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Saturday, July 29, 2006

life is a blessing

Blessings Center
1310 South Carmona Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 930-2803
website: www.gurutej.com

The Blessing Center is located on a peaceful Sycamore Tree lined street in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. The house itself sits on a lot surrounded by fuchsia colored bougainvilleas. The tranquil sound of falling water can be heard not so far off in the background.

When you get to the front door, just walk in and take off your shoes. There is no formality. Self-regulated check-in allows you to be accountable and to get ready for the always unexpected in class. Within minutes you have the feeling that you belong here. As Gurutej puts it, It is a place to learn, to heal, and to discover your personal destiny. Everyone is welcome.

i know that somewhere along the line, i must have mentioned in one of my posts that i was a marathoner whose goal was to run a 26.2 miler in every state. and that goal, while still in sight, is temporarily on hold until i feel the need to beat up my post-surgical knee once again.

as with most of the 50-staters, the big question i've had to consider has been: which race do i plan to run as my final race? i'd thought that it would be nice to go out with a bang, so to speak, and do a true destination marathon to make everything that more memorable. i had already run maui, so hawaii was off the list. and so were louisiana (new orleans), new york (new york city), massachusetts (boston), and florida (walt disney world). with 19 states left to be run, i was left with options like idaho, wyoming, mississippi, ohio, michigan, and wisconsin.

ahh... but then again, i still have alaska, which definitely falls in the category of "saving the best for last". if i had my druthers, i'd fly to anchorage, run the midnight sun marathon, take a leisurely cruise back to vancouver, then fly back home from there. now THAT would be a celebration, wouldn't it?

i may still have a bit of a ways to get to that 50th state; however, i just added the 50th studio to my list of yoga studios and the 50th location to my platial map. and considering the milestone, it turned out to be a wonderful and unexpected celebration!

for the big five-oh, i decided to take a class at the blessings center, home of gurutej kaur khalsa, a student of yogi bhajan and a co-founder of the golden bridge yoga center. she's a kundalini master who's been teaching yoga and meditation for over 36 years.

the center is literally located in gurutej's home, a modest mediterranean in the miracle mile district. since parking on her quiet residential street is extremely restricted, i parked around the block and walked the short distance to her front gate. a small plaque that read "KHALSA" confirmed that i was at the right place. i let myself through the gate and rang the doorbell. no response. i walked to the back of the house and heard some voices. my hello? was met with a face that popped out from behind a fence. a boy asked what i was looking for, and when i said "blessings center", he told me to go around to the front door and let myself in.

when i entered the living room, i noticed a man fiddling with a tripod-mounted camera. thinking that he was putting his equipment away after a photo shoot, i looked around for someone to tell me where i could put down my belongings. i ran into a young woman named grace (apparently the boy's mother), who graciously offered me a glass of water while asking me if i was there for the video shoot. video shoot? i asked. apparently, that night's class was going to be videotaped for gurutej's monthlyyogadvd.com subscribers. and by attending the class that was to start in less than half an hour, my face (and whatever else i ended up doing) was going to be recorded on that DVD!

the good news was that my momentous visit to my fiftieth studio was going to be preserved for myself and others to view at any time.

the bad news was that i was still relatively new to kundalini yoga, so i really wasn't savvy to all things kundalini -- the chants, the moves, and so on. which meant that there was a possibility that i would make a fool of myself. and that it was going to be preserved for myself and others to view at any time.

all the other regulars started showing up right after i got there, so we chatted for a while in the kitchen before heading out to the living room, where the class (and the shoot) was going to be held. of course, everyone already had their mats laid out on the floor. and of course everyone had placed themselves at the back of the room. so there i was, ms. clueless, with my mat at the front of the class :(

with gurutej miked up and the two cameras ready to roll (one pointed at her and one pointed at the students), our class began.

gurutej started out by talking about the reason for the dvd. it was so that people could feel like they were practicing with "real" people in a "real" class, rather than models and advanced students in the typical yoga instructional dvd. yes, i was a real person. so if you want to see someone struggling through class, you can watch me :(

she then started on our topic for the class: seeing God in others. i looked into her serene face as she spoke and thought to myself, yes, if God were in human form, he could look like her. and maybe even sound like her. then i considered the group as a whole, and about how friendly and welcoming everyone was when i first met them, and realized that yes, this was the way God would want us all to be. gurutej then segued into the topic of war, but by that time my mind had wandered off and i was thinking about how, despite the hard times and the good times i've had recently, my life has truly been a blessing...

.. but then again, if God were looking out for me this time, He would see to it that i didn't end up being the person that millions (thousands? hundreds?) of people would point to and ask "what's up with her?"

kundalini yoga is a fairly energetic and repetitive practice, and this class was no different. of course, it turned out that not one of the mantras, the mudras, nor the pose sequences that we did in class were familiar to me, except maybe for downward dog and savasana. so for those of you who get a chance to watch the DVD, you'll know why i kept glancing at the people beside me. i had to make sure that i was following along correctly, because heaven forbid that i kept repeating the wrong thing over and over again!

there were some moments of comic relief that eventually caused me to stop worrying about how i looked on tape (is it true what they say about those dreaded ten pounds?). like the time a student barged into the room and profusely apologized for being late, then was totally embarrassed when she realized that the cameras had recorded everything she'd said. gurutej invited her to join the group anyway, even if she still had to change out of the clothes she wore to work. the poor frazzled woman started to toss her shoes and belongings every which way, flew out of the room, quickly scurried back to her mat, then attempted to regain her composure. and all the time we were wondering about how much of it would make it to the final version.

or when a second latecomer joined the group and had to walk across all our mats to get to an empty spot at the other end of the room.

or the time gurutej shouted out an expletive while recounting her recent experience at a social gathering. i wonder if the cameras caught the look of shock on our faces?

or when the entire class broke out in laughter when someone commented that he was the only one doing the more difficult version of a pose.

yup, we were definitely a "real" group of people going through a "real" class. i wonder how the spontaneity of it all will play out in living rooms across america...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow this is always how I think a yoga studio should be. Just so small and simple and non-commercial. Congrats on 50! Have you heard about the insane/genius ultramarathoner who is planning to run 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days...!!

9:22 AM  
Blogger joni said...

actually, i'm not surprised. the hardest part is probably not the running of the distance itself but the getting from state to state!

i checked out the guy's web page and noticed that he's running the official marathon courses, but not on the actual marathon days. it would be hard to run 50 actual races 50 days straight because races are usually held only on the weekends (with the exception of boston and some others). but why the guy would choose to do it in JULY when it's hot and humid is beyond me.

he's a member of the marathon maniacs, along with some of my friends. i guess i would qualify because i have run 3 marathons in 3 months, 8 in 1 year, but that's peanuts compared to those insane ones out there :( besides, if i join the group, i might feel the need to do something equally crazy!

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday & Blessings -


5:21 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi peter -- i hope you're not wishing me a 50th birthday, because i haven't reached THAT milestone yet :( but i'll take it as an early greeting for when it DOES happen :)

9:25 PM  

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