Saturday, February 13, 2010

From wistful to light-hearted

Wistful: 1. characterized by melancholy; longing; yearning.
2. pensive, especially in a melancholy way. 3. musingly sad.

When someone you were in love with as a teenager in another country finds you forty years later on Facebook, and you communicate, and check out each other's pages, photos and friends, it is strange and slightly absurd. It feels as if there are four of you, the two you once were and the two you now are, and yet it somehow plucks at your heart strings in a sad and tender way.

This was the mood I was in as I left work, under skies that were getting ominously grey, to go to a "talk-experience" by John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga and a sort of yoga superstar. I had just heard of him recently and since he was in town I was curious to see what he was about. The bus did not show so I walked on streets I do not normally use, and the farther I went the more everything seemed alien. I got in my stranger in a strange land mood. By the time I arrived at the location of the event I was deep in conversation with my inner bitch. It was early so I had to wait around and everything started to irritate me, including snippets of conversation I overheard. I almost felt like walking out, but I am very happy I didn't.

It turns out that John Friend, who seems to be a yoga teacher, spiritual seeker, poet, performer, inspirational speaker, and a totally natural and unassuming human being as well, decided about a week ago that since this was the night of the waning moon, as well as Mahashivaratri, the annual celebration of the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati/Shakti,  he would add a performance to the talk-experience. And that he did. As he and a scholar of tantric studies? Sanskrit? from U.C. Berkeley took turns narrating (the scholar also sang portions of the narration in Hindi), dancers, three of them beautiful women with illuminated hoops, reenacted the story of Shiva and Parvati/Shakti, while we the audience sat under dimmed lights, bathed in a shower of pin pricks of green sparkles covering us, the ceiling and walls, all to the music of a guitar, tablas and a flute. Shakti, sinous and sensual in a red harem girl dress, danced wildly around Shiva, a muscular 6'4"god, with dreadlocks to his rear, his leopard-print-loin-cloth-clad body tinged in blue. There was also Cupid, a shorter, body builder type, dressed in red shorts, white moon boots and large pink wings. It sounds insane, maybe tacky, but it wasn't. It was perfect. 
Then we chanted OM Namah Shivaya (I bow to the goodness in everything or Om and salutations to that which I am capable of becoming) first silently holding loved ones, ourselves and the entire universe in our hearts, then for three minutes out loud, but softly and everyone in his or her own time, so that the resulting effect in the darkened auditorium was like the sound of hundreds of butterfly wings flapping at once.

At the end bags were passed around and we each pulled out a little gift.

Inside, a mirror, where we could see our own divine reflection. 
And just like that the wistful, grey, alienated stranger in a strange land felt as light as a butterfly. 

Thank you John Friend. 


anna maria said...

P.S. I sent my brother an email about this event and he responded with "Disco meets performance art meets eastern mysticism meets San Francisco".
Excellent description.

Dirty Girl Gardening said...


Leslie said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. I am visiting Torremaggiore for two months this fall, to meet relatives i have never met. My grandfather was born there. I would love to talk to you about Torremaggiore. If you can e-mail me at I live in Truckee, California. Ciao. Jill Mary

anna maria said...

How exciting, I LOVED Torremaggiore and wish I had stayed there my whole life. Sounds like a great trip. I will email you.