I’m on yoga retreat, contemplating the meaning of life, but I keep thinking I should get ready for the school year.


I promised I would not do schoolwork this weekend, no matter that I got my schedule really late or that in a few short days I’m going to have fifteen million students knocking down my door. I’m thinking about doing some work now. Maybe just planning out the first week? Surely that would be okay…

Working is a violation of the rules. A student yoga instructor sits at the table next to me and smiles. This is the cafe–the room that has internet and coffee with caffeine and real chocolate with sugar–fair trade at least–for people violating the rules.  I confess to violating the rules, but I say maybe it doesn’t count so much against me since I’m sitting facing the window with a stunning view of the mountains.

She smiles and says it’s hard to take a pause out of our lives. I feel a bit guilty.  She has a three-inch binder called “Yoga Instructors…”  I wonder if that counts as working or if it’s okay because we’re at the yoga epicenter of the East to either learn about yoga or fix our lives.

I look out at the mountains. There is one maple tree flaming against a sea of misty green, a solitary individual calling for the start of fall. I sip my contraband coffee.

“School’s coming, school’s coming, school’s coming!” It shouts. Mocks even. “You can’t possibly ‘pause’ because school’s coming!”

It laughs.

“You’re going to go back completely unprepared. Hahahaha!” Possibly. Probably . Almost certain.

The retreat started last night. “You’re here to untie the knots, to recognize them in your life. Knots can be physical, mental, spiritual… learning to recognize them is the first step.”  I think she was getting my attention before I started copying the yogis who practice every day, who know the name of each body knot as if they were Sanskrit-speaking Boy Scouts. I always wait for instructions like, “We will now stand, tie ourselves into a half-hitch followed by a double-knot and say “Ommmm…”  That’s not what yoga’s about.

It’s obvious I need to practice much, much more.

I’m learning. Yoga isn’t about tying the body in knots. It’s about untying, about recognizing things I can’t control and reacting with the right spirit. In teaching and in life there are an awful lot of “things I can’t control.” I’m certainly not going to sort it out in a weekend when I’m supposed to be looking at the beauty of the one maple tree calling for the change of seasons, but I can pay attention, become a tiny bit more aware.

I remember the tree from last year. It was progressive then, too…the first to change in August, following its own path. The rest of the mountains will follow in their own time. They can’t be rushed. It’s the way of nature.

I decide I will not do work, but I will finish the contraband coffee. In baseball, I’d be batting 500, which is a respectable batting average.

Time to go back and tie the body into some knots while I try to untie the brain.