Bikram Yoga. (Jen)
This morning’s class seems tougher than usual. My eyes are stinging from the sweat rolling down my forehead, and I’m starting to feel a bit faint. I glance over to the thermostat, which is to my left, and it says 117 degrees. So it’s definitely not my imagination that it’s hot. But no matter how badly I might feel at the moment, I know I’ll feel great if I finish the hour and a half session in the hot room. As someone once said to me, sometimes you gotta go through hell to get to heaven. Such is the payoff of practicing Bikram yoga.
I’ve only been practicing Bikram regularly for a few months, and I started my regular practice just around the same time I decided to throw my hat back into the dating arena. Whether it’s coincidence or not, my Bikram practice has become a mirror of the changes that I’ve seen happen within myself and in my life: learning to tolerate what at first seems like unbearable conditions, developing greater flexibility and releasing doubt. I can do this has become the unspoken mantra when I enter the studio.
The first two things you are told to do when you are a new student is to breathe and stay in the room. You don’t even have to do the poses. The goal is to make sure that you keep breathing and that you stay in the room without leaving. Without a doubt, these two requirements also form the foundation of what life means. Breathe and stay present. A straightforward philosophy easy to embrace and understand but not always to implement.
I took an extended break from dating during the summer since my focus was on a planned trip to South America. I had hoped for a respite from the tragi-comedic situations that I had been encountering in the dating world, which honestly could provide the fodder of sit-coms and soap operas. And while I did receive a respite from dating, I didn’t receive a respite from life’s unexpected happenings. While abroad, my grandfather fell into a coma and then passed away toward the end of my three-week trip, which was characterized by mishaps (attempted robbery, lost luggage, misplaced reservations, fighting between friends) and an accompanying gnashing of teeth.
Shell-shocked by grief, I found myself ensconced in the challenging scenario of being alone with strangers without family nearby. And despite not having any access to a Bikram studio, I focused on those two fundamentals from class, breathing and staying present, both of which were surprisingly hard to do. To fully breathe lends itself naturally to feeling the moment. When moments are difficult, we tend to hold our breath as a way of keeping the moment at bay. When I focused on my breath, I found I was flooded with intense emotion, akin to tsunami-level inundation. The times I allowed myself to fully experience grief also meant I allowed fear and hopelessness in. Simply put, it was frightening and overwhelming. But ironically, the simple act of mindful breathing allowed me to move forward as the waves of emotion would engulf me and then dissipate. And I would feel peace, however momentary. But it was enough to sustain me until the next difficult moment.
The thing about grief is that it reminds you that you were lucky enough to have something worth losing. And to be that lucky means that I have something for which to be deeply grateful. I’ve lost a great deal the past couple of years though as one close friend reminded me, I’ve gained a lot as well. And so the practice of gratitude applies in both times of despair and happiness, even as my emotions vacillate from one extreme to another. I have loved and been loved. I love and am loved.
I finish class despite having to sit out several poses. Not my best practice ever but the best I could today. I didn’t always hold form in the poses that I did do. But I made it to the end without giving up. That’s my goal for everyday.
Finding Love in Myself. (Boy)
I recently took a break from writing. I needed to catch up with myself, to stop myself from going over the edge. The whole purpose of this blog was to explore the idea of love. But I guess a natural law of this world is that one cannot have too much happiness without an equal share of pain. I guess the same principle applies to love. Love and heartbreak—two sides of a thin, fragile coin.
I never imagined that it would end as quickly as it came. Everyone had warned me of the dangers of a long distance relationship. Now I understand that long distance, particularly for gay couples, is a main ingredient for disaster. And long distance coupled with differences in maturity and cultural understanding…… Well, all my friends warned me. They thought I was delusional for falling for him…
The moment of impact resembled the climax to a shitty soap opera. I had invested my entire summer into saving up money so that my visit would be perfect. We talked many times about the amazing time we would have together in the city. The days would be busy and exciting, the nights would be romantic and filled with adventures. Nothing else saturated my mind besides this trip. I knew that our distance was causing insecurities and doubts for both of us, but I was confident that my visit would fix everything. But he chose to end it right before I was getting ready to meet him. No warning, no signs. Not even an apology. When I asked him why, all he could give me was, “I don’t know, I don’t understand my emotions.”
Nonetheless, I went to New York City. What was supposed to be a couple’s reunion turned into an adventure for one. I had already bought my ticket, so it wasn’t like I could back out after building so much excitement for the trip. Last minute arrangements were made, and I booked the cheapest hotel I could find. One of my best girlfriends encouraged me to go and enjoy myself, and I needed a distraction to take my mind off of him.
As it turns out, the trip was fantastic. It was an eye-opener of all the possibilities out there. Maybe I am lucky, or maybe I am very sociable, but I became friends with one of the most popular Asian gay guys in the entire city! On top of that, he works with celebrities and rich people, hehe. He took me to a gay Asian party, where I was so ecstatic to see two floors filled with all sorts of gorgeous Asian men—fit, sculpted, and smooth. There, I met an assortment of talented guys, including financial accountants, artists, and even a pop singer. Many asked me to hang out the next day, but very unfortunately I had to return to the boringness of the South.
Just this past weekend, a group of the friends I had met in the city decided to drive 8 hours down to visit me. I felt extremely flattered, considering the fact that they’re coming all this way when they already have everything there is to do in NYC. Someone told me I am a cute suburban boy who belonged in the city. I absolutely agree.
Now that they’ve left, I feel a new sense of confidence and awareness. I feel stupid for giving my heart and soul to an immature boy who never appreciated all that I did. I feel even more stupid for willing to give all of myself to him because I was so convinced that love was worth all the effort.
The love that once existed in the relationship was real, and it was fiery. We were so passionate about each other at one point. But now that I think about it, it was passion for all the wrong reasons. I loved him for him, but he loved the feeling of being in love more than he loved me. He once told me all his insecurities, and how he is ashamed of himself. I wanted him to accept him for who he is, I wanted to give him the confidence. Now I understand that he was never ready to accept someone else because he has not even accepted himself.
I have given myself time to feel sad, but now I am giving myself closure. I am seeing the new possibilities out there, and for once, I realize that I have the hot shit to get a guy that is worth all the effort. Perhaps this whole experience was a lesson to teach me to rely on myself, to find happiness in my own strengths. So I think for now, I plan to focus my efforts on loving myself again, and everything will be sweet.