Chai and LCD Soundsystem


Ready for the drive back to work

Ready for the drive back to work!

I had two choices today: Skip the drive to the shala because I had to be at work earlier than normal on a Wedneday, or wake up even earlier than I normally do.

So, for the first time ever, I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to make the hour-long drive to the shala. A few months ago, I couldn’t manage the 5:30 a.m. alarm without snoozing . . . and snoozing some more.

Even when we try not to, we mark milestones in our practice — the first time we almost reach a bind in marichyasana C or D, and the time we actually achieve it. The first time we could hang in a headstand without wobbling. The first time savasana took us somewhere else.

Today was one for me. I have struggled for so long and never thought I could turn myself into a morning person, but slowly — so very slowly — rhythms started taking over, just like they do in the practice itself.

On the two weekdays when I make the drive to the shala, it’s like I have three journeys before I even begin my work day. There’s the journey eastbound on Interstate 96 to practice, the journey on the mat itself, and the journey back westbound on the highway to be in my office chair more or less on time. Today, a warm cup of chai and the eccentric sounds of James Murphy helped the drive over seem shorter and more relaxed than normal, despite the slick roads. On the mat — well, suffice it to say that backbends are teaching me quite a bit about what’s stuck, and perhaps tucked, into my body.

On the journey back — that was interesting too. As I found comfort sipping my Ginger Dragon (ginger honey lemon tea), I passed one rough-looking accident after another. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many spinouts on highways when there wasn’t rain or snow. But the light drizzle of the morning made for some serious black ice and unaware drivers were thrown off off-ramps. In one case, an 18-wheeler was hibernating in a ditch as a little crumpled car faced the wrong direction on the highway shoulder. Once many years ago, I hit a patch of black ice driving on a Vermont highway in the dark of night. Had the guardrail not been there, I would not be here. So when I pass accidents, part of me migrates outside my car and I am with the drivers of the cars on the side of the road, wondering if they also experienced a slow-motion feeling — the kind when you can observe yourself thinking, “Hey, this might be it. I guess I have to be OK with that.”

Two weekends ago, I cleaned out another pocket of my belongings — perhaps the last of three little areas in my house where I’ve let stuff accumulate. In doing so, I found a manilla folder I had started in, I think, 2010. I had printouts of general info on traveling to Mysore and on how to register. Not sure why I wasted the paper to print this out, but I looked at this little outdated folder and recycled it all with some measure of finality. It was my little letting go of trying to hope for that journey, my promising myself to let the twists and turns of life take their course without me constantly pointing to a map with a suggested destination. Maybe it will happen. I know it’s still possible. (Anything must be possible, right, if I can get up at 4:30?) But I won’t wish for a particular destination, just like we’re not supposed to wish to finally get that bind.

It is indeed that time of year when ashtangis from all over the world board planes with Mysore as their final destination, and that means interesting new blogs or the rekindling of others.

But one ashtangi who isn’t making the trip this year finds that staying put is a journey in and of itself.

You wanted it real
But can you tell me what’s real?
There’s lights and sounds and stories
Music’s just a part

© and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shut up and play the quiet

My concert buddy and I drove an hour west to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Mich. last night to watch Shut Up and Play the Hits, the new documentary about LCD Soundsystem’s final, epic (I think “epic” is the right word here) show at Madison Square Garden. It’s a superbly executed music documentary that includes snippets of a great interview of James Murphy led by Chuck Klosterman — thought-provoking and entertaining stuff.

While watching, I thought a little about how much my music tastes have changed. I used to only listen to bands that had the typical rock or pop construction of guitar chords, refrains, etc. Over time, though, I’ve been increasingly drawn to bands that don’t stick to the template — bands like LCD Soundsystem and, more recently, Caribou. These outfits create soundscapes, including lyrics when they’re needed and not including them when they’re not.

I’m a journalist by training, so words are the tools of my trade. But more and more and in different situations, the mantra of “less is more” (something my favorite journalism professor always stressed) has been sinking in. From filler lyrics to the thoughts that run on a loop in our heads, words can clutter so much of our external and internal spaces.

Over the past 11 months, as I’ve been working to deepen my Ashtanga yoga practice by committing to practicing six days a week, I’ve noticed I’m more able to tolerate stillness and quietness while working, running errands or doing stuff around the house. (A big exception is that I do already love quiet yoga rooms — the less chatter, the better.) I used to rely on having a TV on, or music playing, when at home. Basically, these days, I don’t feel the symptoms of withdrawal from chatter/sounds/white noise as frequently or intensely. And I wonder if part of my shifting music tastes is my ability to enjoy more space in my soundscapes. As strange as my description may sound, a track like “Bowls” feels like it has more room now to pulse and resonate.

Speaking of less is more on the monkey mind front: Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor’s Facebook page had this recommendation yesterday:

So if you’re looking for meditation | remixed, give this meditation app a try. I’ve been so swamped lately, but I’ll check out ReWire one of these days — along with another fascinating app called Brain Wave, which says it “uses sequences of binaural tones combined with soothing ambient nature sounds and atmospheric music to stimulate specific brainwave frequencies and induce different states of mind. Includes programs for sleep.” I don’t know anything about binaural tones, but my concert buddy just told me Pearl Jam had an album that used this technique — titled, appropriately enough, Binaural.

Side note: I found out today that LCD Soundsystem-affiliated Juan Maclean practices Ashtanga yoga, and travels to Mysore. You can find the whole interview here (you’ll have to scroll down — I didn’t see any anchors) and here’s an inspiring snippet:

How has yoga now improved your working life as a DJ?

“I practice six days a week no matter where I am or what I’ve done the night before. It has been enormously helpful in keeping my body functioning while maintaining an insane travel schedule. Sitting on planes has become a major job hazard. The yoga gets my blood flowing again, stretches out all those tightened muscles, relieves inflammation, and helps with jet lag.”

How has yoga changed you as a person?

“It’s a little embarrassing but I had a bad anger problem, I would get totally out of control. There were a couple of incidents that were well documented on the internet, much to the dismay of my mother, where I had physically assaulted people while DJing. Whether my actions were justified or not, beating someone up in the middle of a DJ set is completely ridiculous. Since practicing Ashtanga, I’ve calmed down immensely. It’s also made me a generally nicer person.”

So cool to see a DJ who travels extensively make the traditional practice happen! Rock on, Maclean!

(Photo credit: Hierophant’s Facebook page)

© and Rose Tantraphol, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.