If there ever was a time to flow with Grace, then this is it.
These past few days have been full of contrasts.
I’d been looking forward to the weekend of September 3-5 for months for I was going to be attending a yoga weekend workshop hosted by our local Anusara teacher, Katie Lane. For several years, Katie has brought over top Anusara yoga instructors from the United States and I’ve had the privilege of meeting and practicing with two amazing women, Desiree Rumbaugh and B.J. Galvan in the past.
This workshop was being led by Noah Maze` and the focus of the weekend was the weaving together of tantric hindu myths of heroes and heroines with our yoga asanas to help us create a stronger practice.
Forty of us gathered on Friday night for our first two+ hour session. People had flown and driven from as far as Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, and Dunedin. Noah, a truly gifted storyteller, regaled us with the story of Rama, Sita and Hanuman, of which details can be found in the Ramayana. But the super short version goes something like this: Rama and Sita were married. The evil King Ravana coveted Sita and managed to kidnap her and take her to the island kingdom of Lanka. Rama befriended the monkeys and the monkey king, Hanuman. Hanuman was able to leap across the oceans to the isle of Lanka and rescue Sita. Rama and Sita live happily ever after <grin>.
Noah’s version of the story was a bit more captivating than mine, but the gist of the teaching was focused on Hanuman – the monkey who bridged an ocean, who represented the bridge between two worlds, past and future. He did not live in either, he was in the present, in the now, in the moment. And as Noah led us in an hour-long practice of hip opening asanas which culminated in splits, we were ever reminded of Hanuman and being present, focused, and aligned with our breath and our bodies.
Noah also talked about the concepts of Lila and Karma. Dualities. Karma representing the known, fact, cause and effect; Lila representing the unknown, unlimited possibilities, freedom, and creativity. We are forever dancing between Lila and Karma and when on the mat, the two weave together, the known pose of the asana woven with the creativity and freedom of expression and playfulness. We all left the evening session eager to come back early Saturday morning for the full day session.
Well, we all know what happened next. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Canterbury at 4:35 am on September 4th. I was rocked awake from a deep sleep and it took a mere second to realize that the ground was a’ quaking. I got up to run to the door jamb and was thrown down (it’s was like being at an amusement park funhouse where the floor shakes from side to side as you’re trying to walk forward – nearly impossible!). I could hear things crashing throughout the house. For some serendipitous reason, Bruce was also with me in Christchurch (he’d been in Wainui and wasn’t going to be back in Christchurch until Saturday afternoon. But some intuition brought him back early and he arrived in Christchurch at 1 am Saturday morning. Read Bruce’s account here).
The power was out within seconds and two aftershocks followed in quick succession. We lay in bed, Nina snuggled between us and just breathed and listened and waited and tried to go back to sleep which was nearly impossible.
When daylight arrived, I had a look around the house for damage. Structurally, everything was fine. Materially, I lost a few of my favorite things, namely most of my dishes and glassware. Small price to pay.
We had phone connection and calls from the United States came in within the hour. Several text messages came in from friends around town and around New Zealand. The yoga morning workshop which was supposed to start at 9:30 am got canceled, but it was decided we would resume for the afternoon session at 2 pm.
What does one do after such an earth shattering experience? We connect with our loved ones, we reach out, we make sure everyone is okay. I was on the phone for several hours checking in with people; Ollie arrived at 8 am and gave us the ‘word from the street’. Power out, most roads open except within the city centre, many brick chimneys cracked.
Contrasts. The day was stunningly beautiful, clear, and crisp. The snow-capped alps stood gallantly in the distance. I went to yoga.
Karma – fact, the known. We expect the earth to be stable, we expect to go about our business as usual every day. Lila – the unknown, unlimited possibilities. Gaia decided to throw some Lila at us and provided us in her playful way with a bit of the unknown. Suddenly the earth was not stable, not as we expected. It was a different day.
Noah, once again, led us in an amazing practice and despite the tremours that continued throughout the afternoon, everyone breathed and laughed and we created amazing asanas being led into arm balances, headstands, and full wheels. I was pumped with adrenaline and feeling grateful for being alive.
Contrasts. Christchurch was declared under a state of emergency and the city centre was locked down from 7 pm – 7 am. In my neighborhood, only 4 or 5 kms west of the city centre, not much had happened. Our neighbors to one side had part of their brick wall crumble; another neighbor to the right had two cracked brick chimneys. Otherwise, all looked exactly as it always had. On the eastern part of town, some neighborhoods, built on part of the riverbed, experienced extreme liquefaction with sandy ‘volcanoes’ springing up everywhere. A whole neighborhood had to be evacuated and homes have been deemed uninhabitable.
Contrasts. Destruction and sadness compared to normalcy and happiness. Miraculously no one has been killed.
Sept 4, 2010 Christchurch, NZ earthquake, duration: 30 seconds, magnitude 7.1, life lost = 0.
Oct 17, 1989 San Francisco earthquake, duration: 15 seconds, magnitude 7.1, life lost = 67. (I was present for this one, having just moved to San Francisco eight weeks prior. Happened to occur on my birthday too!)
On Sunday I went off to the last day of the yoga workshop which went from 9 am – 5 pm. The day continued to be interspersed with aftershocks, yet Noah’s calmness and bright energy soothed us all. He spoke about the meaning of Anusara. “Anu” meaning “con” or “with”; “Sara” meaning “current” With the current, flowing with the current, to go with the flow, flowing with grace. Again, he led us through inspiring yoga sessions.
And here we are on Wednesday morning. There have been close to 200 aftershocks, many of them ‘fivers’. Each one seeks to unnerve you despite your intentions to go with the flow. Bruce and Nina went back to Wainui on Monday evening and reported no damage except the loss of a few glasses. I’ve spoken with the owners of our new house and they also reported no damage. We are going about our business as usual and if everything is still standing by next week, we will take possession of our new home on the 17th.
I’ve been out and about Christchurch for the last two days. The majority of areas seem fine and many businesses are operating as usual. Everyone is super friendly and eager to talk about their feelings, to share their nervousness with others, to connect.
A 5.1 rocked us this morning which shook the walls and killed the power for twenty minutes. Christchurch will continue to be under a state of emergency for at least another week. The city will not be defeated, it will rebuild. Ollie, our builder, has taken a leave from us to spearhead an Emergency Chimney Removal service. His dharma is to serve his community for he loves helping people. Bruce, Nina, and Pete our other builder are holding down Wainui. I’m staying in Christchurch, attempting to do some packing, attempting to stay connected with friends, attempting to go with the flow, to be Anusara.
I think I’ll do some yoga.