Why is it that nothing ever looks the way I intend it to? I just don’t get it. There was a time just over a year ago when I would practice Ashtanga six times a week. I would wake up at 6am on days off, if need be, so long as that meant I could squeeze an exploration of the Primary Series into the span of my day.
Then life hit. I do not write this out of weakness. I do not write it out of anger, or resentment, or forgiveness, or indifference, or any other possible Anything. I write this because there has been a shift and I am admitting it aloud. It glares back at me when I arrive, big toes touching, at the foot of my mat. I have hit a wall.
I say that the teacher-led classes I have been regularly attending-which, admittedly, have not necessarily been at the level I was striving for when I first came back to Minneapolis-are the only ones my schedule permits, but here is the truth: there are days off when I need to sleep in. I attend classes that are not self-led (i.e., Mysore, which you can read more about here) because I have had trouble concentrating these days. Having an external voice guiding the series of postures I have familiarized myself with for about two years now helps me to keep that in check for the requisite 90-ish minutes before I fly back, full-force, into overstimulation.
Admittedly, I make time for other distractions, like, six times a week. I still do this blog thing. I brainstorm a lot. I cook. I write. I travel. I spend more time with people than ever. I finally started practicing my French. I take pictures of things I find beautiful. It’s just that the mindful, concentrative activities I used to engage in are harder these days. I finally started reading again when J.K. Rowling released a new book. This is because, for me, the things that quiet the external world require focus, and right now, that requires sincere effort.
The universe has such an interesting way of making things glaringly obvious, of course; when, last week, I forced myself to attend a compact, one hour Ashtanga class, I promptly pulled a muscle in my armpit at the very first order, “Ekam, inhale.” Quite suddenly, I had no choice but to focus on the things that have, for some time, limited my focus. Unlike other pulled muscles, that one in my armpit really hollered. Vinyasas were skipped. Purvottanasana came and went (let’s be real here: WHEW!). Sirsasana was reduced to a pathetically accommodating Child’s Pose in which I positioned my hands the only way I had found that did not shoot pains into my shoulder and arm. Friends, I meant what I said earlier: I hit a wall. And my body really let me know.
This is the story of how, for the first time in ages, I sat for an entire hour with my feelings. Because I was forced to.
The Ashtangi side of my brain kindly observed the moment I was having. While I know it is necessary to face the things we are carrying, I have to be honest for five seconds to say: God, it was awful. All these things I have been deflecting and diverting for months and months weaseled their way into my space and forced me to try and sit comfortably. That inhale-inflicted chip on my shoulder even followed me all the way home to Canada-where I saw family and ate roasted potatoes-before deciding I had learned my lesson.
With space and willingness and time to ferment, I think for the first time I can see the goodness in me that has had time to develop. That sixty minutes marks a speckle in the span of my life, and it is one of release–like the hollow pop! of the lid from a can of freshly opened pickles. With one swift twist, all that has stewed and brined beneath the surface is revealed. In its time of entrapment, the mixture that has mingled was really just developing character all along. One crisp bite, and, you know, it becomes clear that sometimes the process can be pretty important. In fact, it’s kind of transformative.
Take this acidic twist on the juicy, purple burst of blueberries, pickled with chamomile, cinnamon, and fresh ginger. With a little heat, a little sour, and a little time to rest, the berries take on that familiar, briny snap, while boasting warm spice. And before you know it, you may find yourself in your kitchen in pajamas with a fork and chipmunk cheeks full of tart, sweet, pickled blueberries, contemplating that whole concept of catharsis and junk. Lesson learned: it isn’t such a bad thing to let things settle beneath the surface before they become something new.
Thank goodness for canning.
Makes enough to fill 3 8-oz jars
1 cup blueberries, divided
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp dried chamomile
1 tbsp sea salt
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Rinse blueberries and divide evenly between clean, dry, canning jars (about 1/3 cup in each). Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring vinegar, cinnamon, peppercorns, chamomile, salt, and ginger to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour in sugar and stir until incorporated (the liquid will thicken a bit). Pour over blueberries and lid the jars. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, place the jars, lid side up, in the water to seal. Allow to boil for 15 minutes, then remove the jars carefully from the water. Let the jars cool completely before refrigerating. Let the blueberries rest at least 24 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.
Ways to serve them: on crusty bread with brie, pistachios, and fresh thyme; over vanilla ice cream with fruity olive oil and sea salt; with flaky, roasted white fish; with arugula, caramelized onions, gruyere, and homemade croutons; as the purple stars of a cheese course.