To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Year 2: Part 1: Post 6: What I Do in the Mornings

I'm almost over my cold. The fever stopped that next day and my head cleared and now I just cough a lot and drink lots of tea. And I sleep a lot.

Other than sleeping a lot and not going tracking (the cold air hurts to breathe) my schedule is about back to normal. I can read and go to workshops and so forth. But I've been sleeping through the early morning classes, the ones I can take now instead of zazen, and that makes me feel like a lump.

If I weren't sick, I would go to Kit's yoga class some days and Karen's exercise class other days. I've attended both a few times (before I got this stupid cold), so I know what they're like.

Kit's is my favorite, for obvious reasons, plus it's a really interesting, different take on yoga.

It's not like I really know much about yoga generally, of course--I've tried it a few times, though I never really got into it, and I've heard about it, of course. And the impression I've gotten is its sort of a spiritually applicable exercise program. Like, you do these stretches and somehow they not only make you flexible, they also manipulate your "energy" in some beneficial way. I'm sure there's a lot more to it that I don't understand.

Anyway, in Kit's version, you don't just imitate your instructor in bending your body here and there. It's a real class, as in the objective is to learn how to do something so you can do it yourself, later.
Getting into "The Dancer"
She's very precise--you have to get each body part into exactly the right position and hold it for exactly the right about of time and you have to breathe a certain way.

She'll spend a whole class period on how to rotate one's thigh properly for one pose, for example. Or, she'll tell us to do Sun Salutations or the Six Movements of the Spine or whatever else without her leading us, to see how many of us remember what to do.

And then, a lot of what we practice either isn't actually yoga or its been seriously re-purposed. We practice good posture (sitting, standing, and walking). We practice ergonomically correct lifting and turning. She says we should never sit up in bed straight from lying on our backs. Instead, we should always roll to our sides and then push ourselves up without our arms (does this mean that doing sit-ups is bad?).

I guess this is why a lot of Kit's students have good posture?

As far as I can tell, good posture, body awareness, and good body mechanics are most of the point of Kit's yoga class. I know she has had more traditional yoga training, but I don't know what she thinks of that training. She has said that if you don't believe in rising kundalini,or whatever it is real yogis and yoginis believe, then it doesn't make sense to practice yoga as if you did, because what's the point? That reminds me about what Greg said about reasons to sit zazen. I don't know if that means that she thinks yoga only works spiritually if you believe it does, or if she just thinks it's dishonest to try to do something if you don't believe it works.

And then there's Karen's class.

Karen's class is not all that different from her introductory martial arts class that I took last summer--except it's not a class, it actually is a guided exercise session. There's a five-minute warm-up, then stretching, then twenty minutes of cardio, then we work on core strength and on strength and flexibility in our wrists and ankles, and feet. Then,we stretch again. It's intense, and it runs an hour and a half long, so there's hardly time to shower before breakfast, but it's awesome.

Like her class last summer (I think she actually offers it every semester) Karen isn't focusing on
Downward Facing Dog
martial arts in any obvious way, but aside from general fitness being important for martial arts, all the movements relate to techniques she teaches in later classes. So I've been told, anyway. Like the wrist stretches are actually gentler versions of the wrist locks advanced students learn to do on other people. Some of the other stretches are actually sequences of blocking techniques. Even I can tell that a lot of the cardio workout is a series of punches and kicks. She's trying to establish muscle-memory, so all these movements will seem natural later on.

Except, I'm not that interested in learning martial arts. I'm taking the morning thing, not so I can learn martial arts, but because I like being fit and it's too cold and icy to go running a lot of days and because Charlie suggested it last year. He hasn't said anything about it since, but I haven't forgotten.

But, as I said, I can't do any of that right now. I'm glad I can breathe without coughing just sitting here writing. I'm getting so sick of this stupid cold....

I'm not the only one who has it, of course. I'd say almost half the campus is either getting over the cold or coming down with it. Not everybody's gotten as sick as I did, though two people are worse. That's one of the few ways this place is like a normal college, I guess--once a couple of people on campus get sick, everybody else gets infected, too.

What isn't normal is that there still isn't any Advil on campus. It's all herbs and sleep and drinking enough fluids and Reiki. And there's a couple of people who say they've decided not to get sick anymore and so they walk around asking the rest of us when we plan to stop being sick also.

And guess what? Those people aren't sick.

Of course, some people wouldn't get sick anyway. And the reality is that no matter what we did--herbs, Advil, Reiki, or nothing at all--we'd probably all get better in about a week, because we've got a cold and colds last a week. But what if someone on campus were really sick? Would they still not use real medicine?

I asked Allen at Philosopher's Stone Soup the other day. He was sick, too, so neither of us were allowed to help cook and he was uncharacteristically quiet, playing Solitaire rather than goofing off. I half expected him to ask me questions instead of answering mine, but he didn't.

"We're not--collectively--against modern medicine," he said, shuffling his cards, and something about how he said it suggested that some people here are against it, and that he is not one of them. "We do what works, or what seems to work. Or what we hope will work....When Tom was sick he had pneumonia a couple of times there, near the end. We got all kinds of doctors and medicines for him."

"Tom?" The name was familiar.

"The original Craft Master. He had a stroke right around the time I started working here. He died five years later." He was still shuffling his cards. There was something strange about the cards. I kept seeing red kings go by way too often. Allen didn't seem distant or unfriendly so much as he seemed drawn into himself. I think he was just getting sick that day and maybe couldn't focus the way he normally did. I thought maybe he should go to bed and stay there for a while.

But then a few other people, hearing us talk, came over to join the discussion and Allen seemed to pull himself together and began leading the discussion as he always used to--what counts as "real medicine" and how and why and everything else. I imagine it took a lot more effort for him than normal, but he didn't let it show. Except for coughing a few times into a carefully folded handkerchief, it didn't seem like he was sick at all.

If he felt even half as bad as I did at the same stage in the cold, leading that discussion counts as a pretty impressive magic trick.

[Next Post: Monday, February 24: Moon Observance]

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