Friday, May 1, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: All

Anyone who has practiced traditional Ashtanga yoga has heard "practice and all is coming." It was one of Ashtanga-originator Pattabhi Jois's favorite instructions: a succint way of saying: do your practice first, everything else, the 'all' of life, positive and negative, as well as the fruits of practice, will work themselves out. It's at once an inspiring, maddening and accurate instruction. Inspiring, because when things are hard, who doesn't want to hear that it will change or become clear? Maddening, as this direction is nowhere near a quick fix. And accurate, because, as someone who began Ashtanga during a low, low point in ones life, I've experienced the steady expansion that goes hand-in-hand with regular practice. Even when I've felt pissed, injured, bored, old, lazy, or disappointed with my practice, I know now, over years of coming back to the mat, all (all kinds of all) does come.
This week, quite serendipitously, we had opportunity to stay a few days at Rancho Valencia, a spa resort in San Diego County replete with tennis courts, swimming pools, fine restaurants, olive and citrus orchards, beehives, and multiple swimming pools. Tastefully decorated with original art, our suite was larger than our house and just as comfortable (if not more so!). The only thing missing was our cat...who will likely never forgive us. Hummingbirds buzzed the patio morning and evening, and freshly squeezed orange juice was delivered to our door each morning. A lot of allness
Though our every need was taken care of, and there was even a yoga pavilion, I ventured outside the grounds a couple of mornings, to practice at the Ashtanga Yoga Center on the border of Encinitas and Carlsbad. I've made many trips to Encinitas over the years, as it's the first place in the United States that Pattabhi Jois taught when he first came to the States in the 70s, and several teachers have since maintained Ashtanga's strong roots here. I practiced with Jois here in 2002, on one of his many teaching trips, and several times with Sharath Rangaswamy after he took over the reigns from Jois upon his passing.  Likewise, one of Jois's first American students, Tim Miller, has run hid influential Ashtanga Yoga Center here for many years. I was fortunate to practice at his studio this week, my first visit to the Carlsbad location. While the studio is now inland a bit, in one of San Diego County's seemingly omnipresent malls, Miller's big heart and dedication permeates the Center, a practice environment that strikes an admirable balance between friendly, relaxed and focused. 
Read: Oliver Sacks' "On the Move." If you've read any of his other books or articles — "Awakenings" or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat"—you know Sacks is brilliant and human, warm and wise, light-hearted and endlessly curious. I'm so glad he sought to pen and complete his memoir "On the Move" which is a beautiful look inside the life and mind of one of our greats.
Eat: "Food is the final frontier [of practice]," wrote another senior Ashtanga teacher, David Garrigues, and this entry, alas, doesn't speak to a fully-tamed frontier (albeit all the food in question is organic). I first tasted hushpuppies as a 10-year-old on my first trip through the deep, southern US. Fried and with a name I thought was funny, the Louisiana-made cornmeal hushpuppies weren't anything like I'd tasted before. I can still remember the wonder I felt at their flavor. But I was only visiting the south and its cuisine. I've seldom come across hushpuppies since (and they're definitely not a dish that fits with my attempts at healthy yoga-practice encouraging eating). Regardless, when I saw "wild ramp and garlic hushpuppies" on the menu at Full of Life Flatbread, the foodie and wine-wise restaurant in Los Alamos where we pit-stopped on our way to San Diego, I had to place an order. They were presented beautifully in a white bowl with yummy green goddess dressing. I was a little underwhelmed by their flavors, but my childhood memory is a hard one to live up to. I'm not complaining. These circa 2015, California versions evoked a strong and happy memory...and went great with the house red, a salad and some of Full of Life's truffle-oil infused cauliflower soup. Yum. 
Listen: Truth be told, we've mainly been listening to ourselves this week, rehearsing our Desert Songs between the yoga and work that brought us here. Nonetheless, we perked up when The Carolina Chocolate Drops came on the radio amid our drive. Modern roots music with a side of gospel, this group is talented, spirited and aware...and no secret. They're at SF Jazz Center in May. 

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