yoga

Stretching Our Bodies To Create Space On The Page.

Us-Asana: Life As Asana (Part One).

Kate and Geertje are yogis, writers and friends on different continents. They correspond and talk about life as if it were a Yoga pose — requiring flexibility and strength, discipline and surrender, regular check-ins with reality, humor and kindness.

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Dear Kate,

Remember when we first met? On retreat in France with our fabulous writing teacher — in silence and surrounded by things simmering in that silence? You wore cowboy boots and marveled at the rain — because Arizona hardly sees any.

I marveled at your marvel because, being Dutch, rain is what I was born into. We danced during the summer solstice. I loved hearing you read. I loved hearing you talk, too.

It kind of made me feel like floating down a meandering river, not really knowing exactly where we’re going, but knowing we’ll end up at an ocean anyway. Somewhere deep and relevant and refreshing and vast. It made my head spin.

Then we both went home. I stayed on the same continent and you flew over the ocean that has been between us ever since. You teach Yoga and writing there. I teach writing and Yoga here.

You call it Write it Down, Dog! and I called my workshops Wroga — until someone informed me that it was Polish for enemy and it lost its sparkle.

I guess then we did what two women on different continents who love writing and Yoga do: we write to each other and often end our email saying Gotta go to class now. The writing is visible, words to hold in your hand or print out as proof, but the Yoga is not. It’s in between the lines.

It’s the unseen unknown territory between us, very much like the ocean. Potentially they’re the same. What do you think?

I’ve noticed how when I meet someone who’s either a yogi or a writer, I feel like meeting a lost tribesman. When someone loves both, it’s a 95% chance of love at first sight — like us. The mechanics of stranger becoming tribe. The magic of Where have you been all my life. The mystery of same space.

At the same time. In the same life.

To be honest, my friend, I’ve been starting to feel a little lonely in Yoga. Everyone’s on their mat, pretending not to see each other. Fidgeting with their Manduka mat. Confined like yogis sitting on their mat-islands. Lonely but safe. Safe but lonely.

The reason I write to you now, darling one, is because I’m sick of being confined to my Yoga mat. I want to write body. Because to be honest it’s crazy how little I know of my body.

Yes, after 12 years of Yoga, I know how to align it, where it moves and where it doesn’t, I know how to respect its boundaries and stay curious at the same time, but still the space I inhabit in my body feels limited. I want asana to rock me like I know it does you.

Terrifying and thrilling like my leg resting on some stranger’s ankle in a lying twist. Intimate I guess is the word I’m looking for.

And that i-shizzle takes two. I think it takes you, to be specific, like our writing teacher taught us. How would you feel about that? How about tying some dynamite to the cotton candy stuff we call Yoga and writing and you and me, and exploding them?

Then seeing how to mix and match the pieces in a way that’s fresh?

Kind of what comes out of your pen.

Love to hear from you. Cauliflower and lentil soup is calling me right now.

More love, G

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Dear Geertje,

Of course I remember when we first met! I believe we officially met in the dining room on the night before we started the retreat. I had leaped forward nine hours to be there. I left the dry hot desert to shut up. To sit, and walk, and write in the cold (brr!) rainy French countryside.

It is true that so much simmers in silence, and if I had to name it, I think I would call it truth.

Sharing silence creates deep intimacy among strangers, and the practice of writing, spilling your guts on the page and sharing them even if they aren’t the guts you’re most proud of and having them received without judgment is perhaps one of the most intimate experiences I’ve ever had.

We shared the roughest draft of self as it showed up. The messiest tangle of mind that managed to sound somewhat sane, maybe even wise once ventilated. Such a sacred and intimate space.

I marveled at your command of English, not even your first language, yet you were able to lasso my attention and make it stay. Stay, attention, stay! Your writing revealed a deep wisdom that I knew I contained, but wasn’t sure I could convey in any language.

I don’t remember who introduced us, but I do remember that I noticed right away that you were sparkly and bright and beautiful and kind and present. I got all of this information in a moment. No small talk. No pretense.

Wasn’t it on the Summer Solstice that we shared an umbrella on our walk back to La Solitude, up the curving paved road, surrounded by roses and so many wildflowers? The road speckled with snails and slugs and the occasional hedgehog.

You’re taller, so you carried the umbrella as we headed to the big old country house with the tiny rooms, still big enough to hold our gigantic minds. We broke the rules, because weren’t we supposed to be silent?

You wanted to swim in the cold lake made dark by iron. I said, “No way!” Because… freezing cold water… and snakes… and monsters!

Instead, we moved the heavy old furniture in the living room of our chateau to make a dance floor, and while the others slept above us, we shared our favorite tunes — mine and yours — at a volume that was lower than we liked.

We shook our bodies, and let loose our minds all over the French countryside. Yes, reporting live from the edge of embodiment, this is where we met, where we continue to meet. Kindred.

Thanks for saying all that juicy and kind stuff about my writing.

Sheesh, If you knew what a chaotic jumble of thoughts I have to untangle simply to make basic sense, you’d understand why I often joke about biting off my fingers and then chopping off my tongue, because why bother writing when there are impossibly brilliant writers like you and Lidia and Natalie and Eve, Cheryl, Mary, and Lauren?

That’s how I felt after listening to you read, like lopping off my means of wordy communication. It’s like you have a direct line going from head to heart to hand. Like it’s natural. Like you don’t sweat. It’s clean, and even when it’s not, it is.

For me, the process of adapting thoughts as I find them into writing worth reading is hard. Writing is hard. Writing is one of the hardest things I do — writing and staying in my body. The work of the warrior.

I love your idea of scrambling ourselves with writing and Yoga, shaking and stretching and spinning and spitting ourselves out. Hell yeah! Let’s turn ourselves inside out and attempt to write the Universe as it is showing up in our asana practice and the projected hologram that is our lives.

Yes! Let’s do it!

Let’s be so intimate that it’s uncomfortable. Let’s tell the whole truth of being a fleshy messy human. I can do nothing less. Let’s describe how everything matters by describing our matter.

Let’s sketch with words our solid muscles, hollow bones and the experience of the electricity, prana, chi, soul, or whatever you wanna call it, that animates the miracle that is the body.

Let’s break open the core of loneliness by breaking open the language of the body and connecting with others doing the same solitary shimmy.

Let’s stretch our bodies to make space for ourselves on the page. It seems to me that we contain the greatest mystery, and to write about this wonderment is like trying to shove the Universe into your pinkie, but I accept your offer, because it feels like an invitation to come home.

Thank you.

Sweetest dreams, K

***

wp-content-uploads-2015-05-kategotsis02Reading anything Kate wrote is great. And no, this is not her writing her own bio in third person, it’s me talking, Geertje. Kate says she has biography anxiety. I think it’s cool of her to refuse to be distilled into a tiny bio-box. It won’t work anyway, not with a woman-writer-phenomenon like Kate. Writing a bio about her is like fingers pointing at the moon, to make it sound Zen. Like the song goes, to know, know, know her is to love, love, love her (and I do) and you will too once you dip into her magical world.

 

wp-content-uploads-2015-05-geertjecouwenberghWriting Geertje’s bio is a fool’s game, but way more relaxing than writing my own, because, who am I? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m a fool, so here goes. Geertje is sugar dipped in flames, fierce-hearted sage draped in ginger-scented supermodel flesh. A mirror that is angled just right, reflecting sparkly disco-ball light. Read more from her zany and just sharpened shank mind here.

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Read More: Savasana: Life As Asana (Part Two).
Age-asana: Life As Asana (Part Three).
Anjaneyasana: Life As Asana (Part Four).
Life As Asana (Part Five).

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