These days I’m back into yoga, 3 to 5 times a week. I found the studio, or it found me, quite by accident. Vipassana students are encouraged to organize weekly group sittings in their communities, just silently sitting together for one hour to support one another in the practice. So when I was kickin’ it in BCN for a couple of weeks back in June, I went with a friend to check out the Sunday evening gatherings, held in an unassuming apartment building right off of Plaza Catalunya.
Have you ever entered a space and just felt it was something special?
I couldn’t stop wandering around, looking in wonder at every little thing: the fabric mats; the incense; the photo of Bob Marley alongside the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Jesus, Buddha, and other spiritual inspirations.
Smitten doesn’t begin to describe it.
So when I decided to settle in Barcelona for a month, and wanted to sign up for a yoga class instead of a gym membership, I happened to know just the right place.
Owned and operated entirely by women teachers (though students of all genders attend), the studio has clean, airy rooms; fresh lilies every week; chandeliers; rooibos tea; a small library of works on yoga, India, and Buddhist philosophy; and extremely hardcore asanas.
Every time I go, I arrive an hour early to read, and leave drenched in sweat, floating down the street. The two-and-a-half hours in between are filled with an almost palpable sense of caring — a bright, loving, permeating awakeness. And each time, thanks to the book or the practice or both, I come away having learned something valuable about how to live. Really.
Not all yoga joints are like this, believe you me.
I hope you’ve found your own places like Mandiram. Sanctuaries. Places where the most mundane objects, gestures, and even open spaces seem luminous. Leave you feeling spacious, yourself, even (especially) when you return home and – bam! – your roommate convenes a Dirty Dishes Conversation.
Deep thanks to Gloria, Alex, and all the people who have given me, and others, this haven and springboard.
Katie – You write beautifully. I met a man and woman you love, at dinner in Northern California a few weeks ago. He scribbled your site’s address on the back of a card and suggested I take a look. That was good advice. Oh, to be free, bright, and 21 again, knocking around Barcelona with one’s spirit alight, eyes alive. How nice and lively you make it to be. You are a fine emissary for everybody you know back home and lot of us like me that you don’t know. And keep writing – eventually, professionally, rather than only giving it away. – cp
Mmmmmm. I can feel the warmth from that place. I love the fact that you go and read beforehand; then come dripping back in sweat.
In fact, I’m getting up right now to do yoga. It is going to be painful and stunted because unlike all my letters to you, my actions have fallen short. My commitment has fallen short.
It’s okay, I’ve been learning how to deal with the layers between the physical and bliss this year. There’s some heavy ish in there that takes a different kind of stretching.
Love you, darling!
P.S. Two things more before I SPRING into action.
1. I just noticed the teensy smiley face in the upper-right hand corner.
2. Fond memories of Gene are floating through my head, encouraging us to bend to our greatest and smile to our widest.
“Relax into the pains and circumstances of life so that you are in communion with its true meaning rather than in conflict with its temporary modifications.”
The full quote is on my Facebook quote section; I’ve butchered it in paraphrase, but go look it up to get its true elegance and eloquence. It’s one of my favorite quotes, EVER.
Wow. Thank you, both of you.
Charlie, your encouragement means more than you know. And the fact that you followed up on a hasty little note from my dear folks (who I’m happy you had the chance to meet) says a lot to me about your own warmth and curiosity: spirit still alight, even at a smidgen past your early twenties. Plus, to be as adventurous a journalist as you are suggests (despite your charming nostalgia) that you may not be as far from “knocking around Barcelona,” in the proverbial sense, as it might seem. There’s always more to explore, right?
Thank you for getting in touch. Always grateful for the kindness of celebrity strangers.
Cat, that quote is tremendous. (As is Gene. As are you. Have I told you that lately? ;) ) It’s the heart of practice: to see if we can be open and accepting to every situation, to every person. It’s a lifetime’s worth of work (or more), but some of the most important work to be done.
The times when I’ve glimpsed this wisdom through experience — communion with life, rather than confrontation with its modifications — are the times when I’ve felt most like my old-lady self. Like these old eyes, swaddled in wrinkles, have seen a lot already. There’s no need to be shocked, no need to fear, no need to make a fuss or point fingers or run away. It’s just another situation. And yet, this old-lady-in-training also knows that every situation is unique, new, real, and precious. Worth paying attention to. Worth the pain and discomfort of communion.
And it’s funny how the combination of your comments, Charlie and Cat, hits home for me so precisely. The next painful circumstance to embrace, requiring a delicate balance “between the physical and bliss,” is figuring out how to make a physical living from the blissful liveliness of writing. How does one stop giving it away for free?
Guess we’ll find out. The adventure continues, with a little help from my friends.