Of Yoga, Yurts, and Republicans that Get You Thinking

Posted: April 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books, California, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, My Body, My Temple | No Comments »

Mark and his friend Christian often do this thing when they’re relaying events in the recent past. They continue rambling on about what happened beyond the point of, well, interest, until they finally wrap up by saying, “And now we’re back to the present.”

I’m not really sure what the genesis of this is—some decaying collegiate joke, no doubt—but like many things between those two I just nod and smile. I mean, aside from these little in-joke foibles, there’s little I can complain about with my husband’s husband. (This being a JOKE, Dad, since Mark and Christian are known to carry on like an old married couple.)

As for my present world, the book I’ve been obsessively reading whenever I have 30-plus seconds to myself (which averages to a 3-minute reading window) is Curtis Sittenfeld’s excellent American Wife. Of all random things, it’s the quasi-fictionalized account of Laura Bush’s childhood, running up through her utterly unanticipated stint as our very own First Lady. And believe it or not, she’s quite a sympathetic character. There’s friendship, tragic death, literary references, and even sex scenes! All in all, it’s good reading.

It’s the second selection for my new book club—a group I’m thrilled to report that with my girls at the ages they are now, I can solidly make the time commitment to be part of.

I’m not aware that I read book club books terribly differently knowing I’ll be talking about them later. But I guess there is a small part of me that underscores in my mind whatever weensy insights I’ve managed to muster along the page-turning way. And the one thing that I can’t help but come back to with American Wife, is this concept of how utterly surprising it was for Laura—or rather, Alice, the character who’s based on Laura B.—to one day call the White House home. At age 9, or 20, or even 41, she’d have never believed it to be her fate. (And really, married to HIM as she was, you can’t deny it’d come off as a fairly big shocker.)

On Friday I found myself at the dazzling nature-groovy gorgeous Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach. In a small yurt. In a downward dog. Or alternatively, chanting, “Ommmmmm.”

It having been a day-long yoga retreat which my friend and neighbor, Jennifer, told me about, and for which Mark graciously jumped through a fair amount of childcare hoopery in order to allow me to attend.

And despite the yogic practice of attempting to clear the mind, live in the present, and focus on one’s breathing, ommmming, or corpse-posing, I did find my mind wandering at times, thinking once during the morning session that this was a setting that not too far back I’d have never imagined myself in. Back when, at age 11 in Rhode Island, I was most concerned with how many layers I could don to perfect my turbo preppiness (a base of two turtlenecks of complimentary pastel hues being my secret weapon of success). Or at my Midwestern college at age 18, when acquiring a hand delivered invitation to a Deke party seemed to have equaled attainment of nirvana.

Even in my mid-twenties when I’d migrated to San Francisco like a big girl, my hummingbird-paced temperament was still so much the essential core of my me-ness. The thought of sitting in a room (nevermind a yurt) of strangers, eyes closed and in a cross-legged position for even three minutes would seem like some form of brutal custom-made Kristen torture.

Sure, my “and now we’re back to the present” moment is hardly on par with holding court in the White House or anything. It’s just that on Friday, as I reveled in hearing birds singing outside and strove to attain a perfect chest-opening Side Angle Pose—and wondered intermittently how Kate and Paige were faring without me all day—I also couldn’t help but think that my being in that setting seemed very, well I’m hesitant to even say it, but so very California. You know, for me to be chanting, and singing in Sanskrit, and partnering with unknown kindly long-haired men to enact prone spine-lengthening poses.

Really. Who’d a thought?

And my chaser thought that I really shouldn’t have had since by that point I definitely should’ve gotten back to focusing on the silent intention I’d set for myself that day or at least my Ojai breathing, was how very grateful I was to have somehow found my way there.

And so, as I gently pushed my chest upward into Cobra while drawing the tops of my legs down flat into the earth, I decided that years from now, when I find myself skulking around the White House kitchen for midnight snacks like it’s no big thing, I’ll have to make certain one of my agenda items is to clear out a section of, say, the Situation Room, and build a yoga studio there.

Or maybe I can just set up a little yurt in the rose garden.

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