Fly or Monkey, Call It What You Will

YOU’RE not even anywhere near the yoga studio and already it greets you in the bus that’s just turning off from Sixth Avenue to Holland Road. “Sharks, I forgot my water bottle!” With an intake of breath and a slow, conscious sigh, you shake it off as your mind rewinds in search of a frame-by-frame replay of an earlier moment in the morning. Did I forget anything else?

You’re sifting through the things that went into your tote—toiletries, hair brush, fresh change, and then you pause. Some kind of blank, a question mark glides into the scene. Did the underwear go in? You thought you tucked it neatly between the folds of your Lululemon skirt, but wait! That felt more like yesterday. Or was it today? You’re not sure, you’re dying to know, but a happy rummage isn’t going to happen because you’re one of many in the bus without a seat. Besides, you’ve got The Great Gatsby in your left hand and a colored pencil on the other, and your bum’s pressed up against a grab pole.

I’m not sure how yours behaves, but that’s my monster at work—call it a fly or a monkey, a distraction or a thought, call it what you will, but let’s decide once and for all that our fly and monkey shall be “he,” a straightforward, neutral, and linguistically convenient masculine.

He never lets up and never lets go, however hard you try to let him go. Heck, you can’t even forget him like you’ve forgotten your water bottle and your underwear! But you can’t blame him, that’s his nature.

He’s everywhere, fanning your worries, your day’s to-do’s; prodding at your dreams and desires, your goals; reminding you to file your taxes and that life’s pretty short. He’s the reason your life throbs with uneasy what if’s and bossy, almighty should’s. He’s Mister Monkey, Master Mischief, and the fly that’s hovering about your mat, peeved at the two girls in the back corner, just as you enter the studio and settle on a front row mat as far away as possible from their giddy, windy whispers.

“Can’t they just shut up?” my fly speaks as I drop my towel with what I hope could have been a thud. But in the name of ahimsa, I stop short of giving them dirty looks. The fly hovers and begs patience now, urging me to “switch off”—just like how my father always counsels me to—and then I figure, Well if they don’t move, I could. Step outside, mill around: ambient noise is at least more tolerable than spotlight noise. Idling away four, five minutes outside isn’t going to kill you anyway, but the fly whines.

You see what I mean? We come for yoga and the damn fly’s there—there just for us to practice mindfulness, the om and here of now, the om and here of this breath, not the one after, or the one after that.

“Inhale ‘Let’,” we hear her voice through closed eyes. “Exhale ‘Go’.” Let-Go.

We’re into our 50th minute, flushed with a damp sheen on our skin, asana-energized or perhaps -exhausted, and this grateful lull called meditation comes along. There’s a delicious urge to space out, but she’s warned us earlier, “Don’t.” So I look right into that sweet spot between my eyes, groping and feeling around in the tunnel-less darkness with such focus that I feel my eyeballs being gobbled into their own sockets.

There was no fly, no monkey, not a buzz or a squeal, but something else, elsewhere: an intense sensation in the ocular muscles and a twitch in the eye of my inner elbow, the right one. I’d even lost my mantra, my “Let-Go.” But let what go, my dear?

And then, you hear the cue for savasana. The sweet meditative darkness disappears, making way for a lesser one. You’re thinking now, consolidating the points that had crept into your practice from the start right up to savasana, taking them up one by one like a teacher wrapping up a class—bend the knee before extending it again as you come into your parsvottanasana, remember to cut your fingernails, and just as you’re saying goodbye to your teacher at the door, you ask: “What’s the name of that tune, you know, the second or third song towards the end, the cool one with a little bossa nova and a little bhangra?”

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