So useful to read and re evaluate again what you think you already know. This started by wanting to refresh a little knowledge before traveling to India in October, but it has turned into listening to other smaller booklets, pamphlets, links and articles I have saved. I know I am not the only one who has found daily practice incredibly hard this winter. Repeating to myself you only have to do 3 As and 3 Bs has saved me from not practicing. Goodness knows what stories I would be telling you and myself for not practicing if I had to still get my ass to work outside the house in this weather. It is not just the cold and the bad driving conditions and the lack of sunlight that is throwing curve balls at me ( I don’t even know what that means. Trick balls? I never chased or caught balls well anyway). It is realizing that I am at the intersection where progress in asana is defined by the poses I get to keep instead of the poses I might be given in the future. You know how we all see ourselves as the same kid/teen/20 year old in our heads? I always thought if I loose weight, and never drink again, and take glucosamine, and amp up my pranayama and suck up my bandhas while I fold the laundry the impossible poses will be accessible to me. But no. I know there is a lady in Kentucky who started in her late 50s and received authorization in her 60’s. I am going to guess she was not talking about how Winstons and Kents tasted awful compared to Marlboro reds and Camel filters at age 12. I am not saying I cannot be like her because I did that. I cannot be like her because the samaskaras I have to work keep being those kinds to this day. I listed to Claudia interview Matthew Sweeney yesterday and he had an interesting take on access to Mula Bandha. He said resolving certain aspects related to appetite and other root chakra “issues” is a precondition to finding it. Makes sense to me. I also saw an FB post today on my feed where David Garrigues shuts down the fantasy that you surely one day drop back or lower yourself to chaturanga like what you see on youtube if you started at 45. I thanked him for making that realization available to me. I was glad when I asked myself if I wanted to continue practicing ashtanga if I was not going to make asana progress and I (mentally) shrugged and said sure. I now know for sure that standing on the mat makes what my cyber friend David Cain describes as “the sky has fallen a million times already” an occurrence instead of a disaster. He follows with the following advice: Being overwhelmed comes from a breakdown of your thoughts NOT the breakdown of your PRACTICE( okay he said your life). He finishes by saying “Things change pretty quickly when you start DOING things instead of thinking so much”. I’m also pretty sure that in my case it still means asana because he also mentions that “it is most tempting to not do things when you most need to do things.” So between re reading a post he wrote on Raptitude back in 2013 and the house recommendations from AY Ann Arbor’s Angela Jamison, I get to hang in there until spring!
…Is not something you can call me. Even though after thousands of years of evolution, my nervous system still cannot tell the difference between being torn apart by a saber toothed tiger instead of just visiting my parents for 72 hours, I continue to choose freeze instead of flee. I am making peace with this choice instead of being constantly disappointed by it. They say our identities are a result of a finely crafted cocktail of biology and culture. My bartenders raised me in a culture where the recipe was a loose variation of impress others but don’t make it look hard, and never change. It was so confusing that a promptly (before I turned 10 even) lost any desire or imperative to be anything in particular. I did not know the term fuck it then, but I was saying exactly that. These days I believe it is called surrender, and all of a sudden it is a good thing. I marvel at all these type A pals of mine, with which I get along with stupendously I might add, trying to ease up and coast, and I wish we could barter. I could use some type A and they could use some FTS and walk away. Calmly. Because that is the trick. You cannot be all hyper and guilty and over explainy about walking away. It is shudder for a sec, and then sit an listen to the judgements with blocking aids at first but later it really becomes equanimity, I promise. So how is this about yoga you might ask. Well in the case of yours truly here, the only way to practice and be friends with people who are mostly yoga teachers or should be, is being comfortable with not having or not being. Yesterday I had many maintenance related tasks to do in order to have an up to date and organized existence. I ditched it all to read, and later on make this:
It was only fun because I sincerely said FTS to chores, to following the convoluted geometric directions I found on line, and used markers so I would not have to clean up. Maybe not even remotely related, but some of you might want to read that Patty Smith interview on Medium. and this too, because it was what sort of got me going on about calmly performing FTS with sincerity and devotion.
But first, I don’t know where else to share the things that the internet provides to keep me in a happy spot:
“I was not 100% sober at the State of The Union Address” Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“You aren’t testing the practice, the practice is testing you” David Garrigues
“Love doesn’t need anything” Byron Katie on Valentine’s Day
“Our practice is not to clear up the mystery. It is to make the mystery clear.”Michael Stone
“Single mother of four wins powerball” Jezebel
SO today, I am all psyched because it is not snowing, it is not 3rd Friday of the month, and I get to go to led primary with an opportunity to do a 30 minute sitting practice beforehand which is one of my favorite things of the week. It’s 5 degrees today and I have a little pressure on the side of my head but nothing too distracting. I have a bat sh#t crazy theory that my practice benefits from being at a certain side of the room, but today I for some reason decide that I am going to try acting sane, and choose the other side. By the time Trikonasana comes around, I cannot see straight from the migraine I have invited into my face. But, earlier this week I had told teacher that I was going to stay past half primary this Friday, and I don’t want too look like I’m backing out from what I said I would do, so I stay and suffer. I do stay past half primary but sitting on my butt with my eyes closed. I do some sort of back bending imitation and some fake closing, and out of nowhere teacher throws in some pranayama. I was so far gone that I don’t remember if it was before or after Savasana, but it made all the difference. I will remember to do a few rounds if a get afflicted in the future. She also chanted for us during Savasana. If you ever need to remember how it feels to be well cared for and safe, I hope you experience someone doing that (not a recording) for you someday.
I will be in Portland Maine this weekend doing some pretend house hunting, and some very real local eating at the awesome Vinland, and yes driving into the weekend blizzard because that is how he rolls.
I could have used path maintenance or route or road, but I like a nice hike on a well marked trail. They don’t stay like that if someone does not cut back overgrown brush and repaints the signs, and removes fallen logs and rolling rocks. I feel like that is what Gregor Maehle has done for me in the interview he gave for Claudia Azula Altucher’s podcast. I know that this is probably the 4th time that I have mentioned it in social media, but we really do re-hatch and re- visit the same same over and over when we blog about what some call “our yoga journey”. So when new knowledge or perspective comes along it is at least for me, kind of very exciting. They way I write will not do justice to all the themes that are covered in the podcast. But suffice it to say that if you got stuck in the obsessive maintenance and smooth running of your vehicle ( which is a skill and work ethic I both admire and envy) but you forget where it is you heading with it, his is a very generous and valuable reminder of where the markers are in case you misplaced the map or are have been winging it (which is just another way of arriving really). I listened to the podcast without having read Gregor’s book on meditation. It is on order and this one is not going into the kindle.
Because I was bored and antsy (awful combo) along with the rest of New England, I might have misread a tweet that stated “Part of the yoga oath is….” and I was like wait. There”s a yoga oath? Is it a chant? Is it in yoga mala? In the HYP? I even asked the tweeter, and posted it on FB for clarification (B was the one taker and she was not a serious one). After many boring minutes with no update I sort of realized that the word oath was not being used as a synonym for the word pledge as in a recitation of a promise to be kept by swearing to uphold a promise, but rather as a daily resolve to practice the 8 limbs. SO, did I misread or am I being a grammar Nazi? That is a rhetorical question. I know the answer to that one. Earlier yesterday I also read a post over at Cultfit.com where I found the phrase (paraphrased here) “life can be both very boring and very dangerous” which was sort of perfect for yesterday’s expectation of the storm that never came. Here we were waiting with excitement (don’t lie) for a possible catastrophe, and worried that we might be bored out of our minds if we could not go outside, and wifi got knocked out, which is probably quite different from how things are handled in other corners of the planet that are not Manhattan or the suburbs of the North East. I was planing to misbehave nutritionally to keep the possible worry/boredom combo at bay. Grateful I did not have to. I am also very grateful for being introduced to Dave Hayes The Weather Nut by Laura and Michelle. He writes intelligently about weather even if he is a few miles off.
To be honest, I cannot discuss even basic geometry. My dad paid a tutor at the end of the year so I could pass algebra, trig and geometry. There was a kid from an Opus Dei boys high school that made a fortune tutoring secular bums like me during finals. He taught what was predictably going to be in the test, and I performed the tasks again and again until I could do them by rote, then barely passed and forgot all about it. I just finished watching John Scott (with very distracting beaded beard braid) being interviewed on those purple valley youtube videos and he at some point was discussing how nadi channels, bandhas, and chakras can form these geometric shapes such as diamonds and kite shapes that provide the form, structure, and tension to support and make the asana function and flow. Remarkable and fascinating that I was able to follow. It is not necessarily the info or the data that fuels my interest, it is the way it is told that inspired me to wonder and “investigate”. I also read a David Garrigues post where he compares the shapes we make in asana to a yantra. I will veer off course here and mention that I have always had a fascination with mandalas and yantras. I have no illusions, and many of you might not remember or even have owned a coloring book. Coloring books were huge when I was growing up. My collection of crayons, colored pencils, markers, and pastels was and who am I kidding, still is, epic. I love all those Dover publication themed coloring books. Even before I knew what a mandala or a yantra was, I loved loved coloring them. I find it calming and dare I say meditative. So it makes perfect sense when David says that practicing asana as if you were drawing or building a yantra is a way of entering a meditative state during yoga practice. I hope someone else comes up with the meditative uses of doodling zentangles, because I can do that for hours.
There is a whole post that goes along with this which you will find over here I just wanted to share that my wonderful cyber friend Anthony aka Grimmly, has just delivered the clearest most unassuming translation of the eightfold path to yoga, in plain modern English. In other words, he presents Ashtanga without drama:
1. Reflect on and seek to practice the moral code of your culture.
2. Work on your self discipline.
3. Do some exercise of a non competitive nature to improve your health and flexibility if necessary (you might have a physical outdoorsy job for example).
4. Calm your breathing (unless you have stress free outdoorsy job ).
5. Turn inwards.
6. Focus your attention on something worthy.
7. Contemplate it and then contemplate what is contemplating what.
8. See what happens next.