My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat: Thanks For Nothing PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Beth Lapides   

My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
I was settling into my end-of-class lotus, feeling so grateful for my yoga practice, ready for a little oming. But no. The teacher asked us to mentally list three things we were grateful for. And I panicked. Because I’ve quit gratitude lists.

It’s not that I’m an ingrate. I thank people all the time. In fact thank you for reading this column. But a gratitude list isn’t for other people, it’s for you. And maybe God. Or the Universe. Or Big Mind. Or whatever you call it. And if you can come up with something we can all call it, I would be especially grateful.

A few years ago I was stuck in a low point and everyone suggested gratitude lists. So I tried them. And every morning the same thing happened. I’d start my list with what I was unquestionably most grateful for: my beloved esposo, Greg. And then immediately this train of thought rolled down the track of my mind: What if Greg dies, what if I die, oh my God who will die first?! Oh yes, these gratitude lists were really getting my days off to an excellent start.

I tried rescheduling my gratitude list into different parts of the day, like a TV executive moving a pet show around the schedule. I found that if I did the list late at night I was less grateful for generic things like “yoga” and more grateful for specific things like that one second of balancing in handstand. Although I wasn’t quite up to being grateful for the awkward fall that followed it.

Some writers say God is in the details. Maybe that’s true of gratitude lists too, which after all, are a kind of writing. Because with a more detailed gratitude list, I panicked less, appreciated more and, as a bonus actually was able to get off the Ambien.

Still, I was using the practice to fall asleep and wasn’t it supposed to be helping me to be more awake? Gratitude had become one more item to check off on my spiritual to-do list. I decided to quit listing and try integrating gratefulness into my life. And right when I was struggling with this, I ran across one of those “greatest hits” parables that you see attributed to every religious/cultural/teaching tradition. Man’s son captures a strong, beautiful, wild horse. (I always imagine Brad Pitt and an equine Angelina Jolie.) The neighbors tell the man he’s so fortunate. The man says, we’ll see. The horse throws the son (he is a wild horse after all, was it even right to try to tame him?) and the son breaks his leg. The neighbors are like, that horse was a curse! The man says, we’ll see. Soldiers come to the village and take away all the able-bodied young men. The son is spared. What are the chances? Now the neighbors tell the man he is so lucky! The man of course says, we’ll see.

Two things bother me about this story. One: Can’t we update our parables? Like what about this one? Man’s son wins hybrid vehicle in raffle. Neighbors tell man how lucky he is. Man says, we’ll see. Son’s driving on the freeway and is hit by a Hummer. Car totaled. Huge hospital bill. No insurance. Neighbors say too bad. Man says, we’ll see. The draft is reinstated and the son is exempt because of his injuries.

It also bothers me that after centuries of retellings the son is still in the story, despite the fact that he does not have one single line of dialogue. I know enough about ending up on the cutting room floor to know if the son didn’t need to be there he would have been edited out. No lines? Why are we still paying him? Give the Dad the horse!

But I see now. We can’t cut the son because we are the son, not the father or neighbors. We don’t just analyze the ups and downs, we experience them. And the thing is, when you are the one who is thrown from a large muscled mammal, or from your job, house, relationship or health, a part of you may easily say we’ll see. But for me, even when I am saying we’ll see, I am usually also saying yay or nay. I have the score-keeping neighbors and the detached father sitting on my shoulders – as diametrically opposed as a devil and an angel.

There’s another level on which we are all the son. The son is the sun. This linguistic connection is not incidental. Literally, we are the sun. Our life-giving star is primarily hydrogen. And so are we. All of the sons and daughters (who I think of as girl sons) of earth are suns. As Sly sang: Everybody is a star. Though he has no lines, the son is the star of the story because the son does stuff. The son takes action. So some of us worship The Son. And some of us do Sun Salutes.

So we definitely can’t cut the son. Of course the horse has no lines either, but you can’t cut the horse. The horse drives the story. And it’s key that it’s a wild horse, not a plow horse. Because we want to ride! The ride is what we came here for. The handstand and the fall after the handstand. And the getting up after the fall and getting ‘back on the horse.” Riding well is about being able to be grateful for it all, even being grateful for not being able to be grateful for what you have because you’re afraid you’re going to lose it. Right now I’m just grateful I got through that thought.

One of the things I love so much about yoga is that it promises – and delivers – not the freedom from painful experience but the freedom to experience fully: To experience it all gratefully.Great-fully! Even if we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Even if we reject the idea that things ever “turn out” at all.

Easier said than done. But one night I was sitting on my cushion and I totally felt it: Infinite gratitude for everything and anything. Whatever wafted through my monkey mind was lit by gratitude’s rosy glow. And then for a few breaths, there was blessedly nothing. Nothing to cling to. Nothing but gratitude. And I thought, thanks for nothing. Which made me laugh. And laughing is the wild ride I give infinite thanks for.

Beth Lapides performs her chakradelic new show: 100% Happy 88% of the Time, Friday, November 7 and Saturday, November 8 at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica (310) 315-1459 and Saturday, December 13 at Urban Yoga in Palm Springs.Beth’s show is ‘Theater of Consciousness:’ free range comedy with big ideas and eye popping visuals. For tickets or info about bringing the show to your studio: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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