90 Days With Leonard Cohen. An Essay On Numbers:

So today marks the three month anniversary of my one year sojourn with Leonard Cohen.

Three months.

That’s 90 days.

That’s 129,600 minutes, etc.

Today also marks the half-way point of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge.

Two weeks to go, and don’t the kids know it.

I thought a nice thing to write about today in lieu of all these numbers might be modern mans approach to reaching a milestone.

The half-way mark.

The quarter-way mark.

Getting over the hump.

One of my yoga instructors has been saying– since we began this challenge– that it only takes three weeks to make a habit. Sometimes she says 28 days, but I’ve heard the whole ‘three weeks’ to habit sentiment in the past.

Three weeks in to my Year With Leonard Cohen I would’ve agreed with her.

That’s nearly three months ago now.

Three weeks is almost a month and by that stage there’s a sense of normalcy to what you’re doing on a daily basis.

Writing a daily blog starts to take on the same kind of thought processes as say, making dinner, or taking a shit.

You just do it.

But what of the half-way mark?

The quarter mile stone?

Both yesterday and today have been pretty interesting times at the Bikram Yoga Studio in Darlinghurst.

Half-way and interestingly enough, people are starting to cave.

Injuries are occurring, people are tired.

This isn’t a habit yet.

It’s still just really fucking hard.

Your body is exhausted and the moment the lights come on and you get up off the floor and stand up on your mat, to face yourself, in all your bra and undied glory– it begins– all over again. From the start. And in front of a mirror, just incase you were beginning to doubt yourself. There’s a mirror. Great.

I walked in to the studio yesterday thinking I might be the only person feeling this was. Funny really. How we do that. Think we’re the only ones.

A lot of people sat out of poses yesterday. Too tired. Too sore. Too pissed off with themselves for continually falling out of poses. Making a mess of something graceful. And it’s hot, right… It’s really fucking hot.

But there are things to hold on to, I tell myself. My sweat now tastes like spring water. It really does. My skin is so clean and so soft I can’t help but touch myself to sleep. It’s glorious.

Case in point, I met my sister for dinner last week. She rubbed my back after saying some such thing and bare as it was she just kept rubbing and rubbing. “My gawd!” She exclaimed. “Your skin feels amazing!”

But some people can do this;

And I can’t even stand to look at myself in the mirror some days.

So why do it?

A friend asked me over dinner this week why so much of process this year has seemingly involved self-flagellation.

He was confused when I decided to go and do the Vipassana course in the Blue Mountains last Novemver. He was more confused when we met up for breakfast the morning I left. I just sat there, staring at my food, all nervous and silent.

“You don’t have to do all the hard things,” he said.

But he was wrong.

And he was wrong for a really simple reason.

Why do it?

Because I said I would.

Because I’d committed to it.

Because there’s a pay off.

And the pay off varies depending on the commitment, I think.

What do I get out of subtracting myself from social situations daily to write a blog about Leonard Cohen?

What do I get out of dragging my ass to a Bikram yoga studio every-single-fucking-day, my apartment wreaking of damp Basmati rice as my bathroom is turned in to a Chinese laundry of drying, sweaty items?

What do I get out of sitting on a mountain top in noble silence for 10 days without dinner, or Facebook or eye contact or music?

The pay off in each and every one of these pursuits, for me, is the same.

The pay off is discipline.

And the discipline don’t come easy.

If it did we’d all have published books and we’d all live our lives disease free. Pain free. Without suffering. Without grief.

So I conducted a wee google search earlier today using the words: ‘half way there’ for inspiration.

I found this:

Which made me laugh.

And this:

Which I thought was cute.

And this, which made me laugh– really hard– because I’m not really sure how it relates to being half-way anywhere. Maybe the photographer was half-way through an episode of 90210 at the time (?):

In fact, I didn’t find a whole lot in the inspiration department, which was kind of fitting, because I think life’s a bit like that.

You can’t always look outside of yourself.

You can’t always put your hand up and ask for help.

Sometimes you just have to dig a little bit deeper, push a little bit harder, even when there’s nothing left in the tank and you feel a lot like giving up.

A lot of people refer to the series of breakdowns they have while completing the Vipassana course.

Most mention Day Six as the day where they really hit a wall.

Where they really want to scream and shout, throw things, drink wine, smoke cigarettes, fuck loudly and ideally, you know… listen to music… leave.

Day Six is the day after the hump.

You’re just passed half-way and all you really want to do is leave.

It’s kind of funny, if you think about it.

You’re closer to your goal then you’ve ever been before and all you can think about it quitting.

The same instructor that has been particularly hard on all of us throughout the course of this Bikram Challenge said an interesting thing to me the other day.

She calls me “Coffey,” which I like, and often makes a comment about my blog as I swipe my membership card.

A few mornings ago now I was feeling particularly good, particularly strong, I actually did two classes that day– and as I was marking off my name on the Challenge Board I asked her how many people generally cave.

Give up.

Can’t do it.

Pull out.

Throw it in.

She smiled widely and said that I would amazed at how many people quit.

“Oh Coffey, people get injured, people get busy, work, family, all number of excuses. But not you. You won’t. I can tell.”

She glared at me and I knew she was trying to give me something.

Something she’d found for herself.

If only a little reverse-psychology.

Something she’d earned, the hard way.

Whatever it was it worked.

There’s absolutely no way I’d throw it in.

Even though I’m exhausted and my right eye keeps twitching and my hips really need at least two days off.

Like a flower petal blooming… half-way there…

I had a bit of a spack attack on Day Six at Vipassana actually.

As I said, most of the people I’ve spoken to who have completed the course say the same thing.

The Sittings Of Strong Determination (whereby you sit and are not permitted to move an iota for an entire hour) were beginning to feel longer and longer and longer. By the third sitting on the sixth day I wanted to fucking kill myself. Or the instructor. Or the person sitting next to me for seemingly handling it all better than I was.

I walked back to my room from the hall and sat on my bed and cried for a good hour and a half.

I was crying because it was hard.

I was crying because I wanted to leave.

I’d found enough, I’d told myself.

I know myself well enough. I want to go home now.

But I’d also promised myself that no matter what happened in there I was not allowed to leave.

I thought about leaving everyday.

More so, of course, on the Sixth Day.

But my thoughts of leaving were just that– thoughts— not options.

Today during Ustrasana (Camel pose), I pushed myself further and harder than I ever have before:

To those of you whom practice, you will know how much of a feat it is to make a  breakthrough in this posture, and to those of you who don’t, you’ll probably think this doesn’t actually look that hard…

It is.

Believe me.

This bad boy is a really, really big deal.

It takes a lot of time to make much progress in Ustrasana, I have found (and observed) and no matter how much you practice I think it always makes you want to puke… Today it made me cry.

This is kind of common, and it was funny actually, as I was arriving this morning, a student from the earlier class was apologising to the instructor for losing her shit during Ustrasana.

It makes things come out.

It opens up the heart chakra (cakraṃ चक्रं ([ˈtʃəkrə̃]):

Which is referred to in Hindu as Anahata, which I really like as anata (あなた) in Japanese means you. See below:
Anahata, or Anahata-puri, or padma-sundara is related to the thymus, located in the chest. The thymus is an element of the immune system as well as being part of the endocrine system. It is the site of maturation of the T cells responsible for fending off disease and may be adversely affected by stress. Anahata is symbolised by a lotus flower with twelve petals. (See also heartmind). Anahata is related to the colours green or pink. Key issues involving Anahata involve complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection and well-being. Physically Anahata governs circulation, emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion.[34]
As I exited the posture my instructor commended me on my grace and execution.
This doesn’t happen a lot.
I’m kind of clumsy.
But still, I cried, and for a number of reasons, and interestingly, not for very long.
I cried because this chakra is all wrapped up in the immune and endocrine systems, of which my body continues to juggle a tricky little dance.
I cried because in the process of writing, and living, one is bound to encounter  issues involving Anahata: Complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection and well-being.
I cried because physically Anahata governs circulation, because emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, and because mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion.
Which brings me back to my point.
Why bother?
Because there’s a pay off.
There’s always a pay off.
And because we’re half-way there…


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