What You Carry in Your Heart

In the desert, the hour before sunset feels like someone turned down the oven thermometer and set out that day’s pie, with its perfectly golden edges, for everyone to savor.  It is a magical time as the light and the dark merge.

The Monastery was at its breath-taking best; a brilliant carnelian like the gem the ancients placed on the dead to protect them during their voyage to the afterlife.

Less than twenty people sat at the Monastery Café savoring the view before beginning their walk down the stairs.  It was now or never.

Eva anjayasana at Monastery small v2

Emulating the mischievous Hanuman, the saffron-colored, monkey-god, I scrambled up into the cavern.  The Ramayana tells how he used his siddhis to shape-shift.  Perched on the edge, I bowed deep into hanumanasana.  My whole body grew and filled the monastery’s entrance before shrinking down to normal.

Hanumanasana in monastery petra jordan 2013

Amazed, others tried to access the “cave’s” power.

One man did flips.

Maaz tried handstands.

bedouin boys sitting on monastery petra jordan

The Bedouin boys climbed to the top of the temple and dangled their legs over the edge, hoping they would be stretched to the ground.

Their faces, arms and legs remained unchanged.  And my secret stayed in my heart.

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On to Aqaba

On to Aqaba south on the desert highway

Inspired by Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia, “On to Aqaba” became our cry as we headed south on the Desert Highway.

WAdi rum rest house v2

After parking our SUV at the Wadi Rum Village Rest House, a young Arab pulled up behind us.

“Mohammed Mutlak camp?” he inquired.  “Welcome,” he said pointing to the back of his Toyota pick-up.  “Please get in.”

The padded seats did not look too comfortable to me.

“Why don’t I drive my car,” I suggested.

Abdullah shrugged, “If you want but you will miss breathing the fresh desert air.”  He waved his hand in the air.

“I think I should drive,” I told my waiting friends.

“Thelma,” my friend counseled, “They do this all the time.”

I relented, and we hefted our luggage into the back of the truck.

As Abdullah sped through the deep, red sand, our hair was mussed.  Our noses were filled with pink dust.  Dogs chased us.  Our teeth rattled.  Still, it was better that I had not attempted to drive.

We officially arrived at our camp just before the sun set.  We had enough time to do some yoga before cracking open a bottle of white wine and toasting our driver and our lovely camp.

To be continued……

ABOUT MOHAMMED MUTLAK CAMP

Mohammed Mutlak Camp is found in the southern-most tip of Wadi Rum.  It is a lovely camp.  You can contact them via email or call Mohammed directly at 00 962 7 7721 5675.  My review is on TripAdvisor.

ABOUT ARRIVING IN WADI RUM

Driving south on the Desert Highway, just past the town Ar-Rashdiyya, (past Ma’an) there is a big petrol station on the left.  You pass it and the road to Wadi Rum, then make a U-turn.  You turn right (east) onto the Rum road.  It is about 12 kilometers to the Wadi Rum Visitor Center.

There you will be greeted by a hoard of young Arab men offering taxi rides or camps.  If you have made reservations, one of them will announce himself as the Mohammed Mutlak representative.  You pay him the entrance fee to the reserve.  20JD for a four-wheel drive and 5JD per person.  Do not despair, there does not appear to be any “official” manning the ticket counter at the center.  Wadi Rum is run by the Bedouin.  They all know each other.

He will direct you to drive to the Wadi Rum village and to park at the Wadi Rum Rest House.  There someone else will pick you up.

ABOUT WINE IN JORDAN

Jordanians grew grapes and make wine.  However, the only places I have noticed wine or alcohol for sale is at the airport or in higher-end hotels.  We bought our own bottles at Bahrain Duty Free and carried them on the plane, car and camel as we traveled.

Over the Rub al Khali

over rub al khali in gulf air jet

Flying over the Rub al Khali, Louise and I flipped through Gulf Air’s September magazine and talked about the articles.  A travel writer, Louise used to be the editor for the magazine.

IMG_5040

There was an article about the Sharabi sisters.  The daughters of an American woman and a Bahraini man, the three women are artists.  Yasmin is the curator at the Waterline Gallery.  She is one of my yoga teachers.  Her husband organizes the increasingly popular, FarmFest concerts.  Recently I texted him after I saw his smiling face featured on a local billboard.

Ah, the small world of Bahrain.

It’s October, Think Pink

Just because I’ve had my eyes focused on the computer screen doesn’t mean things aren’t happening on this island.

The big Think Pink Gala has been postponed this year.  Hmmm. But there are other events to attend to help raise money for a MRI  at the government hospital.  Early detection of breast cancer does not seem to be a priority.  It took a female, expat nurse to create this initiative seven years ago.  Two-thirds of the 600,000BD needed have been raised so far.

Thursday October 11th is the Open Fitness Day at World Beat Center from 9-1.  Tickets are 10BD and can be purchased today or tomorrow.

Then Marwa Rashid Al Khalifa’s Exhibit will be opening on Saturday October 13 from 4-6pm at World Beat Center.  All proceeds from the sales will be donated to Think Pink.

One good thing about yoga is I am much more aware of the havoc sitting at a desk for hours does to my body.  Daily exercise is critical.  Yoga has really helped me strengthen my core, lengthen my spine and build deep muscles.  Yesterday, Yogini Virginie’s encouragement got me into the wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) AND the peacock shoulder stand (Pincha Mayurasana).

Plate 357 is 48-year old B.K.S. Iyengar doing the peacock shoulder stand.

Plate 358 – that’s just showing off.

Check out World Beat’s new website.  If the yoginis and the other women at World Beat can get me whipped into shape in a few short months, there is hope for anyone.

tiny OM Opens His Shop

tiny Om came into being during our yoga training.  Our talented French artist Virginie began illustrating the asanas using a figure she named “tiny Om”.

tiny Om is a talented yogi.  While I was mastering TADASANA, tiny Om had quickly learned the 49 asanas taught in class and explained them in his own special way – bellybutton out.

Over the months as the yoga training sank in deeper, tiny Om inspired Virginie to create a line of rose and white gold, chakra necklaces and bracelets.  The first exhibition will take place June 20, 2012.

If an ocean or two prevents you from attending this opening, you can visit tiny Om’s e-shop.

Virginie’s talent and time all goes towards her favorite charity in France.  The profits support Presence, a home for developmentally disabled children.

This is the soft compassionate heart of a true yogi.

Namaste Virginie and tiny Om.

Bird Pranayama – Breathing Lessons

“Out of the clouds I hear a faint bark, as of a faraway dog. It is strange how the world cocks its ear to that sound, wondering.   Soon it is louder: the honk of geese, invisible, but coming on.

The flock emerges from the low clouds, a tattered banner of birds, dipping and rising, blown up and blown down, blown together and blown apart, but advancing, the wind wrestling lovingly with each winnowing wing. When the flock is a blur in the far sky I hear the last honk, sounding taps for summer.

It is warm behind the driftwood now, for the wind has gone with the geese.

So would I — if I were the wind.”
― Aldo Leopold, The Sand County Almanac

We don’t have any trees in our backyard.  If the neighbors’ trees didn’t love extending their branches over the twelve foot wall to touch our house, the morning sun would beam straight into our bedroom room.  Just as we appreciate the trees’ shelter, the birds love congregating among the leaves.

This morning just as the dawn crept around the blackout curtains, a bird began his morning singing.  Despite the air conditioner’s roar, his effort pierced my sleep.

Tired, I felt like cursing him but held my thoughts and listened, waiting for him to go away.

His song was full of effort.  In my mind’s eye, I could see him deeply inhaling as if lifting his wings up into the sky then vigorously closing them, forcing the air through his entire body.  The force produced his loud chirp.  He continued at least five minutes.  It reminded me of the pranayama or breathing exercise I did just the previous evening in my yoga class.

As we lifted our arms above our heads, we inhaled.  Then quickly and with strength we pulled our arms down to our sides, releasing the breath.  It was a very vigorous exercise.

The bird slowed down and I listened, wondering whether he was finished.

But he was not.

His breathing evened out and became quieter as he inhaled deeply then let his exhale gently carry the song.  The pace reminded me of nadi shodana breathing.

After a few minutes of nadi shodana, he started his third round, the vigorous bhastrika.  For the bhastrika  or bellows breath, the inhale is rather quiet as the effort goes towards strongly contracting the abdomen, forcing the air out the nostrils.  It is considered to be an advanced breathing technique.  Unlike me, the bird was quite an expert and did several rounds without passing out.

I knew the ancient yogis used to look to nature – the plants, birds and animals – for answers to their deepest questions.  In the morning sun, the bird gathered his prana for the day.  And I wondered – was it the study of birds the led the yogis to create pranayama, a breathing exercise said to revitalize the body?

Like the Taoists, shamans and yogis of millennium past, after years of carefully observing nature’s patterns and comparing conventional wisdom against what the land showed him, Aldo Leopold too came upon an answer to his deepest question – the idea of a land ethic.

In The Sand County Almanac, he described the lessons he learned observing nature and considered how man might learn to live as a steward rather than a thief.  And although he said poets did a better job describing nature’s beauty, in the end, all the hours he spent watching geese and storks while taking copious notes turned him into a poet.

For Earth Day April 22, 2012, Green Fire the documentary about Aldo Leopold makes its television debut.  It will be shown six times on Wisconsin Public Television between April 20 – 27.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation has many outreach programs for educators and interested people.  By watching Green Fire or looking at the foundation’s website, you can learn how to teach children that eggs come from a chicken and not a grocery store.

You Can’t Be Grumpy When Julio Sings

The last three days I have been feeling quite grumpy.

It’s because I am having to come to terms with the age-related adjustments I must make to my yoga practice.  As I watch my young teacher bend, bend, bend, my ego is having difficulty accepting that I cannot mimic her without injuring my knees, back or _____   (insert nearly any body part).

Perhaps next week.  If only I stretch a little further……..

Last night Mojo and I attended Julio Iglesias’ concert at the Arad Fort.  He came to Bahrain as part of The Spring of Culture.  Even though I only knew his “All The Girls I Loved Before” duet with Willie Nelson, we both agreed the show was terrific.

 

The good news was his voice is still strong.  And he was still surrounded with young women whose legs sliding out of their evening dresses trounced Angelina Jolie on the red carpet.

HRH King Hamad was impressed too.  He presented the 69-year old Spaniard an award for his prolific musical achievements.

I can only imagine Julio must be pretty grumpy today after the local newspaper featured his award on the front page.  Why? The photo was taken from his left side.

Based upon his myriad of publicity shots, Julio prefers his right side.  Even in his younger days, he entered the stage from the left and sang to his partner so his right side faced the audience.  The same was true last night.  His three sinewy backup singers all stood on the right side of the stage.

After flying in from a concert in Moscow and two nights outside in the Bahrain winter, I hope today he is resting and not obsessing about the photo.  But I know as I watched him carefully execute his choreographed moves, his age was on his mind.

“I am 47 years old” he joked with the audience.

He pretended his water was vodka.
When his saxophonist offered him a scarf, he turned it down, shouting “I feel terrific!”

Wearing only his suit jacket, he sang for an hour and a half while being pelted by an icy desert wind.

Watching him I wondered “at his age, why is he subjecting himself to this?”

Today I went to see my young hairdresser after a two month hiatus.  He looked at me and said, “You look great.  Have you lost weight?”

“No,” I said thinking a moment.  “But I have been immersed in my yoga training since January.”

“I have never exercised.  My doctor told me I should do yoga.  Everyone says yoga is excellent for you.” He continued, “You look different, better.  After seeing how you were walking, I am motivated to find a yoga class for me.”

I was so pleased.

“Yoga is great,” I agreed.  And thinking about Julio telling us how his music came from his heart and how much he enjoyed singing to people around the world, I added,

“And always do what you love.  That will keep you feeling young.”

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