4 days to mainland China before I had to pack up and make my exit from HK. Prior to the China trip, we were hard-core on the second research project, trying to finish up the first research project, and often only moments from killing one another out of frustration and sheer exhaustion. She wouldn't admit it, but I'm sure I was weighing on her nerves too. We were just tired. We did work well together though, and we developed a very special bond and friendship. I cried when I left her in China. In my eyes, her life is a bit of a shit-storm, and I think I'm especially emotional about that aspect, leaving her back in her home country where her situation is less than ideal, to put it lightly. I know she wants more out of life but feels stuck. I really think that is what made me the saddest.

Most of my other relationships in HK were off campus.

Dave. I call him Dave. That is strange, actually. Come to think of it, no one else I worked with at CityU called him Dave. This written stream of consciousness isn't about the name, really, but rather it is about who this person is. This person is so high up on a pedestal in the eyes of most people who know him. I'm not joking. In most respects, he is quite elevated in my mind as well. This is the scientist I've looked up to since 1997 when I first decided the physiology of fishes was the most interesting topic I had ever studied. He wasn't Dave to me then. He was Professor D.J. Randall because that is how I saw his name on all of the papers he wrote and the numerous book series he edited. He was
the scientist in my field for decades. I was so excited when I signed on for my PhD program at UBC as I'd be working with one of D.J. Randall's former PhD students who was a professor there. My Master's supervisor wasn't thrilled about my decision and even said "you know, it's not like you're working with D.J. Randall himself, it's just his former student." Now, here I am 7 years after that comment, and Dave is not only a colleague and collaborator but someone I would call a close friend. We've had some of the longest talks about anything and everything, even beyond science... in fact, often beyond science. He's always been a no bull-shit kind of guy, but I also think he's believed in me from the start. I've never known his reasoning, but I've always felt like I've had him in my corner so to speak. Today, I tagged along with him for a lunch he had to attend for some general education administration so that we could chat and spend some last bit of time together before my flight. We talked mostly about research. Then at one point he apologized for being so busy with EDGE (the general education program of which he is director) and for not spending more time on the research with me. Later, we talked about what I got out of my experiences, and he said that he thought I've gained some more confidence in myself. That was huge and meant a lot. And he's right. I have gained some confidence in my research, for certain. Here I was in HK doing research outside the time requirements and pressure of earning a degree. However, maybe there is more pressure because now -- even more than ever -- starts the "publish or perish" mentality. I don't have time to waste sorting through ideas and slowly learning new techniques or protocols like I did (and was supposed to be doing) during my PhD. Now, you just have to do it. And when some of the research details didn't turn out as we had planned, I was able to switch gears on the fly, ending up with one very neat and complete story with one of the research projects and some incredibly interesting measurements and observations on another project that will hopefully lead to completing another good story. I feel good about what I did science-wise. What I didn't do was write other papers that I have piling up on my desk from past research. When will I get to them? Enter feelings of repatriation anxiety... more on that later.

Dave and I also talked about family, what it means to be away for so long, and not just "away" but traveling the world. The phrase is right. You can't go home. Every time, it gets harder and harder to go home to Illinois as I feel more and more disconnected from that way of life. I go there for my family and a few friends that still hold meaningful places in my heart, but even that is difficult. My life is so different than the lives of those that are there. Not better. Not worse. Just different. I cannot integrate into their lives so easily, and it's hard for them to understand my life when they are only getting glimpses of it from photos and the occasional skype or phone call. Now, I'm going home to a different home. Going home to Vancouver will most certainly be different, though. Everyone there knows more of the Jodie I am today, and I've only been gone 7 months, not 14 years. Still, life has gone on. Growth and change have occurred in everyone, not just me. I'm used to the anxieties associated with going home to IL, and I'll visit those feelings in 3 weeks when I prepare for that trip. In the meanwhile, I haven't fully articulated my anxieties about going home to Vancouver. I mentioned a few things to Kim, but I don't know I've fully explored them in myself yet.

I came to HK mainly for the career move... the science... the professional relationship with Dave, but I did a lot in personal development as well. This blog was the platform and perhaps springboard for me to grow on so many levels. I did just that.

Why have I not published this post yet? What is holding me back? Do I feel as though my work in HK is not done yet? Well, the science is not done, but science is never done. I set goals for myself from the personal growth perspective, and I feel as though I achieved them... except for the water drinking goal. That should have been the easiest... really... but I'm paying the price of failing that goal now that I'm back in Vancouver. My body cannot get hydrated enough. My lips are so dry, my skin absorbed what seemed like 5 liters of massage oil at my massage therapy the other day, and my havoc is being wreaked on my face too. I even gave myself a home facial last night in an attempt to apologize to my complexion for improperly hydrating for so long. The other goals included:

  • Doing a form of fitness and/or yoga daily
This has now become so ingrained in my being that I chuckled when thinking about it. I think I logged about 180 hours of yoga in HK! I also aimed to:

  • Try new classes and teachers weekly.
Some of them I loved, and some I hated. I really fell for the Anusara mixed levels class taught by Michael Lau, as some of my avid readers will already know. And, I would have never found that one had I not been pursing this diversity in my practice. Furthermore, I really grew to love Luis as a small group class trainer (Bodypump and Bodycombat) and ended up asking him to train me one on one.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My exit speech and repatriation anxiety

I'm sitting at the airport in Hong Kong waiting to board my flight back to Vancouver. I plan to write about the ideas I've been meaning to explore over the past few weeks since my last post while I'm on the plane. This will be the last post of this blog... maybe Hong Kong will go back to being population 8 million, or maybe some other person with a budding career and thirst for adventure has just touched down at HKG ready for his/her crazy experience. Regardless, this ends this particular experience for me, but marks the beginning of another, many more actually... stay tuned for my thoughts on my last month in the Kong. My aim is to click "publish" as soon as I am in the WiFi area of YVR waiting for my luggage.

As always, thanks for following me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back to the Om...

I am embracing it I think... finally, but especially in when it is in mantra form. I am admittedly still not so impressed with it in solo form, however. Specifically, I think I'm particularly unimpressed when it seems like certain teachers try to "OM" for 20 seconds longer than anyone else in the class... to the point where their voice is crackly and scratchy... and especially because I thought it was a sound to bring everyone in the room together, not practice solo opera singing!!! You know who you are, yoga teachers! I personally prefer the togetherness of the OM but even more so the symbolism of the mantras that are often involved.

The mantra I was just reading about is Om Namah Shivaya, probably the most famous (?).

ॐ नमः शिवाय

I read a bit more about what it means after a bit of chanting that I unknowingly got myself into the past couple Thursday evenings in an Anusara mixed levels yoga class that completely, 110% empowers me. Just ask Natalie and Alice because I could not shut up about it last Thursday, and the Thursday prior, Natalie got an SMS from me exclaiming that I can do anything in the world. Anyway, I embraced the OM, finally, and it was because the whole "song" (what is it called when a mantra is sung?) that my favourite Michael Lau leads us in for Anusara class. There is a lot more to it, but it does start off with "Om Namah Shivaya" and then follows a bit about gratitude to your teachers, their teachers, and their past teachers, and so on.

Essentially, the mantra, if you break it down, represents the elements that govern the chakras, such as earth, water, fire, air, and earth. Then each piece of the sounds contained in the mantra mean something as well. They each represent a part of our "body" (referred to as mayakosa in Sanskrit). For example, "Na" refers to the whole physical body (also referred to as annamayakosa). The "ma" component refers to the prana or energy (pranamayakosa), "Shi" or "Chi" refers to the mental acumen (manonmayakosa), "va" refers to the intellect (vignanamayakosa), and "ya" refers to the blissful body (anandamayakosa). Again, the "OM" or perhaps more importantly, the silence beyond the sounds of the three syllables that make up the "OM" refers to the soul or the life within oneself.

But what does this all mean? Apparently I'm not the only one who finds the ideas behind this mantra hard to interpret.... but it has been done and is perhaps what most closely resonates with me the most broad, most general, and most appropriate for me:

Peace and salutations to that which I am capable of becoming.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The chin mudra after a class full of shakti

29March11, 7:15am: Bodypump with Luis
30March11, 7-8am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung
30March11, 9:30-10:30pm: Hatha yoga with Michael Lau
31March11, 7:15: Bodypump with Kelvin
1April11, 7-8am: Hot yoga with Martina Lee
1April11, 6:15-7:15pm: Hatha yoga with Michael Lau
2April11, 9-10am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung
3April11, 11:30am-3:30pm: Hiking Hong Kong trail with Nat and Esther
4April11, 7:15-8:15pm: Hatha yoga with Deva Biswas
5April11, 2:30-3:30pm: Shakti hatha yoga with Michael Lau

Ok, I thought I'd go back to the pre-blog fitness/yoga update so I stop forgetting. I have had such long, emotional thoughts (despite being more infrequent) the past few posts that I forgot for several posts. Thus, I had an immensely long list on the last post! This one isn't the shortest, though, either, as I was doubling up a few days. It just felt good. I just finished a fantastic shakti (energy of the universe) hatha yoga class and decided to sit here in the PURE lounge and write and drink water (hello slightly neglected goal #3).

So, I've been promising my virtual world as well as, most importantly, myself that I'd write about how touched I am by the chin mudra. It's been a few months, and I'd like to say that this connection came following a yoga class with a teacher I'd never worked with before... thank you goal #1!!! I was taking a particularly difficult hot yoga class with Keiki To, an instructor at PURE that is originally from Vancouver! Small world! As a side note, after class I spoke with him for a minute or two, introduced myself, told him I was from Vancouver, and the first thing he said was: "Wow, I bet you miss being able to find so much organic food!" I must exude healthy lifestyle... YES!!! I digress...

Keiki was the first to bring my awareness to the meaning behind the chin mudra, and it was this "aha!" moment where I felt as if I finally realized why I always felt this profoundly connected feeling when I saw sculptures depicting the chin mudra. Since this class back mid-February, I've thought a lot about the chin mudra, and so I'll start with my interpretation. The index finger is thought to symbolize or represent the ego or even judgment. The index finger comes together to touch the thumb, which represents intention. Bringing the ego and intention together is the purpose of the chin mudra. What does this mean to me? Well, I think that I (we) have trouble letting our ego get in the way of our intentions, letting it almost cloud our intentions. However, the ego can be for good... can give us power, strength, commitment, and so when it is brought together with our intention, we can focus our greatness in a positive, intentional way. Don't remove your ego from the equation, so to speak, but rather use it for good and never forget the role of intention. I almost always use the chin mudra when I start my yoga practice, as it allows me to bring my focus to the start of the practice, helps me with my distractions that may have been running my mind before practice started. I sometimes use the chin mudra at the end of my practice, too, as it helps if something caused me to feel particularly emotional, or if I have a challenging day ahead of me. Perhaps most importantly, in yoga at least, I incorporate the chin mudra during a particularly challenging asana or even when I'm in an asana that I do particularly well. It's not important that I do as good as the woman on the mat in front of me that can bend her feet behind her head... my intentions are not to become her. It is also not important that I already do something well. My intention is not to come to yoga to show everyone how good my left side dancer's/standing back-bend pose is. Big deal. There is someone out there that does it better. That would be my ego talking both times there, but what I can get out of that if I bring my ego and intentions together is recognizing that I can harness my strengths and use them to help me with postures that are more difficult for me and use them to balance out my other strengths, e.g. work on my right side dancer's pose. Does that make sense? Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly confident in a pose, I bring the chin mudra to my hands and occasionally, I'll fall. It's kind of funny, though, as it's a wake-up call to me that I'm leading with my ego. When I use the chin mudra, I ask myself: "What is my intention?" Sometimes I do this in the middle of a posture, and I ground myself, bring myself back to the reason I'm doing a post or the sole reason I'm in the class that particular night or at all!

Clearly the concept behind the chin mudra can be applied to anything in life. The hand position is just a means to bring our awareness to the idea behind it. Since this revelation, so to speak, I've become drawn to sculptures of the chin mudra. There is a restaurant here in HK that has several on the wall and a few sitting on the bar, and elsewhere in the restaurant. They are gorgeous and I look for one similar at every market I encounter. Ask any of my HK friends, they all know I look for "my hand." But also since this revelation, I've been reading more and more about the chin mudra, looking at images (thanks Google image) and continuing to feel connected to it. Here is what I have found so far, but in my own words...

The chin mudra (or janana mudra, as it is also called) is thought to be a connection point between the individual soul and the universal soul (God?). More specifically, the finger is thought to represent the self, rising above worldly concerns, karma or spiritual concerns, and the ego or personal concerns... to meet with the higher self or some form of a God. The thumb is understood as the utmost in connection, evolutionary progress (if we want to go scientific here), as it has the most capacity for complex function out of any part of the body. As humans, as higher vertebrates, I won't go as far to say the apex of evolution like some, but still... we have this opposable thumb for very intricate actions, and so of course it would represent intention.

I've seen it where the hand is facing upward or down against the leg or against the heart. The upward motion is perhaps to "receive" something from the universe, which I've always interpreted as receiving transferred energy. When the palms are facing upwards, it is additionally thought of as an opening of one's heart. I've also seen, when in a sitting position and utilizing this chin mudra, the hands positioned so that the palms are facing the thighs, perhaps circling one's inner energy through the body, transferring it
into the body This could possibly be a good position when getting ready for a practice...??? Apparently connecting the finger and thumb to form this mudra is metaphorically like completing a circuit too, connecting the energies (prana), maintaining the flow, circling them through the hand, the body, the heart, the mind. Some even place one hand on the ground and the other in chin mudra at the chest, which symbolizes the connection we all have to the entire universe and reminds us that, although we foolishly hope to become as independent as possible, we are all interdependent. I also believe that true independence is a myth, rather we are all connected with each other in a circle that never ends, and realizing and finding your own interdependence is the ultimate achievement. Finally, there are a few pages on the internet that talk about the meditative qualities of this particular mudra, as there are such supposed "powers" of every mudra, but I'm of the opinion that it is up to your own interpretation. Some say that practicing with the chin mudra increases memory power, sharpens the brain, enhances concentration, and can aid with insomnia. I think that any form of meditation could do this if you're willing to give it a chance. It's personal, that's for sure, but when you find something that really resonates with you like I have in my yoga and now incorporating the chin mudra... you just embrace!

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's part of me

I realized that I hadn't logged my yoga and fitness since 2March11; although I keep everything logged on my iCal on my laptop and iPhone. I just wanted to catch up my blog before it got even more out of hand! March has been good!

3March11, 7:15am - 8:00am Body pump

4-7March11, Malaysia with Kelly (lots of walking, stairs to temples)

8March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

9March11, 7:00am - 8:00am: Hot yoga with Ocean Liang

10March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

11March11, 7:00am - 8:00am: Hot yoga (Silent) with Martina Lee

12March11, 10:00am - 11:30am: Hot yoga, Level-1 with Shirley Wong

13March11, 9:00am - 10:00am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung

14March11, 7:00am - 8:00am: Hot yoga with Michael Lau

15March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

16March11, 7:00am - 8:00am: Hot yoga with Martina Lee

17March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

18March11, 7:00am - 8:00am: Hot Hour (Silent) with Martina Lee

19March11, 12noon - 1pm: Hot yoga with Michael Lau

20March11, 9am - 10am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung

21March11, 7:15pm - 8:15pm: Hatha yoga, Level-1 with Deva Biswas

22March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

23March11, 7am - 8am: Hot yoga with Serena Chan

24March11, 7:15am - 8:00am: Body pump

25March11, 7am - 8am: Hot yoga with Martina Lee

26March11, 9am - 10am: Hot yoga with Shalon Wan

27March11, 9:30am - 2:30pm: Hiked the Maclehose trail, Needle Hill

28March11, 7am - 8am: Hot yoga with Michael Lau

28March11, 7:15pm - 8:15pm: Hatha, Level-1 with Deva Biswas


I have realized this week that it IS a big deal that Kim's not coming to Asia for work after all... postponed trip has turned into canceled trip.

Why do I try to minimize things or always try to look on the bright side? This goes for things that are disappointing to me and my accomplishments. I'm afraid, that's why.

I'm afraid of the following if I "make a big deal" out of something that disappoints me:

1. I feel or am perceived as weak
2. I'm being irrational/illogical
3. I'm not considering that there are (almost) 6,999,999,999 other people in this world, most of whose lives are in whole far worse than any incident that disappoints me.
4. I feel or am perceived as never being happy
5. I'm too picky or my expectations are too high

I'm afraid of the following if I "make a big deal" out of one of my accomplishments:

1. I will be seen as bragging
2. I'm looking down on others
3. It's a distraction from the fact that I'm not making progress so that I can have more accomplishments
4. It's a reminder that I don't work hard enough
5. I'll fall next time

What is this?

The result is that I try to cover up the need to cope or the need to celebrate with other things. I cope/celebrate incorrectly (for lack of better word, I'm just going with the flow here).

Thus, I suppress and repress.

I need to take the time to acknowledge something that has disappointed me so I can allow myself to develop healthy ways to help myself feel better, talk to someone,cope, go through all of the grieving stages if necessary, etc. I need to say, I'm going to do X to cope with situation Y that has disappointed me. And, I need it to be finite. Celebrations are finite. I need to celebrate and step up my CV so that I can appropriately highlight my accomplishments on paper without sounding like I'm bragging. Maybe if I learn a technique/style for writing about oneself, then maybe I can put it into action and feel really good about it.

Connect it all... I need to connect it all!

And finally, I need not let others decide what I should be upset about or what I should celebrate. I get to do that for myself! I'm not adverse to some sympathetic cuddling or if someone throws a party though... definitely not adverse... ;-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The world around me

What do you do when it seems as though the world is falling down around you?
Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily have to be understood, to date, in the metaphorical sense as in which it is usually spoken. It does seem that the world is falling down with respect to what has gone on in Japan over the last 9 days. I've been both

1. impressed


2. vehemently discouraged

with humankind during this catastrophe specifically (as with most all of them, actually), and this is probably a common sentiment during any global disaster. I've been impressed with what I've seen as to how the Japanese people are handling this disaster. I'm not necessarily referring to Japan's government or any regulatory group, but rather the people... the people that have been most affected. On Rachel Maddow's MSNBC evening news show, specifically during the last 5-10 min. of the show, she showed footage of a few of the rescue efforts that were most compelling (15 March 2011 episode, I podcast it on iTunes). Mind you, these were not military helicopters scooping up people, these were human chains, people carrying other people... heart warming. There has likely been more footage than I can even imagine floating around the airwaves the past week. Given that I don't have a TV with any English channels, this limits me from unintentionally seeing anything, which I think is good. I have to actively pursue it on the internet, and for that reason I go only to sources I believe to be reputable. This helps, as I don't think I could handle the other side of disaster right now, and by that I mean the propaganda, the lunacy, the fear mongering in the media and in the general public, the hate, the ignorance, the disrespect. That's the ugly side of this and I think that, regardless of how serious the potential for meltdown is at Fukushima, it will be how the world handles it that will be the tipping point, not the fact that it's happened. It's how you handle catastrophe and chaos... hmmm...

Having said all of that, what about in every day life? What happens when the (2.) latter description (vehement disappointment) overshadows the (1.) first description (impressed) in your daily routine? I have what I call IHHK (I Hate Hong Kong, not I HEART Hong Kong, as the image to the left portrays... I have those days too, though!) days, and the frequency of these days occurring is roughly 3 days per week lately. Sure, I have IHHK moments, but when I have a full IHHK day, I worry. Can I liken it to sitting in front of the TV watching Fox News -- or some other right-wing, conservative, fear-mongering media conglomerate -- mindlessly letting them fill my head and heart with whatever they think is going on or whatever they think is important? So, in a sense, I'm letting the parts of the outside world -- in this case Hong Kong and it's residents, language, culture -- shape me, and determine my perception of the world and myself. Granted, there are aspects of the culture here that I like, but the ones I do not like are more numerous and profound for me. So, it does seem, often, that the world, not just on a global scale, when disaster strikes, but also on a local scale when immersed in a different country and culture, is falling down around me.

I can look at my yoga classes to see this resonates on a more personal level too. Of course, yoga is my great metaphor of life! So, I could rephrase the question that I posed at the beginning of this blog.

What do you do when the rest of the yoga students in your class are falling down around you?

Sometimes, I fall too. Lately, I've been falling a lot and not necessarily because I'm pushing myself to the outer periphery of my virtual capacity and abilities in my yoga practice. I'm falling because I'm distracted. I'm paying attention to other people's issues and challenges, the limits of their abilities, their perceived weaknesses, etc. rather than my own. Sometimes I pass judgement too. I think to myself, "wow, if they would have only listened to the step-by-step instructions of the teacher, instead of rushing, they'd have at least made some progress in the posture" or maybe even "they aren't even trying." Then I fall. It's only when I come back to my intentions, bridge my ego with my intentions (topic for my next post I promise), centre myself, draw awareness to my core, an focus my gaze that I am in my own balance again. Sometimes this is impossible for me until that final Shivasana.

For example, today I practiced hot yoga with Bernadette Leung. During the practice, some lady
one or two mats away from me was burping or making some sort of pig snort for the entire hour, and not just one every 10 min. or so, literally several sounds per minute! It was so loud and so guttural, I was horrified! While usually I would just acknowledge that "WTF?" thought bubble that is perpetually above my head, today it disappeared and all I could do was get really angry about it. It was affecting me and my practice and offending me personally. The thoughts that entered my thought bubble, hence pushing the benign "WTF?" out of there, included but were not limited to the following:

"What on earth did you eat?"

"Do you realize how loud you are?"

"Your burping is making you fall out of every posture!"

"I can't see any of your knuckles or joints, do you have chronic edema... and again, what do you eat that makes your body respond this way?"

"Is yoga part of the solution? If so, that's fine, but maybe a private class is a better idea."

I either wanted to ask her what was wrong or exclaim "jing dee!!" I looked around, and it didn't seem as though the other 50 students were even as close to being as affected as I was, however.

Ok, so what is wrong with me then? There were several times when I regained my focus and was able to ignore the disturbance. There was no acceptance, however... during those times, I was just ignoring... ignorance? Ignorance is bliss? What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things, though? If I were to use the "just ignore it" or "ignorance" tactic for the LOCAL and GLOBAL examples above, what would that look like? NOT GOOD! As I mentioned, it's hard enough in a full, sweaty, technically challenging yoga class to acknowledge and regain your focus and go back to your core strength and deep-rooted knowledge with every little disturbance you experience. That's a daily challenge, and some are better at it than others.

Indeed, we're all at different stages of our journeys. When the disturbance gets so profound, maintaining our centre is more difficult. Fighting fire with fire isn't the answer either though. LOCALLY, if that were the case, during my daily commute, I'd intentionally step on peoples toes, push and shove, talk really loudly on my phone, burp without covering my mouth, eat really stinky food while slurping it loudly... the list goes on. On a PERSONAL level, if fighting fire was the case during my yoga class, I'd stomp loudly and slam the door when entering the studio, I'd drop my water bottle and not think a thing about it, and instead of burping 3 times
per minute for an hour, maybe I'd pass gas from the other end just as frequently to add the smell component to the situation. Although, maybe I already have a strange smell to me, as Asians say Westerners smell like cheese. Would it have been the same if someone was farting 3 times per minute for the entire class? I'd die to be a fly on the wall of that yoga studio (with a clothes pin on my nose, of course). Finally, we all know what it looks like when fire is fought with fire on a GLOBAL scale. It is not usually productive over the long term and can usually heighten catastrophe and chaos. That's definitely NOT how Japan is dealing with things in my mind, which is good and a relief. What I see is the workers of Fukushima Daiichi doing what they know to be the right response protocol, using every resource they have and all of the safety training under their belt to make sure that the situation does not get worse. Meanwhile the brilliant engineers are using all of their knowledge, a collective intelligence that could never be quantified, to come up with short-term and long-term solutions so that not only the area but the entire country and Asia, for that matter, stays safe. They are learning and will continue to learn a ton from this, no doubt, and likewise for the rest of the world. Indeed, there have been some amazing scientists interviewed on TV (several on Rachel Maddow's show) and radio that have informed the general public as to the ins and outs of this disaster from their scientific perspective, but in lay man's terms, which is crucial. Again, they are leaning on their core strength, which is their education and capacity to educate others... not fear.

So, what's to be said from all of this? I've outlined my current and timely thoughts and examples for what happens when the distracted and panic buttons are pushed on a GLOBAL, LOCAL, and PERSONAL scale. If yoga is the metaphor for my life, and what Bernadette said in class today:

"Your yoga practice is an outward expression of who you are."

rings true, then that is the most important lesson I can learn right now. My annoyance and anger and frustration today... that is not who I am... the core strength, focus, education, intelligence, foresight, and intentional actions that I had a few glimpses of this morning... that's me, and not just in yoga, but also in every day life. Namaste नमस्ते...