Thursday, June 2, 2011

Taking time, trying tunics

One of my favourite little books is "Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World" by the late Eknath Easwaran, meditation teacher.

Eknath Easwaran
He relates an anecdote about visiting his mother in India, joined on the trip by a number of his friends from Berkeley. In California, they would line up at the coffee shop, each ordering his or her choice: the skinny soy grande latte, the extra-foam cappucino, etc. The drink was precisely made to the drinker's unvarying specifications.

In India, his mother served a tray of chai, the same tea every afternoon– and each person loved it. Our preferences, Easwaran says, are only habits

We mistake our likes and dislikes for deep-seated values. Easwaran has other insights about the relationship between mindfulness and the senses, but during this move, I thought often of this story. At first I missed "my" coffee made from "my" beans, "my" stove, even "my" view.

Sometime during this second week, I realized that instead, the move offers an opportunity to release habits, and perhaps not acquire such rigidity with new ones.

Switching things up slows time, which is a positive effect when, at nearly 63, I sense the limits to my lifespan ever more keenly. 

That doesn't mean I've forsaken regular activities like yoga; but I feel grateful that a class serves my health, rather than automatically rushing there because it's 5:00 pm. on Thursday, "my usual" time for yoga, and then thinking about what we'll have for dinner during the class.

Easwaran asks his students to consider whether the choice simply meets a sensory pleasure (okay but superficial) or nourishes a deeper value, such as health, community or service.

Will all this be temporary? Maybe, but I hope the effects of a move linger.

And this new life is not all about matters of the spirit. There's also the freedom of easy dressing now that spring's fully here. Tunic-cut tops, easy, cool and polished when running errands, dress up in the evening with earrings and perhaps a change of shoe. Here are some I like. They're a friend to those who prefer not to show the entire arm, gentle with the waist, and good ones are cut well at the armhole to flatter the torso.

Poetica tunic
The Canadian textile designer Virginia Johnson offers soft, light summer tunics via her online site, perfect for lounging but not too sheer for casual wear. Shown, Poetica tunic in Mountain Pool blue; also available in grey, $248.

Tao tunic
I've always longed for anything from Brigitte Singh, one of the world's top block-printers. This Tao tunic, from Devotion, is £140; the site has other styles, and sizing is a 1/2/3 scale (S/M/L).
Embroidered silk
Day Birger and Mikkleson (I'm drawn to nearly everything they make) have a palest pink silk tunic with sumptuous black kantha embroidery. Could wear to a wedding or a brunch, graceful and at ease. $280 from netaporter.
Denim in a tunic

A departure from ethnic effects: MIH Jeans' denim tunic, cool over pants, leggings or a skirt. $225 from netaporter.
Posh by Soft Surroundings

Soft Surroundings Posh Tunic has a Palm Beach vibe and a bargain store price tag ($69.95); also in white with black trim, and colours; in Misses and Women's sizes.

Hope these ideas bring you ease and happiness.


19 comments:

AN said...

Duchesse: seek out Indian boutiques for a slice of tunic heaven. Ask for Lucknow chikan embroidered ones. You'll love 'em.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

The Posh Tunic is the one I'd opt for.
It would fit in to my basic wardrobe and not break the bank.

Easwaran's book sounds like a worthy read...it's been far too long since I have read anything so inspiring as to have an affect on my day to day living.
I'll see if the Library has a copy.

LPC said...

I find it very helpful too, to think about much of what we do as a habit. Set up new habits, get ride of old ones. It's much easier to work with that concept than to obsess over one's self-discipline or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

I have a really hard time with tunics. They don't seem to suit my busty hourglass figure very well.

Alexandra said...

That's why moving can be so exciting - it's an opportunity to become a better you, keeping the good aspects from before and shedding things you've been doing/keeping out of habit.

Chicatanyage said...

I am also a great fan of tunics especially when it is hot. They provide great cover over a swimsuit on the beach. Love the blue one.
Wish I could slow down time!

Susan Tiner said...

Hmm, I may have to experiment with tunics. These look lovely.

It makes sense that any kind of change provides an opportunity for releasing habits. The style quest I'm engaged is definitely offering that opportunity as I learn more about how I've been living and questioning habits formed over the years.

Duchesse said...

AN: Oh, I love chikan embroidery. Most Indian tunics, though, run small on me. I have great luck with skirts, which are often free sized.

Hostess: It's a little book, the kind of thing you'd place in a guestroom. I return to it time and again.

LPC: If we view habits merely as preferences it also frees us from judgments about discipline and what one of my teachers calls "achievement disorder".

Anonymous: I find they suit hourglass shapes if not too long- just at high hip and (as on anyone) cannot be too boxy at the bust. Some tunics have bust darts or they can be added.

Some women wear a tunic that's too baggy, and yes, that is dreadful on an hourglass- and not that great on s narrower figure either.

Alexandra: In the back of my mind I'd hoped to be a (vastly) "better me" but then something about that lofty goal scared me. So I just thought of a few behaviours I wanted to change, and tried to ease those in. As the old saying goes "You take yourself with you".

Chicatanyage: Virginia Johnson has acquired quite a celebrity following- good eye!

Susan Tiner: I think it's really important and revivifying to change one's image even if it's a new colour lipstick. At the same time, I also buy the "know what works for you and stick with it" approach, and am playing with that contradiction now.

Tiffany said...

I think I will go and find that book. Your whole approach to your move is really inspiring ... And I've just asked my brother to pick me up a couple of tunics in Sri Lanka, prompted by your pics!

Marsha said...

When my stepson and daughter-in-law moved to a new house, she had her sister put away all her kitchen stuff, without guidance. I was shocked! But it turned out that sis was perfectly capable of arranging things sensibly, and my d-i-l had no problem adapting, which was quite a lesson for me.

Your post makes me feel much better about my tendency to like anything I am given, and to enjoy whatever happens, which I used to think was evidence of a wishy-washy character. Thanks for the thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Traveling in my twenties, I met a pair of Sufi travelers who talked a lot about "the tyranny of likes and dislikes." At the time I struggled with the concept: how else to define oneself but through one's preferences? But now I find it incredibly freeing to let go, not only of habits, but judgments, too. Sounds like a helpful book.

I found a French tunic not too long ago: denim-blue batik print with metallic-embroidered dark red placket. Hoping to wear it with narrow white jeans.

C.

Duchesse said...

Tiffany: What a great way to get them!

0arsha: Wonder if the current culture, so loaded with marketing messages about what we "must" have, transmits the judgment of "wishy washiness" when one is happy with whatever one's given- when really it is a most desirable quality.

Duchesse said...

C.: Your tunic sounds wonderful,just what I would like to wear too.

Easwaran was Hindu, but the idea of freedom from likes and dislikes runs through many traditions.

frugalscholar said...

EE was the teacher of the people who wrote Laurel's Kitchen. That was where I first heard about him--in a cookbook.

So hard to find nice tunics! Many are see-through. There's a navy/white at LLBean that looks OK.

Susan said...

I have the hourglass figure as well---and have never liked tunics on myself. I love them in theory, but not in practice. I hope you find one/some that look fabulous on you.

Duchesse said...

Susan: I've found they're good if I go with short (high hip) or very long, mid-thigh, almost like a dress. The top of hip is out of bounds:) A lot of the charm is in proportions- what's on the bottom. A flowy pant works better for me than a tighter jean cut, and I especially like them with a long skirt (admittedly a proportion for us tall women).

Susan said...

Duchesse, Is this the length of tunic you are suggesting for those of us with hour glass figures?

http://www.eileenfisher.com/EileenFisher/Shop_By_Item/ShopByCategory/Value_Product_130577311309914514037/PRD_S1IZS-T2127M/Scoop+Neck+Tunic+with+Elbow+Sleeves+in+Linen+Jersey+with+Sequins.jsp?bmLocale=en_US

Duchesse said...

Susan: That. or an inch or two shorter, more like a blouse. But I think the key is in the tunic being cut with a not too low-set armhole, and never a raglan or dolman sleeve. Otherwise they look like old-school maternity tops.

Rebecca said...

I have read and re-read these thoughts about preferences and habits...thank you for including them here.

A tunic sounds wonderful. I have difficulty finding cool clothes to wear during these hot and humid days. This might be my answer (along with losing the weight I've regained...)