No Name. A nightmare.

11695962_10153028075294646_6883815808619485365_nShe was wearing the new burgundy t-shirt, which said ‘Spiritual Gangster’, scrawled over a fickle heart-shaped emblem, on the front. The back was empty. Her hair was greasy, scrawny straggles, flopping in thin wisps onto her shoulders, bent over a book. Cowering underneath the (fake) strains of taking examinations. Fake? Since these weren’t the real tests brought by Life. And yet they symbolised the hardest question of all: would she be good enough?

That was the stupid yet recurrent question lurking and regurgitating in her throat. She looked up. The old, crumpled, bitter woman walked over, with a piece of paper in her hand. She stopped a few feet away from No Name (sic. This girl had still not made a name for herself.), peering down at her.

The girl could not, would not wait. Her small, green-cum-yellow eyes prised themselves upon the teacher’s piece of paper, seeking her results. The woman breathed in harshly, about to utter. The girl saw the flash of her marks, breathed in terror, and bolted.

E, E, E, E, E, E, NA (worse than E. Eliminated, Dissolved, Failed, Not Even Worth Considering.).

11745307_10153028075019646_4716083301295442506_n

She ran. From the cell, from the school, from the institution, from the arena, from the prison, from the tower, from the hospital, from the family, from her stupid, worthless self. Be clear: not just to get away from those lines on a piece of paper, from exam results. She was running away from all the nuts and bolts that prevented those impatient neurones from manufacturing A Method of mutating time: barring freedom.

Not known for athleticism, the girl embodied that emblematic t-shirt, vaulted over the fence (somewhat ungracefully), and lurched across the street. She knew where she was going.

Immediately, the old trout shouted at her and demanded that she stop, stay, and receive appropriate punishment. Suppression. No Name ran faster. Old Trout set off the alarm, and alerted the Authorities. By this time, No Name was out of sight. She had to escape before the police tracked her down and restrained her. Detained her. Sedated her. Murdered her.

No Name ran towards the hedgerow. She tried to puff and wheeze (since she was not used to running) quietly, unobtrusively. She ran through the fields. It was dark by now. On the right was a bridleway. A Polish horse and rider roamed past. The horse was mincing on long, black legs that jiggled around the stones on the ground. His rider held the reins high in the air and resembled an Oriental artist. He was dressed in auburn breeches, a pink flappy smock, and white leather gloves. The horse snorted, he could smell No Name. She was going in the right direction.

It was past midnight by now. No Name knew she was a runaway in danger: the police would not be far behind. It would not be hard for them to have found inside information on where she would go. Where she always went. But that did not stop her. No one had ever quite found her Hell, except she. Hell was some atrocious hidey-hole; yet inescapable. Inevitable.

An interlude: At the crossroads in the woodland, No Name discovered a fountain spurting spouts of pure unbroken ambrosia. It was the bottom of a rainbow. The liquid glowed like magma, flirtatiously. Green shoots popped out, blooming into pretty fuchsia petals. Around the ornament a number of dappled ponies danced. Riders were small and lithe; on perfect, lilting strides of bounding connemaras. But they disappeared. In the space, No Name stepped into the ambrosia, bent her knees and drank.

Immediately the magnanimous liquid warmed her spleen. The air erupted into shingles of the rainbow’s spectrum. A pinto Marwari horse with pointy ears that touched themselves trotted past her. Revived now, sheimages-1 followed. She must flee.

The Indian horse galloped away. No Name found her own narrow path by the hedgerow and proceeded with determination. In the distance she could hear the blaring noise of a police car. It seemed to get ever louder, ever closer, ever more threatening. She was near to her place, and yet so far.

No Name tripped in the mud and fell over. She slipped into a thick, rambling wad of rough crop, grown to rear pheasants. Tumbling down the field, the earth dissolved and enveloped her. Swallowed whole, she scraped her way through the mulch and dug herself ever deeper.

Eventually No Name had buried herself entirely, until her short, scrubby fingernails broke through a hole in the soil. She had reached the tunnel. Flopping onto the floor (again, ungracefully), she heaved a breath, which was hard, since there was little air down here. Crawling on her knees, she edged forward. Her body was hot, wet with sweat, and whet with the threat of those advancing imminently behind her.

Soon she reached the end of the tunnel. It opened out into a large spray of lavender. The smell was pacifying,images but intoxifying. She was close. Pushing through the pale blue flowers, No Name stood up. By now it was nearly morning. At the end of the garden was a plain house. She was in France, in Provence, near the village called Cotignac. This was her parents’ house. They came here once a month. But now it was empty.

11751960_10153028075089646_6453826037842789680_n

No Name found the dungeon near the moat, and she jumped into it. With the last remaining surge. Around the corner was her place. The walls were red; a dark, dark red. Almost black. She had painted these old walls herself, with her blood. The space was a testimony to the foundation that beguiled all but No Name. Each time she escaped, blood burst here. It could end here.

No more exams. No more cells. No more school. No more institutions, or arenas. No prison, no tower. No hospital. No family. No more stupid, worthless self. With No Name. Here was The Method of mutating time: opening freedom.

There was a moment here, which was indescribable. Before the future took over the present (with time mutated); it was over. The blaring nee-naa of the police siren reached a harsh crescendo. A man burst in, with his truncheon (a shot of lorazopam) at the ready. No Name tried to resist; but cowered. There was nothing more she could do.

Old Trout appeared, grimacing with eerie disgust at the smell. We’ll take you away to the place where you always get better. Her words were reasonable, but No Name did not want to go back to that place, where she had No Name. Yet here was blood, just blood. Nowhere was free. Perhaps she would have to call herself: No Name Nowhere.

I took a breath, and opened my eyes. I was at the farm, with my dog still sleeping, curled up in the crook of my arm. Quite safe. With a name: Lorna Collins.
11707568_10153028075379646_3311916057730840937_n

Advertisements

Synaesthetic exercise

The high that flies amidst the cries IMG_0219 copy
belies blue dried detention.
I wretch and reach the mention.
The sty my eye has tried to dye
complies with stench of tension.

The nerves before the soaring score
reserved the floor's attention.
I tore apart the heart of gore
with and more prevention.
Pouring prayers to anti-God

the fodder was retention
staring from detention
an even store's ascension.
Soon my time's pretension
could grime the theme's prevention.

At last my wry with tied up prey
could stay and stall contention.
The fray of grey and grovelling hay
(my own and putrid venture)
was quenching thirst

and clenching (worst)
the first and final denture.
I mention this since, trenched with bliss,
it hangs my whole adventure.
The star was spent but won't relent

and calls my better scent to vent,
ferment, augment,
prevent torment,
inventing new retentions, 
with multiple dimensions.

Pranayama power from yoga in Turkey

I have just  returned from a week-long Bikram yoga retreat at Göcek, which is near the coast of Fethiye, in Turkey. This was a beautiful location — up in the mountains, where the crickets rattled maracas in the heat all day long, the sound of a male tenor voice signalling the call to prayer of Ramadan echoed through the valleys at 3am each morning, and the tinkling bells on the necks of goats rang out as the herd wandered across the dry dirt and sparse grass around the mountains. Meanwhile the heat was a duck-feathered wall that comforted, held and revived me. Reaching 39 degrees on one day, it was an excellent excuse to work hard on losing my pallor by (meditatively) lounging by the pool at the commune. But most of all, the Bikram yoga practice was magnificent. As Hasan said (in ‘Balancing Stick’): ‘Like a ‘T’ for Terrific, the Terrific Turkey Troupe, not a broken umbrella!’.

The renowned Bikram guru, Michelle Pernetta, was our leader. Her instruction and inspiration, in particular, was an enlightening experience.  She also has a wicked, wry sense of humour that was constantly insightful, sometimes hysterically funny or satirical, and always witty. Here are some photographs, a poem about how my yoga practice felt at the peak of this retreat (during the final class, to music, with Michelle, on Sunday evening), and the plans I will take forward in response to the things I learnt during this epic holiday.IMG_1925

Pranayama

IMG_1969

Michelle told me some very scary stories about how much harm my addiction to aspartamine and other sweeteners is doing to me. Did you know that sweeteners can cause brain seizures, and cannot be digested by the body, so they remain lodged in your gut?!

I also learned about different yogic practices, homeopathy, massage techniques and ‘ayurveda’ (I am a ‘Vata’ type, which means that I should eat certain types of food to regulate my basic constitution).

plan2

IMG_1893

Most of all, it was a wonderful holiday. I learnt that I am taking too much medication. The caffeine detox (I decided to give up coffee, tea, diet coke and all sweeteners)  left me so drowsy that it hurt to keep my eyes open, I felt dizzy some or most of the time, and my drishti blurred so it was harder to balance and maintain each posture. But I return to England feeling strong, energised, refreshed and enlightened. I have thrown away every product in my flat that contains any kind of sweetener. I return to the hot room tonight, at the 5 o’clock class in Cambridge (with my dearest comrades Jennifer and Theo, who (as Michelle said) have taught me so well). I will put to the test what I learned about how to practice from Michelle, and exercise my newly refined postures and extroverted, energised will to power.

photo

Accomplished: The 30-day challenge!!

IMG_1725

Elated. Proud. Grateful. Hot. Powerful. Athletic. Happy. These words describe some of the things that I feel tonight, after completing the 30 day challenge of Bikram yoga, at Ethos Hot Yoga Sports Studio in Cambridge. This involved taking a 90-minute class of Bikram yoga every day for 30 days, in a room heated to a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The point of Bikram yoga, in my mind, is to stretch and build up your body’s utmost, supple capabilities; toning and stretching muscle memory; massaging and exercising your internal organs; and relaxing your mind so it can inhabit this body’s new, pristine state of prime poise with a performance that is ever seeking immaculate perfection. This end is never possible, but striving to contort and stretch the body towards it engenders a method of living that is energising, rejuvenating and purposeful.

My path on the 30-day challenge began way before the official Day One, and if truth be told I actually did about 40 days in a row, and sometimes twice in one day. I tend to overdo things, that is, I don’t do things by half. Being committed to practice every day without fail, and having my name on the board, was at first invigorating and it became exciting to mark a cross on the chart and compare progress with other competitors in the challenge. Since, peaceful relaxation aside, there is something inherently competitive about this challenge. This is probably one of the reasons I shone through it (born to try to win, although in this competition to win is to lay still in savasana, letting the body absorb the work and allow perturbing pensive ambulation to pass by, letting go). I mean, I didn’t ‘shine’ as such. Although I always position myself on the front row (as near the heaters as possible!!), I tend to fall out of the hardest poses and I often feel ashamed of my body’s clumsy ineptitude.

I felt tired, jaded and frustrated at times, throughout the challenge. One day I kept falling asleep every time I sat down on my sofa. It was hard work. But I found better food. I bought a blender and made what I christened as a ‘power food smoothie’ to up the protein: coconut water, chia seeds, blueberries, banana, matcha green tea powder, all whirled up – whirled my energy levels up, ready to work hard with my writing and painting, and work out even harder in the hot room!

And, the more I practiced the stronger I felt. My postures improved, and I gained energy and an inner power, which I tried to direct towards each of the gruelling tasks that Bikram presents. My body gathered muscle memory. I hadn’t noticed much of a change in my shape, although I know my weight has not changed. It has remained exactly the same. I’m proud of that, for I practice Bikram in order to retain my weight, rather than to lose it. I’ve gained muscle. Kate, a fellow Bikram fan, said to me today that I have ‘a body to die for’. I was shocked! And delighted. No one has ever said something like this to me before. ‘Be proud, go out in New York and flaunt it,’ she said.

For tomorrow morning I leave Cambridge and travel to New York to organise the Making Sense colloquium at The Metropolitan Museum. This event is one of the most momentous of my life. So my elation and triumph in the yoga studio is a great way to start this epic trip.

I’m grateful to the teachers at Ethos, especially Theo, Jennifer, Jaquie, and Hassan. Their help, support and patience has been inspiring and a gift. What next? I need to practice – especially on Awkward Pose, Standing Bow and Half Locus, and all the poses really. The more you practice the further you want to go, and the harder the end result (i.e. perfection) seems. But along the way my body improves, strengthens and becomes more inhabitable. Meanwhile, my mind is calm, and satiated by the moving meditation. I can sit still in savasana. (For a short while. I’m still always the first one who gets up at the end…)

IMG_1726 IMG_1728