Buddhist Bootcamp

20131015-205704.jpgI’ve been saying that I’m going to start incorporating the principles of Buddhism into my life as soon as I can finish the “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life” by the Dalai Lama.  But, excuses get in the way.  Work gets in the way.  Everything gets in the way except me making the time.

So, I decided to ease into it.  You know, start with going to yoga and ending with me finishing the book during my sojourn to Bali. That was such an awesome idea in theory. In practice?  Well, we’ll see.  I’ve got the book pulled up on my Kindle waiting for my attention.  Somehow, it got shuffled behind some trashy romance novels that some unknown person I downloaded.

Anyway, I started off with yoga.  Lord help me.  It looks so easy in the magazines.  I bought cute yoga attire from Athleta then signed up for a 75 minute Hot Yoga class.  Easy peasy.  I intended to walk out so zen & relaxed.

The class started and I was like, “this is cool!”  I’m stretching and the positions aren’t that difficult although I’m about as limber as an iron rail.  But no matter.  ZEN!  That’s what I’m here to achieve.  Then, I notice how quiet it is.  In spin class, I can’t think of anything else except trying not to die on the bike because they have me doing some sort of dance routine complete with jazz hands to 2 Chainz.  But here, it is so tranquil that my mind starts to wander and now I’m thinking about everything but yoga.  That’s when irritation sets in because you can’t zone out when the positions get harder.

Yoga Instructor (YI): (in a sing-song breathy voice) Slowly move into downward facing dog.

Me:  (moves into position) This ain’t bad. *tinkling music and YI painting us a scene with words* [then I start thinking about the stank email I got from John at work and my blood pressure starts to rise.]

YI:  Now move into a plank for 27 minutes

Me:  WTF?  27 minutes?  Ugh! [mentally drafting a response to John’s email that will go something like, “Sir, I suggest you use the backspace key next time you think of sending some crazy email to me because I ain’t the one.  Don’t try me, try Jesus.”  Hmmm, maybe I need to re-word that a little as it might come across hostile??  THESE PLANKS HURT!!!  JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL!]

YI:  Doesn’t that feel wonderful?  Like puppies resting on your tummy?  Breathe in deeply.  Think of yourself as the breaths, not the breather. You are one with the universe.  A flower opening up to the welcome the sun.

Me:  Ma’am?  I can’t do that.  This is too much imagery.  My core fell out of my body 10 minutes ago.  I’m about to do the crying baby position, k?

YI:  Now…transition out of the plank and cartwheel into the Terrible Twos Tantrum position (or whatever it is…honestly, I had stopped listening after my muscles locked up and were like, “please know your limitations.”).

Me:  OMG, is this a tumbling class?  WTH?  *falls out*

YI:  Namaste

Me:  Call 911

See?  This is why I can’t have nice things and be thin and calm.  WHY IS YOGA SO HARD???  This was supposed to be my introduction into Keeping it Calm — Buddha-Style.  At this rate, I ain’t going to make it.

So now…I’m back to reading the book and trying yoga again.  Maybe it will be easier on the beach in Bali?  Maybe this time, I can use imagery for good thoughts instead of mentally written curse-out emails?  I don’t even know.  What I do know is that I really want to learn to let foolishness roll off me like waves of cool water.  I read inspirational quotes by the Dalai Lama and think, “He is so wise. I need a better coping mechanism besides chocolate and alcohol.”

Do any of you follow Buddhist principles?  Any suggestions for a newbie?

Hassan II Mosque (Casablanca, Morocco)

Chandeliers & windows inside the Hassan II Mosque

Chandeliers & windows inside the Hassan II Mosque

The Hassan II Mosque (named after King Hassan II) is the second largest mosque in the world (St. Peter’s Basilica can easily fit inside) and built partly on water. The largest mosque is in Mecca. It has the highest religious minaret in the world at 200 meters high. The mosque will fit up to 25,000 worshippers inside and another 80,000 in the courtyard. It is magnificent! This is also one of the very few mosques open for non-Muslims to visit.

When you enter the mosque, you are given a plastic bag to store your shoes (as you are required to walk barefoot while visiting). As I stated above, the mosque is enormous with beautiful chandeliers and mosaics. In the center, you will see a glass floor that reveals the ocean below which is said to be a reminder of the Qur’an’s statement that God’s throne is upon the water.

In the basement is an ablution room (where you cleanse yourself of your sins) and an absolutely beautiful hammam with a large pool.

Ablution Room

Ablution Room

Pool in the hammam

Pool in the hammam

Sign at the entrance to the mosque

Sign at the entrance to the mosque

View of the mosque on a foggy day.

View of the mosque on a foggy day.

For me, the Hassan II Mosque was the highlight of Casablanca. If you visit Morocco, most international flights fly into Casablanca…my recommendation is to visit the mosque, then keep driving towards Marrakesh to start your adventure!