They say follow your bliss but I say follow your pain. Because I’m starting to notice that when I follow my pain, then my bliss follows me.
This happened recently with my arm pain. The pain had become so bad that at the end of class, sitting in final cross-legged position, instead of joining my om with those of my neighboring mat-mates, I was busy scanning my arms and shoulders, trying to pinpoint exactly where it hurt most. Or should I say where it didn’t hurt.
By the time we namasted, my inner whining was so loud I could barely hear the post-class chat I love so well. I left my mat where it was and cornered my teacher, my tense voice the very definition of the squeaky wheel.
I elaborated on the arm and shoulder pain he’s all too familiar with. Besides being my teacher, I am also lucky enough to occasionally work with him as a massage therapist.
So I didn’t really need to say my fingers and forearms hurt while I type and my shoulders hurt while I sleep. But I did it anyway.
“Would you like some cheese with that whine?” he asked.
I told him I’ve been doing fewer chatarungas, fewer handstands and no between-class weights. But instead of feeling like my arms are healing, it feels like they’re just getting weaker. And fatter. So now I’m not just whiney and pain-averse, but also a vain diva. He patiently ran down some arm, shoulder and neck exercises we often do in class and reminded me of one in particular.
“Put your arm straight out to your side at shoulder height. Hand on the wall, like a stop sign,” he said. I did, imagining I was saying ‘stop’ to my arm pain. It felt like fireworks running up and down my arm. I’ve started to think of this feeling as taking the should out of my shoulders. I should write a new end for my show. I should find out what the pineal gland really does. I should post my podcast to the My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat Facebook page. I should Google remedies for arm pain. I should Twitter taking the should out of shoulders.
“I’ll do it every morning and night,” I said, like a convert. And I do. I’m diligent. In a way diligence is exactly what has gotten me into this mess. My diligence has turned me into an armed robber. I rob my arms of their ease by using them too diligently: Diligently connecting with friends online, diligently connecting the dot-coms between everything from cobra pose to coconuts to orbs.
The word arm comes from the PIE (proto-Indo Eurpoean) base *ar- which actually means “to join.” I started to think about how much arms are about joining. Joining in with others online. Or hugging.
I felt some nerves coming back to life and some tenseness loosening. So I started showing the exercise to my comedy students and even at a party one night to my friends. I had to laugh because years ago another teacher used the term party pose for show-offy asana. Now here I was between glasses of wine, watching my friends whine and confess that they too were having all kinds of arm and shoulder troubles.
The next night I dreamt my arms were being treated with electrically charged acupuncture needles. It felt amazingly great. And in the left inner forearm, where the needle had been, an outline of a flower appeared. Subsequently I learned this is the PU4 acupressure spot, which has to do with increasing qi, or prana or life-force. It is also related to issues of the heart, as do all things with the arms, which are on the heart meridian. And how did I learn all this? By researching online, of course. Two steps forward, one step back. Or now, since I measure things as being click-worthy, two clicks forward, one arm spasm back.
But the dream didn’t end with the flower. After some electricity flowed in, I sprouted an extra set of arms. And not just more arms. Transparent, magical, mystical arms. Doubled arms like all those the deities have.
I started clicking around for clues to the meaning of this dream. But nothing was clicking with the clicking. Then I stumbled upon Kali, whose name means black. And I remembered a second part of the dream. My dream healer had been wearing a black T-shirt. The exact opposite of classical healers, whom we actually call white coats. And I remembered that after the dream treatment my healer had lain down with me and hugged me so well that when I arose I was highly aroused.
Okay, maybe I’ve been eating too much maca. Or maybe the idea of having an extra set of arms is just that exciting to me. Or maybe something more profound had happened.
I’ve always shied away from Kali, preferring, like most people, the also-quadruple-armed but much more cuddly elephant deity Ganesh. There’s nothing cuddly about Kali aka the Black Goddess. Or in my case the black T-shirted Goddess.
So in the dream I was Kali, and I was also hugging Kali. And here’s the thing about Kali and her four arms. Two are for creating and two are for destroying.
Do we need to embrace the primal truth that we are all joined together as Kali now? That we created, or helped to create, a world in which every system is dissolving: the banking and ecological and Hollywood systems? The whole Cartesian system of thought?
That’s what I’m spending so much time online trying to understand – the dissolution and how to be part of the recreation.
So I have resolved that I am going to start hugging more. Not in an Amma way. But just as I go.
I once read that the key to a happy relationship is six hugs a day. Greg and I notice that we often don’t meet our quota. Not for lack of love, but for lack of focus. And sometimes from shying away from the fierceness of hugging, which does have a Kali-like quality, an ability to destroy a mood or a wall, and create something else. A Yoga, a union.
Sometimes it’s easier to click click click than it is to wrap our four arms together and stick with it. But I’ve started to feel that these turbulent changing times (some say it’s the Kali Yuga in fact) demand this kind of loving fierceness. And besides, hugging is one of the only things I can do with my arms that doesn’t hurt.
Beth Lapides is currently touring her show 100% Happy 88% of the Time and teaching The Comedian’s Way workshops. Subscribe to the new My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat podcast on iTunes or listen to it on bethlapides.com. Email her at [email protected].
By Beth Lapides