(And, no, it does not involve jumping off a cliff) by: Scott Underwood
The election is rapidly approaching. (I cringe at this expression; I feel like some NPR announcer on Weekend Edition reading my lines. But I stand by my decision to use it like a MAGA Loving/MAGA Hating, Forever Trumper/Never Trumper stands by or against his/her/their hero/villain). Because of this, we are left with a dilemma…where to hide our money should Uncle Joe win or what country to move to after a “The Don” victory.
Now, I am not making some false equivalence between the two candidates. Full disclosure: I did have a “Biden for Prez” bumper sticker taken off my car the other day by who I am assuming is a 1st amendment-loving Proud Boy who took time away from standing by an electric pole, watching a crow go caw-caw, in order to scrape the sticker off. (I mean, really, the President didn’t tell those genius what pole to “stand by” and pole-watch.) But my political leanings are not the point of this post. This is about how to deal with the anxiety that most of us are feeling over this election and how to remain kind to those we might disagree with.
I am as obsessed as anyone with what’s happening. It’s totally normal for me to be sitting on the toilet reading multiple news sources as my son waits outside patiently, wondering when I am going to finish my poop even though I haven’t even dopped my pants. I try to remember that in my yoga practice not to put too much value on future/past thinking. It causes the anxiety and depression that comes with chitta vittri or mind-chatter. The second sutra of The Yoga Sutras says, “Yogas chitta vittri naruda,” or, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” And this requires us to release our attachments to our actions or thoughts. But how to do that? I mean, how frustrating is it when you hear your teacher say, “Just breathe and release your attachments”?
What does that even mean? I am not making fun of your yoga instructor or guru. I’ve said it; I’ve meant it. It feels right. But what does it mean? We are being told that this is the most important election in anyone’s life. Right? How can we NOT be attached to that? The questions become: Why are you anxious and what are you going to do?
If that sounds reductive, sanctimonious, or pedantic; I did not mean it that way. These are sincere questions that I do not have the answers to. I am not a guru, nor a philosopher, nor a religious man. I don’t know how to help, but I want to help; I don’t know how to rationalize what is happening, but I want to explain what is happening; and I don’t know how to find a deity to thank or blame for what is happening; but I sorely want to scapegoat Somebody…Anybody.
So, I still have those attachments and they ain’t going nowhere.
I suspect we all want to be facing this time with as much clarity and grace as we can. We are pretending and intending to meditate. We are amending to attending yoga asana practices on-line or in-person. We are doing what we can with the skills we have. At Home Yoga in Costa Mesa, CA, no matter the political persuasion, I see familiar faces and feel a glow of energy coming from the friends and family we have found here. The amused-adoration that I feel for the eccentricities and beauties of each one of my yogis helps to ground me in the present.
Remember, I am as concerned as any tinfoil-hat wearing, conspiracy-theory tossing, Q-anon acolyte out there. (I would throw in Antifa for balance, but I don’t think they exist…I mean listen, they are anarchists. Anarchists don’t have organizations. If they did, they would not be anarchists. Besides, I am an Anti-fascist and you should be too. I don’t want to make fun of myself or you. Right? Humor and self-deprecation are no longer allowed.) What keeps me from stuffing my mattress with cash or looking for houses in Canada is that I do have a sincere yoga practice, a dedicated community, and a constant reminder of the importance of breath, which is the key to life and the breath of God in so many traditions. All of this gives me a little space for joy and peace. It’s difficult to remember sometimes, but that is why we have this community that does not exclude anyone who comes to us with respect and a willingness to let go of the pettiness of dogma. Although I have never seen the face of God, I am pretty sure that it does not appear in form of Donald Trump or Joe Biden. I do not think that it cares one little bit about what is happening. This is a human-created problem, and we are the humans who are tasked to fix it.
Here’s my list of maybe cures for our anxiety during this election cycle: 1. Take off those tin-foil hats. You look like a baked potatoes. 2. Breathe. 3. Meditate for one minute or 600 minutes. 4. Treat you neighbor and grocery clerk well. 5. Wear a mask and smile beneath it. 6. Leave other people’s bumper stickers and yard signs alone. 7. Vote your conscious. 8. Do your Sun Salutations before checking your social media. 9. Create a better “New Normal.’ The old one was not that awesome. Namaste, Scott Underwood (AKA Sri Rama-Dhama-Ding-Dong)
Only 2.8 miles from Home Yoga OC is one of the iconic surf spots in Orange County, “Blackies”. Located just off Newport Pier and edging down to 28th street, the location was originally known as 22nd street, but later re-nicknamed as “Blackies” as a nod to Blackie’s By the Sea, a bar with a lot of local flare. (We will get back to Blackies…. over and over again.) As a surf spot, it was once known for its 60’s crew: Ron Sizemore, John Peck, Russel Brown, Mike Marshall, are just a few of those early pioneers of SoCal surf culture. Today, it is the mixing ground of groms and pigeons, potato chips and logs, snakes and studs, all trying to catch its famous w-swell.
Today was an unseasonably warm mid-winter day down in Orange County, so, Scott and I decided to take a studio break and head to Blackies for a post-lunch break that might or might not have included a couple of ankle slappers and a cold beer. Beyond the gaze of the statue of Ben Carlson, a local surfer and lifeguard who tragically lost his life on duty, the waves and the wind were in agreement for a beautiful early afternoon surf session. Scott and I headed out to spend some time in the sun, me just dipping the toes in the water and Scott fully submerged, wearing his brand-new, Christmas present wetsuit.
Ben Carlson was the first lifeguard to die on duty during the Newport Beach Lifeguard Department’s 100-year history, back in 2014. His 11-foot statue was digitally designed by his brother in law and now stands as a reminder to ocean safety.
Before hitting the sand and surf, Scott did his usually pre-surf yoga stretch. These are poses that awaken the muscles used when paddling, straddling, and riding. (Sounds a bit racy for a tutorial on surfing!) The main muscle groups used while surfing include the arms (bicep, deltoid), shoulder (trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid major and minor), abdomen (rectus abdominis, latissimus dorsi, obliques) and the upper portion of your leg (quadriceps, gluteal, and gastrocnemius). While these muscles get most of their strength-training in the water, warming them up beforehand and a light stretch afterwards allows for maximum mobility.
It wouldn’t be a true trip down to Blackies without stopping by Blackies By the Sea for a cold beer after surf. Around since the 1950’s, Blackies By the Sea is a local hangout for the pigeons (old-timer surfer guys who watch the surf all day long and go “Coo-Coo-Coo” at the passers-by), your local Newport/Costa Mesa-ians, and sprinkled with the vacationer looking for an authentic experience. Inside, you will find the TVs playing fishing shows and the walls covered with stuffed sharks, surfboards, silly signs, and stickers from all over the world (see the alliteration…hahaha). Everyone from the bartender to the regulars are nothing but friendly and welcoming. (I mean, come on, there is nothing like being hit on by a guy offering to let you pick out the music on the jukebox.) And, as far as I am concerned, their sign saying that they have the coldest beer in town is a 100% true.
Looking forward to the next “midwinter-post-lunch-break” before the summer crowds roll in.