Trip Start Oct 30, 2007
107Trip End Ongoing
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Yesterday morning I was sitting at an open-air Cafe in the Fethiye Harbor, a tourist destination overflowing with European vacationers. I was suffocating. Breathing cigarette smoke from every direction I was thinking to myself: “I need a vacation!”
But it was not the cigarette smoke that choked me. It was my mind, obsessing with negative thoughts, faithfully repeating them like sacred mantra patterns. I was suffering because my life -- circumstance, outcome and all -- did not match my vision for how it “should” be.
[ “Suffering?”, said the Buddhist teacher, “Must be attached . . .” ]
I know the rhetoric. I know that I attract to my experience whatever is the subject of my attention, and therefore focusing on the negative, the complaint, and the lack, not only that it doesn’t bring forth the desired outcome, it actually brings more of the circumstance that I do not want in my life. And yet. when my mind is in ‘complaint mode’, it’s like a hurricane that cannot be stopped. It sees nothing but the righteous reasons to suffer and complain.
I thought I was prepared for times like this. I have written pages upon pages to help me in such ‘emergencies’. Conflict resolution techniques that can help me break down the challenges and move into a calmer state of mind. But when my mind is stormy, it is raging, and it does not allow a moment of breath to look into this information. Kind of a “It’s my party and I cry if I want to” state of mind.
When I was teaching Yoga in Cirali, being celibate, peaceful and happy, life threw me a curveball and said: “You think you are happy? Okay, let’s see if you can handle THIS?”
It was an Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” kind of a curveball: I met the man of my dreams! . . .
. . . and his beautiful wife.
Even before I saw him I felt his presence. It was my heart who told me to turn around and look in the direction of the restaurant, even though I was heading in the other direction. And there he was, in his full stunning glory, beautiful beyond words, sitting at the table. His wife and two lovely kids by his side.
I don’t know what is it about him that got my heart beating so fast and my lungs to stop breathing, but that’s exactly what happened. Months of celibacy did not give me any insight into the workings of sexual attraction, but here it was, in its rawest form, and the disappointment of the circumstances was familiar to me. I turned away to the Yoga hall, unaware that this moment was the beginning of a coming storm.
And then they came to my yoga classes. And they loved them. And they loved me. And I loved them. And then we became friends and even though I tried very hard to direct my mind elsewhere I just couldn’t help falling in love with him. He was beautiful in every way and the more I got to know him the more I loved him. I wanted to channel my thoughts towards “The man of my dreams that I’d like to manifest will be like him: rugged, sensitive, funny, mysterious, loving and playful!” Instead my mind was raging: “I don’t want ‘like him’. I want him! It is him I want!!!”
After awhile they left. And I remained. And for the first time in several years, I felt lonely. Very lonely. “Why can’t I have THAT?”, “Where is mine???”
So I ‘dealt with it’ the way I know to deal with challenges. I meditated, practiced Yoga, breathed into my heart. Kept on training my mind towards being generous, peaceful and humble. To some degree it worked. The anxiousness was calming down. For the most part, however, it did not work; I just could not stop thinking about him.
His beautiful (and smart and lovely and very attractive) wife maintained an email contact with me. Turned out she fell in love with me. I think women students ‘falling in love’ with their yoga teacher is pretty common. At least it has been my experience so far. Having to gently reject their advances has always been an uncomfortable and even somewhat stress producing event for me. This time, however, is was simply painful. How ironic can life be? She’s in love with me. I’m in love with her husband. And he? He’s in love with . . . (Oh, how I wish I could write “me” but no . . .), he is in love with her and very committed to her and their adorable kids.
So we ‘sorted it out’ and I continued attempting to focus my mind on manifesting rather than feeling lack but the horses of the mind already broke loose of the reins. The ‘no ejaculation’ part of my celibacy practice went flying out the window, my yoga practice was not as focused, and I started drinking coffee.
The August Storm
And then I left Cirali and traveled along Turkey’s magnificent turquoise coast having lovely experiences. Somewhere in the background, however, that familiar childhood conversation of “I’m all alone”, and “nobody loves me”, and “I can never get what I want” resurfaced and was getting louder and louder.
Every night before I go to sleep I write a list of the things I’m grateful for. It helps me maintain a positive attitude towards life, I think. But in the past few weeks of travel, as I was writing proofs of abundance, I was also contemplating the lack. “Oh, how much I wish I was with him now” and “Where is mine?”
When I arrived in Fethiye ten days ago the mind chatter was getting louder. I learned from an internet site that there was some latent gay scene here so I hoped to ‘fill in the void’. At the same time, an ex-yoga-student-and-now-friend-of-mine sent me an email asking about sadness. Not feeling sadness in years, or at least not remembering any recent experiences of sadness, I begun thinking about it.
I did not find what I came to look for in Fethiye, and the “big(ger) city” vibe here was uncomfortable to me. So after a few days I left for Kabak Valley, a mellow harder-to-reach part of the coast that promised some peace and quiet. There, overlooking the lovely beach at the foothills of Dragon Mountain I resumed my Yoga practice but did not relax into the peace I was seeking. I did not understand it at the time, but I was transferring my longings to “him” onto the attractive and single owner of the pansiyon I was staying at. Yet again, however, the interest was one sided. Needing to book a flight to Israel, where several American-based Israeli friends were waiting to meet me, I returned to Fethiye.
Back in Fethiye the mind storm was getting out of control. Deep sadness was washing over me. This obsessive pattern of “can’t get him out of my mind” is familiar to me from my life before yoga. And even though this time it was certainly not as intense as in the past, I was surprised to see it still existed with me. As I was writing an email to a friend I even started crying. The storm was full on. I was feeling lonely, unloved and full of self pity.
The Goddesses of Rhythm
Reading sacred text is a common prescription to deal with mind storms. For me, the text that always works wonders is by Abraham-Hicks. Maybe not as “sacred” as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras but, from my perspective, just as effective.
I looked at the stack of unopened “daily quote” e-mails that I’ve been receiving from Abraham-Hicks.com. The one I arbitrarily opened read:
“There will be a time, not so far from now, that you will look back on this phase of your life and instead of condemning it or beating up on it... Instead of blaming or guilting, you will feel appreciation for it, because you will understand that a renewed desire for life was born out of this time period that will bring you to physical heights that you could not have achieved without the contrast that gave birth to this desire.”
And just like a tiny needle can deflate a giant balloon with a little prick, these few lines deflated the raging mind chatter. It seems like mind storms --I guess like any other storm-- have an innate rhythm: they pick up speed, reach a roaring peak and then, almost out of nowhere, die down. All of the sudden I was not feeling lack. The sadness was gone and a gentle knowing that everything is just fine the way it came like a breeze into my awareness.
Yesterday evening, sitting on a park bench near the harbor, I was finally able to engage in Savitry Breathing, a calming rhythmic breath (inhale for 8 count, hold for 4, exhale for 8, inhale for 4) which I couldn’t get myself to maintain in the past few weeks. Ten minutes into it and Savitry, the goddess of rhythm, embraced me with her love.
As I’m observing the settling of the dust and the change in my mind I wonder what has happened here. The circumstances and outcome have not changed. The man I wanted so badly is not by my side and tonight, yet again, I will be sleeping by myself. But the “feeling space” has changed. I’m not feeling lack or lonely. I’m not sad. My breath is steadier and I feel calmer than I was in weeks. Is this a temporary relief or is it a shift in perspective? I’m hopping it is the latter but it is probably a combination of both. Life, I’ve learned, unfolds at the rhythm of ebb and flow.
As I was writing this story, riding on the bus to the Dalaman airport, waiting at the terminal, and flying over the magnificent Turkish coast I am realizing that during the past month a new desire has formed within me, the desire to be in a loving relationship. As it formed, I was attached to how it should manifest, creating all the suffering. I think it is the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism that says something like “Suffering is not because of ‘what is’ but rather because of what we make ‘what is’ to mean”. I took ‘what is’ to mean lack. Now I see the abundance in it. Now I have a clearer picture of what it is that I want to manifest in my life. The obsessive “I want him and only him!” was only a repeat of a negative mind pattern from the past paying me a visit. Now I know that there will be a time, not so far from now, where I’ll look back at this experience and all I’ll feel will be gratitude for this contrast, as it brought forth this beautiful new desire.
My deepest gratitude to Margaret, Lisa, Yifat, Anaya and Osnat for showering me with love and support.
Dedicated with love to the beautiful wife.