I had my nose rhythmically poking in and out of  the deep maroon and orange rug like I was playing bobbing for apples without the apples or the bucket of water. I was non the less taking up enough space for a  small urban farm: my legs heading east and west and my ass to the south. I breathed in and out to the sound of a distinctive click clicking of a camera. II hadn’t expected it to be enjoyable having the camera on me, but it was familiar as I used to take pics for a living. But I did snortle when I came back to sit in prayer pose to finish the yoga set, Steph, the photographer said to me ‘Your so flexibile! Do you really do that EVERY DAY?’
‘Yes. I do, actually’ I said  flickering a smile. The kind of expression that doesn’t know which way to put itself, or whether to switch itself off again and assume an as yet unknown human emoticon: If she could see me twenty years ago!
You see I must’ve been around 19 when some  kind of weird miracle happened: I went along with my mother to a yoga session. I wasn’t speaking to her at the time.  I can’t even imagine getting in the same car let alone going to a class together, but it did happen. I sat opposite teacher Shanti trying to work out whether she was real: motheresque, smooth, and had a voice that sounded like nothing ever freaked her out.
 ‘Empty your mind and just breathe’ she said. I nearly coughed up fur balls. My mind, which had no such clue began a chicken wire  of a conversation, the sort that keeps one of my present accomplices, Bindu the Chihuahua cross but not Cross Jack Russell from running after the fox and out onto the road… about how it was fine for those people who could do such a thing, but clearly it wasn’t for the likes of me who had about 7000 000 thoughts in a blink of an eye … and 71 84 of those thoughts were that I was sooooo.so sad that I can’t empty mind and didn’t sound like Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…. Clearly I must be faulty…Bad, Bad, NO even worse a fool of Stupid! for not being born at peace like Shanti, (breathe in; Peace) Shanti , Shanti, ah, Shanti!
I’m surprised that non of those advanced being who  were sitting smuggling up to her dropping into their hearts like flies and smiling with infinite bliss and….  Shaaaaaanti (ah, I love the way she sings it with just that little lilt just before the ‘t’), Shaaaaaaanti, Shaaaaaantiiiiih….. able to read minds didn’t tell me to ‘shut up, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!!! in your head you little freaking freak!!!’. (OHcay, no that was me again, then….).
Yet through the crust of sarcasm and my old black 501’s I did love something about the session. I really wanted it to help. I felt sooo desperately unhappy. I wanted to be a Shanti. Really. Really. It just felt completely impossible for a me like me.
So receiving a breath…. Breathing in expanding belly. Breath out contracting navel in towards the spine…. I knew I could never be  a goddess like her but I would indulged the fantasy…I bought the book, audio cassette and a large poster of radiating light to use as a guide for daily meditation… I even unrolled it once and showing it to my housemate when I got back to campus. I propped it up and tried out SSHAHNTih’s accent: ‘Noooaw empty your miiiiiindhhhh…’ ….
I blinked.
No. No.
It didn’t work but there was something for me in it, even for a split second.
I quickly changed the subject …and showed my buddy the book…’….and these people EVEN believe in reincarnation too! CR_A_Z_Y HUH!?’.
I didn’t try yoga again for about another decade. After all I was far too busy watching others actually living their lives and smoking as many Marlboro Lights and Not-So-Light.
(Deep Sigh. Deep Sigh, release. release, re….l….e…a…se, Oh. darling. dear. precious. One).
So, when I wasn’t pretending to be a mattress, I even got real photographic assignments; but it was just so stressful. I didn’t realise that I could actually do something that would help with my overflowing anxiety. I just assumed it was something I was mysteriously born with, and that was that. I was new in  London by then and  from the other side of the bumpkin world. One meeting I even dressed in an apple green ‘I wanna be the weather girl’ jacket. No. No. darling. No. No. Black jeans. Black polo neck. No-thing else. No-thing else.
… and one of those miserable days I walked past a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who invited me to his yoga class. I was on the way to do my food shopping. ‘2 tomatoes? 6 tomatoes? 0 tomatoes?’  In my mind I was still at home in bed, so I said yes without any plan of actually pitching up for the session; but it was in the hall across the road and hiding under the covers all the time is exhausting. Of course I knew it wouldn’t help. Nothing could and would.You know the script.
Anyway, anyway. There I was sitting in another yoga class. Black jeans of course. Shanti’s sister at the front. No she didn’t say ’empty your mind…’ but she might as well have; and I was certainly ready to leave.  ‘Now breath in and breath out to the left and touch your toes’ she said ‘Breath in up to the right and touch your toes’.
‘I’m as supple as a brick and brick’s don’t touch their toes!!!!! I screeched in my head as I curled my spine like a christmas beetle about to topple onto it’s shell.
The chances of me staying more than another thirty milli seconds in that class was …. and my ass was just about to lift off the floor in the direction of the door when…
‘ Your so CRAP at this that if you ACTUALLY stick with it you might just learn something for ONCE!!!!’ SHE who ROARS ROrrAARRRED inside my head.
I took a backward gulp right into my own lungs.
First oxygen circulating in years and instant admiration for the-one-that-spoke that.
That was almost 20 years ago. Thank the Universe for MOTHER KICK ASS LAd-iiee!! and a great big bow of gratitude to her once again. Once again.
So since then, and not every day by any means at first, or for many years after, I kept curling my inflexible spine up and down. I even got used to not being able to touch my toes and found ways to be just a little kinder to myself about it.
Then one day, one year, I forget which, my fingers curled round those distant digits. And I thought ‘And THIS, THIS, THIS??? THIS was why I thought I was so BAD???  They’re just my toes! They are just my toe’s and I”m touching them.
They are just my toes and I’m touching them.
And so having met these true little friends just below my nose, I thought I might as well meet the rest of my body too, one bit at a time would do. And then I started yoga teacher training, that being the next impossible thing to do.
That was about about a century ago now that I’m a really old lady…and oddly enough you won’t find me starting a class with ‘Now, empty your mind…’
Never give up on Love little and big sisters!
Jagat Joti Kaur
Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.
Peace. Peace. Peace.