I’ve been moving this body for over 6 decades, starting when I began dancing lessons at 2 ½ yrs old; bones barely formed.
Always gyrating my tiny hips to any beat, cartwheeling in parks and hallways, tap-dancing up and down wooden stairs on stages all over New Jersey, coming up on tippy-toe in ballet shoes, jumping into a high “Pony-Kick” and coming straight down into a split at 16, as a cheerleader; and then discovering Modern Dance and Yoga in college. My body never stops moving.
I can be spotted doing performance art and contact improvisation in the Bart station in San Francisco; and rehearsing nude at The Legion of Honor in SF for our dance troupe, “Players of San Francisco”.
Later into my 20’s, I’m dancing and groovin’ the night away on tall sparkly high heels, at the coolest nightspots on earth; Studio 54, The Mudd Club, Helena’s in LA, Club Lingerie, On the Rox, a very private club on Sunset Blvd... and many other, happening in the moment locales.
Put on the music, add sprinkles of beautiful people, artists, actors, and movers and shakers of the time; and I’ll show up and dance for hours anywhere; my 24 yr old body twirling as the kaleidoscopic sights and sounds of the decade soak into my brain and memory. Helena’s (Helena Kallianiotes) gruff voice is in the earpiece of my phone. “Hey Darlene, I want you to come to my club tonight and dance…” She’d order without much chitchat. I’m already sliding into something revealing and dancible..
I love to dance.
Best part for me; catching the rhythms of the music…and riding them over and over again; sometimes until dawn.
The wave of the disco, and being seenera all rolled up into one big heart-racing, body-pumping, platform shoe stompin, thrill ride.
Practicing doubles at Bikram’s Yoga College of India, standing between Shirley MacLaine and Rachel Welch, I am younger and more fit thanthem, I quip as we begin yoga practice in my narcissistic blossom of youth.
Attending every yoga class L.A. had to offer through the 70’s and 80’s, I strut into life with blind confidence, all shiny and just about perfect in health, beauty, and body…
“Those were the daze my friend, we thought they’d never end; we’d sing and dance forever and a day….”
Participating in advanced aerobics alongside famous athletes, skinny show biz beauties, aspiring trophy wives; I embrace aerobics and weight training for an edge on life, growing lean and lithe weighing in at 106 lbs at 32 yrs old. I dance in Lionel Richie’s All Night Long music video; a shoot that takes about 20 hrs, and does last all night long!
Sixteen years ago this month, Inner Fire Yoga, the first Bikram Studio in Madison, Wisconsin opens. I am teaching 10-14 classes a week at 51 years old, beginning a full time job teaching yoga: doing what I love! I am still doing what I LOVE now, teaching still every single day!
Each decade takes a bit out of the body for sure. Some days I just wish I could feel the kind of muscle strength I once boasted.
This year, 2017-18, I spend limping about, and for a brief period, forced to use a cane to walk.
. Depression and despair overwhelmed me a year ago, when 3 different medical professionals inform me I need a total hip replacement; ASAP.
“You are bone against bone …” they each say studying my x-rays… (and to add insult to injury) “Your lumbar is also critically degenerated, stage 5 of 5.”
One says, “It’s amazing you can walk at all.”
I step out into the cool autumn air and walk to my car thinking, “Shit, my life is over.”
Hmm, wheelchair bound, eating to soothe, I gain 10 lbs., and live on Ibuprofen and hydrocodone in a puddle of self-pity. Then I gain another 8 lbs. because, well, who cares.
Standing Bow Pulling posture is un-doable; can’t reach down to put my palm around my ankle on the right side; much compromising my hot Bikram practice. My Power Flow is less powerful, consistently skipping the flip dogsand ungodly push-ups. Yin affords me blocks and blankets to rest into postures keeping the joints as juicy as I can. Walking is a chore, and running impossible.
I do bike, and take a dangerous (have nothing to lose) 5-hour bike ride through Rome traffic just this May, wind in my sails... horns honking; and, I can still swirl these hips in circles and do the Warrior poses. Fuck it, I am not giving up my hip yet!
I begin to study all about THR, and hear good things for the most part; but a nagging resistance talks to me behind all the testimonials. I decide to take it into my own hands and also to find someone who is as abhorrent to this “amputation of the thigh bone … metal and screw-on” replacement as I am. Just the thought of a metal shaft being inserted into my thigh bone marrow drains the blood out of my head.
I love my body and all of its myriad sensations. I love to feel the flow of lymph and blood and fluids, and even more, to direct it. I inhale light and space and exhale tensions. I love micro movements, and I nerdily study fascial connections like a cat studying the movements of a mouse. I decide I am not ready for the saw to come near to my thigh bone.
In Sicily, I walk 139 miles and defy my prognosis. It is the Sicilian sun, the air, the language and the joi de viethat moves me along each day. This bucket listtrip throws “reality” and the doctors to the wind.
Today I complete six weeks of vigilance; a 7-day fast and liver detox, and a gifted doctor of chiropractic who sees twisted vertebrae, and scoliosis that might be treatable. He goes at it with all his knowledge and skill; and I make guided changes and improvements. CBD oil, supplements, softer exercise like swimming, and I’m walking again. I feel better and way happier. I think I can put off what is probably inevitable for another few years. I hope so.
Now I add Collagen powder to nutrition dense shakes, eat a more restricted diet to reduce inflammation, and experiment with cleanses. Voila! I’m not limping on most days.
Odd thing, my both parents grew up eating canned vegetables, white bread, sodium laden Campbell’s soups, boxed corn flakes, hot dogs and spam. The most exercise my mother ever got in her entire life was to vacuum.
They ate fat and grease and processed foods. Each lived to be almost 90, cancer and hospital-visit free. It wasn’t until her 80’s that my mom ever complained of back pain. She too had stage 5 lumbar degeneration, but she was 84 already. Dad never had any pain in his hips or back. Go figure…. I remember them very vital and traveling; even taking care of my baby, and then child into their late 70’s and 80’s.
Turning 67 is both old and yet, not old yet.
I feel it, but my mind imagines sailing in the Mediterranean, running on beaches in Fiji, getting an apartment in Amsterdam, and dancing at clubs to new sounds. I imagine Standing Bow for one full minute, and maybe even Standing Head to Knee, on both sides...
Pay attention to what your body is telling you. I felt this coming on for years and did not get help. I pushed through the pain and now am undoing much; starting again; slowly.
I teach 2-3 yoga classes each and every day. I still travel to train teachers and present master classes, workshops and retreats; most times without an assistant. I’m a more compassionate, ‘understanding of body issues’ teacher now. I say, with pride, maybe a better yoga teacher even though my physical prowess is half, or a third of what it was. Meditation and pranayama are far more interesting to me than Hanuman asana, or a flat stomach, yoga butt, and, ha ha, thick hair and eyelashes.
Aging is a bitch of sorts, no doubt, and it’s also an incredible gift. Ya gotta accept that we’re all moving in that direction. One can’t see it from youth, but in age there really is wisdom, and the stark realization of just how brief life is, and just how vain and foolhardy youth is.
Everything changes; Ancitta.
The principles of yoga make more sense than ever, and the “Middle Way” of Buddhism guides me when I begin to fret.
One day I will become dust. Yes, dust; perhaps in the air of some new dance club in Beijing or NYC or LA 200 years from now. Poof! One generation follows another, swiftly go they..
My grandmother is the flamboyant flapper ( I hear,) my mother doing the cha- cha- cha looking like Marilyn Monroe, me under the disco ball and stardust, and youth at death metal mosh pits; life goes on.
Death is a constant reminder to remember to LIVE!
Keep moving; mentally, physically, geographically, and emotionally. Interact, breathe, be kind, love, give, have fun, take risks, have a glass of wine.
Trust your inner voice.
“You are never too old, too sick or too weak to start again.”
Especially when I know I am privileged enough to get a new hip when that time does come; and it will.
I am so grateful … so grateful.
Deep, Deep, DEEPak, Desert, Dreams, Dazzle, Dharma, Dancing, Delights, Drunk on Shakti; Dar is in on the way to Bhaktifest for the 6th time in ten years. The ride out, over and through the dry dusty red beige hills is stunning; the air shockingly dry.
I set out from Pt. Dume, (the far north end of Malibu) and drive down the congested Pacific Coast Highway. I stop and take some photos of the famous "Pink Villa, I lived in, and way madly in love in, decades earlier. It still sits above the highway; is no longer pink, and has a kind of sad wear and lack-luster quality; a kind of been there done that quality; or maybe its just my perception. I proceed on, half in anticipation, and half in memory lane as I get closer to picking up three passengers from various places on the planet visiting the festival for the first time. We connected through a FB rideboard.
Scooping them up in Santa Monica, at the Airport, and on Windward Ave in Venice, we four squeeze into my economy Toyota rental and head off for the vast desert, and onto Joshua Tree Retreat Center, and into the Bhaktifest..
Dharma Mittra, Mas Vidal, Mark Whitwell, Shiva Rea, Janet Stone, John Smrtic, Dharma Devi, Saul David Raye, Deepak Chopra, Krishna Das, Girish, Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, and so many many wonderful teachers and beings all gather here for 6 days of celebrating creation and the pure joy of being alive in this precious lifetime.
We are excited. Two people are from Brazil (did not know each other or plan this.) Somehow coincidences abound at an event like this. It draws people by the heart strings, by spirit... and there is always magic happening.
Vacillating between the past and present is my experience now. I walk from the brilliant talk from Jeffrey Armstong on the meaning of the Sanskrit words and take in his vast knowledge of Vedic Sciences and Arts, at the exact same time as last year, and in the same workshop hall. I then proceed to order the same dinner of raw foods and an edible flower, and sit in the same spot at the dusty large table with the same shortage of chairs. Suddenly I'm in pain. Gas filling my torso like a helium balloon. I immediately realize these exact steps from last year. .Same gas, same place, same time.. Peculiar.
The difference from last year to this year is my body. This year I am not able to participate in the physical classes. I am stricken with hip and lumbar issues. I feel sad. All things must pass; even this vehicle, this perfectly toned and healthy dance-loving, asana-craving body is giving way now as I approach 67. Yet, the wisdom teachings have me this time, which brings me to my new respect for Mr. Deepak Chopra.
I never thought much of him. I dismissed Deepak Chopra as a media star with charisma, selling out for the big bucks with that elegant accent and TV sound bites. How aweful judgement is; especially ignorant judgement. Deepak is attending Bhaktifest for the first time, and I'm lucky enough to be right up front for the Wisdom Panel. I watch him carefully and listen carefully. I admit he is brilliant, kind, present, and real. Shiva Rea also seems more centered and less "On Stage" this year. She speaks honestly and openly about her son who suffers depression and anxiety. Jai Uttal also comes into focus through my former judgements. He is such a talented musician and the kirtan is off the charts wonderful! He too is on the Wisdom Panel with Deepak and Shiva, and the conversation gravitates toward the youth and children, and how they struggle so with anxiety and depression in this messy, harsh world, no matter how much we love them. Deepak states at one point that 70% of the children under 12 in schools today will have jobs that have not even been thought of, or invented yet. How do we educate for that unknown? Give them love and freedom, and trust they will find their way. Technology is not all bad.. it will unite them and the world if we use it with that intention. Deepak means "light."
I dance and sing, and walk the dusty paths. I enjoy short wonderful encounters with remarkable people at their booths, or on a line, or a simple hug from a warm, large man at a kirtan. I lay down in the Jaganath Dome next to many other weary travelers, and am delighted by the visual journey and Hindu mythology coming to life in surround sound and visuals. My skin and feet are dusty and dry making my evenings soaking in the hot mineral baths in Desert Hots Springs even better.
This year I practice deep listening to people. I enjoy pure presence, and stop pressuring myself to "do it all," or consume as much as I can. I give up "trying to Get something." or worrying I am missing "the good stuff.".. This event is vast and rich, and everyone seems to get what they need from the experience.
Late at night after I am chanted out, I sit in the car listening to the distant chanting as I move slowly out of the grounds and back down the steep grades from high desert to low desert, under planetarium skies. The road winds and my cells feel electric through my fatigue. I look forward to hot mineral pools, and a huge comfortable bed, and most of all, to another day to live this priveledged life. I share my room with someone else I met on line and she is my perfect roommate. We share much, and are now connected.
Los Angeles is so spread out. I enjoy driving the curves and canyons, the traffic , the stars, the clothes, the shops, the coffee, the sea, and the casual elegance of it all.... I am contemplative as I reflect on a life that used to be. I feel nostalgia, shame, sadness, joy, loss, exuberance, deep sighing, excitement, love; a stillness in maturity as I look back on a life lived well and recklessly, and with pride and hope and optimism. I buy a hat. I buy a be-jeweled black velvet hat in the Malibu Colony shopping center. It is terribly over-priced. I snap it up immediately. The shop lady says "You look fabulous in that hat with your pure white hair, these just came in this morning!"
The glamour girl that is still me smiles as I plop down the new Visa guilt free.
HARE KRISHNA, HARE RAMA......
Om Namah Shivaya
Om Shant Shanti Shanti
So here I lay... on my back propped up with my pillows, staring into the light screen of my Apple, wondering why I just cant seem to sleep any more.
I haven't editted my website in half a year... opps ... and now, suddenly ... tonight, I JUST HAVE TO DO IT! Right?
OK world.. Here is what I think is happening.
I am turning 65, the calendar tells me. I have lived, and I have lived large and loud most of my life. Of course I can't just quietly turn 65, I have to fly across this round planet through time and space in a little metal can propelled by highly flammable jet fuel, over vast dark oceans, and hhhopefull arrive safely in Australia for some happenings being arranged in Noosa Heads, north of Brisbane.
Please don't judge me as a jet setting trust funder or anything. I'm not even middle class according to the stats, and I manage to travel extensively because of Yoga Karma...
Yoga Karma is what propels my world. I meet amazing people, and am on the go, staying fit and breathing, and learning non-stop. I love this world of yogis and weirdos. I love popping into a room and practicing asanas from here to "Jabib," ( a fictitious place my mom always refered to) and know that we each share this love of moving in specific ways, and probably can't ever stop doing it.
Oh, and I've tried to stop. It takes about two weeks and I am lost, sad, scared, depressed, and angry.... Gotta get back on da mat. And then, within hours I steer myself, or it steers me and something alchemical happens and all is right in the world again. How is that?
My enthusiasm and many experiments leaving and returning to yoga practice has taught me much. And that is what I love to do; teach the "much" I think I've experienced... and that is called Yoga Karma.. 40 years worth.
So Australia, here I come again. And then "Hello New Zealand" for the first time. I cant wait to meet you! I have the yoga tentacles connected to another studio there to appear and do the yoga thing. I love to just appear and give the gifts... and this is my Bliss, this is my Bliss.
I have other Bliss too; but for now, as as my eyes dry up and my body is aching to sleep, I am saying goodnight. It's been a long day of teaching.
I got some stuff done tonight. I sent flyers, and emails, and photos and and and and..... all I want to do is relax and breathe and become utterly present.
Don't we all want that..?... some mastery over the monkey mind, some mastery over that part of us that isn't quite good enough yet? Don't we all want the roar of all the things to do and accomplish to subside? I want, for one day to not feel like I am slightly behind answering my emails, snail mail, and all the tasks to get done..
Caught up.. hmm..what the hell is that anyway?
I never was comfortable with the little messes of living.. I'm beginning to see though that its always a little undone, or coming apart constantly, and to fight entropy takes a lot of energy..
On the mat, it all goes away. I have these neat little postures to focus on. I breathe and feel my pores sweating and my feet on the ground. I have mercy on myself for all the mad thoughts, desires, judgements and analyses my mind manufactures, non -stop.. I somehow through practice, practice allowing them to be while this other part of me enjoys the NOW.
So NOW .... Good night!