60 Days On the Mat — Day 23: Empty and Mundane


Today my mind was empty.  I mean literally empty.  I think perhaps I was so in the video editing moment all day, I simply had no observations about anything prior to heading to the mat.  Or the entire day was so mind numbingly mundane I was on auto pilot.  Ultimately, I believe I was simply in the mind numbingly mundane moment.

Sometimes being fully present means being fully present for those moments in life you would rather fast-forward through.  Today was one of those days.  There is a newsletter I need to get out that is sitting between my shoulder blades taunting me.

I went to Ellen’s class in late afternoon.  My arms and my abs are aching from all of the intense strength work since returning from Texas.  As I am lying in the opening pose flat on my back the aches in my arms take me back to our honeymoon.  I know what you’re thinking — no it was not bedroom acrobatics.  I wish it had been bedroom acrobatics, that might make more sense for a honeymoon.  I would go so far as to say this particular life choice rendered both of us immobile upon our return that evening.

Unlike most newlyweds who do something completely relaxing like go to a beach — we decided to climb Half Dome.  If you don’t know what Half Dome is — well, it’s this:

Half Dome -- Yosemite

I actually got so absorbed in transporting myself back to Half Dome that I had absolutely no idea what Ellen was doing.  Am I supposed to be on blocks or off blocks?

I finally get back in sync with everyone and as I raise my arms over my head; my entire upper thoracic spine cracks into place.  I love this.  Who needs a chiropractor?

As a wedding present, Jonathan and I received a very generous gift from one of his friends to spend five nights at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite.  I thought we would go on a few hikes, ride our bikes, relax … had I known what I was in for I might have prepared myself by hiring a personal  trainer prior to our honeymoon.

As we’re balancing in tree pose I fall over, but get back up.  I can feel the strength pushing through my legs.  I wish I had had this sort of strength that day.

The one thing I can tell you about the day — we never would have done it had we known what we were getting ourselves into.  The real hard core Half Dome climbers get up and start before dawn.  Oh, no — we set out at 8:30am.  This is why after walking seventeen miles, we ended our hike in pitch black at a bus stop, barely able to move.  Literally.  I felt like the Tin Man; I was convinced I needed an oil can to get back to our room.  Had I energy to cry, I would have.

I hold crow pose for roughly three seconds.  My legs were slipping off of my arms.  I still think I need more abdominal strength or nerve.  Perhaps a little of both.

I have my hiking stick and fill my CamelBak backpack with water and snacks.  Jonathan attaches two water bottles to his backpack … we do not come home with the water bottles (more on that later).  As we set out on the hike, neither one of us have any idea what we are about to do.  About five miles in, we pick up this heavy set fellow and his heavy set kid wearing what appear to be pajamas.  I take one look at them and think, of course we can do this.

I jump back into chaturanga and my elbow smarts, but not enough to keep me from doing it again.  We do an intense series of abdominal work, my entire stomach is burning.  I think about the burning from that day.

We finally get to where we can see the top of Half Dome.  From the distance it looks like a little stream of ants climbing the mountain.  There was what seemed like hours of switchbacks and steps.  I was not prepared for this, but my stubborn streak forced me to pretend I was completely in control.  Jonathan was ahead of me, which was fine.  He pulls me ahead and I keep bringing him back down — generally speaking, we make a good match.

I relax into pigeon pose on my back and do thread the needle.  My left hip is aching.  I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps it’s all the rain, or all the stretching or just the mere thought of Half Dome?

I finally reach the last 300 yards of the climb.  It looks like this:

We do not climb on the outside -- we climb inside where the planks are.

We do not climb on the outside — we climb inside where the planks are.

There is a giant pile of gloves at the base because you need the gloves to grab hold of the cables.  Apparently, there are many people who start doing this without any idea what the heck they are getting themselves into.

I grab a pair of gloves and begin my climb.  Jonathan is several planks in front of me.  I am having to stop every couple of planks because of lack of arm strength.  Climbing Half Dome means you are literally pulling your body weight for 300 yards up the side of a boulder that is almost completely vertical.

We get up from thread the needle and relax into double pigeon pose in a forward fold.  I can feel my body start to let go.  This is always the moment when the breath sneaks into all the tight spots and blows on them, coaxing them into a relaxed submission.

Jonathan is waiting for me several planks up and he can see I am struggling with strength and crippling fear.  After all, people fell off of this rock and DIED.  What the hell was I doing?  I hear the first water bottle fall off of his backpack and clink down the boulder to a place where I am sure many water bottles go to die.

Jonathan walks down to my plank and says, “Hang on to me, I’ll pull you up.  Let me help you.”

And I said, like any good wife on her honeymoon would say to her most adoring husband coming to her rescue, “Get the fuck away from me!”

He is startled.  We have been married less than a week.  A man comes up behind me and says, “Ma’am, do you need some help?”  

Poor Jonathan was humiliated.   This man was trying to rescue his wife from him.  I felt like such a bitch — but I was literally scared to death.

We switch to double pigeon on the other side.  I finally make it to the top of Half Dome where Jonathan is waiting for me with open arms.  The sensation was similar to double pigeon.  My relief was so great once I finally got up there, I just let go.

Jonathan and meTop of Half DomeAugust, 2007

Jonathan and me
Top of Half Dome
August, 2007

I did it and the only thing we lost was one water bottle going up and the other one coming down.  I learned to never put Jonathan in charge of the water bottles — or me in charge of the CamelBak.  He lost the bottles and I drank all of the water.  The heavy set father and son who climbed Half Dome without incident, helped us get rehydrated before hiking back down to the bus stop.

We open our legs to a V stretch and I start to think about trust.  I can feel my hips start to melt in their sockets.  I think about those who have broken my trust.  I think about those I have let down as well.  I think about how many times I have trusted against my better judgment.  I think about ways I can be more trustworthy; more honorable.  More willing to trust the unknown; not always placing some previous life moment on the present one.

I want to mean yes when I say yes and be able to say no more often so I can mean yes when I say yes.  Sometimes I think the mundane obligations you sign up for in passing become spirit crushers.

As I work my way through this 60 days it has become very apparent to me that we always make time for the stuff we love to do (which is why I am up past midnight writing this and why I leave for yoga in the midst of chaos at my desk).  It’s been a long time since something has kept me up past my bedtime or been able to drag me away from an overburdened desk.

And as I am lying in shavasana, I think about a beach vacation.  Like the one we took in Hawaii for our fifth anniversary this year.  Momentarily, I think, perhaps we’ll hike something huge for our tenth wedding anniversary?  I let that thought drift on.

I fall asleep.

I come home to an email from a woman considering egg donation who said she was moved by the honesty of my posts.  This makes me feel good, because writing about yourself is a rather narcissistic undertaking.  It’s nice to know there are moments to be gleaned by others from all the rambling — hopefully, even on a day like today when I wake up on empty and mundane.

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