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.
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.
I’ll say this about winter, ice and snow: It will reinforce or destroy your practice. In my case, reinforce thank goodness, but I’ll tell you what, timing is everything because I know that two or three years ago? It would have totaled it. I then had an adolescent crush on the practice, the community, and the hype (Ashtanga is the true yoga, because parampara, the count, the Sanskrit, the invocation,the Nag Champa, bla bla bla). If I did not get reinforcement, I’d lose hope and would almost need to feel that my love and attention had to be reciprocated. This winter I am less anxious about being marked absent (as if!) at the shala, and more concerned with being present for whatever time period I am willing to be alone with what shows up during asana. I am also not surprised that 2105 being year 7 (you know it takes +- 7 years for the cells of your body to “regenerate”)is when I decided to blurt a yes to India, even though I am yet to say yes to Mysore. I have never been really comfortable sharing the thought of -why spend all that money if I’m going to be stopped at Mari D and I might never in this lifetime make it past Mari D? Which is still an embarrassing thought, but there you have it. I will always participate and pay my dues in order to benefit from my beautiful sangha/shala community but I am glad that I have progressed from crush to mature love affair which can be sustained without party tricks.
…The final frontier. Hahahaha old dork, sorry. I have ended up commenting on more than one site singing the praises of the Kon Mari method. Sometime in December almost every friend in my circle (local & cyber) simultaneously decided to check out this book:
After finishing it round the first week of January, I still had not developed the nerve to do things exactly as she wanted me to, until now. I had to buy a new tank of gas just from making trips to the goodwill and to the dump. Mostly to the dump. I also realized that I had been used in the past as a dumping ground for well meaning friends and family, who once heard me say I loved pitchers, owls, images of Buddha Shakyamuni, or know that I practice yoga give me everything they find with with the OM symbol. Some of the stuff was in the category of “this is sterling silver/Limoges/100+ years old whatever, and I don’t want it! So I need you to keep it so I can feel okay about it” Let’s be mindful of what we give each other, lest it becomes a well intentioned burden! This book is longer than it needs to be, but you know what? As I was reading it I finally understood why the inhalation and exhalation/ creating sound obsession when doing asana. We are making room for the shape to take form! If you practice in front of a teacher, they are holding space so you can in turn, create space within yourself to create the movement. Oh, and I wont lie, Marie is okay with taking to inanimate objects and she actually encourages it. I have been mortified since childhood thinking that I was being creepy.
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.
Or rather thanks to the people who use the internet for good. More specifically, thanks to yogis who use the internet for good. Here are a few things that made a huge difference to my practice and therefore my days which is really the reason to have such a thing as a practice.
I know someone told me the reason for having a lit candle in the room during practice, but I forget who and I forget why. None the less, Having one in front of you and focusing your attention on the flame, distracts you from the throbbing in your thumb which you almost sliced the top off cleaning the husband’s junk drawer where he kept an exacto knife. Who knew, throbbing thumb leads to a very meditative practice because you decided to focus your drishti on the flame of a candle. Tip: if you have long hair, please set such candle farther from your mat than you’d think. So thanks to the person who explained about fire in the room even if I forgot.
I forgot how long it has been since I get a regular good night’s sleep for many more than just one reason. One of those reasons though is noise. My beloved acquired the behavior of snoring loudly in the recent past, I live by route 106 which means every truck that comes into town has to pass by my bedroom window, and my house, which is 144 years old shakes every time the Dunkin Doughnuts truck or the Pain Quotidien truck chugs up the hill to replenish the treats. Well, I mentioned to the snoring exacto knife owner that Claudia Azula Altucher kept singing the praises of those horribly expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones, and I might succumb out of desperation after reading that lack of sleep keeps you obese and obesity gives you cancer. I just got them delivered to my front door because I do not know anybody more generous that the exacto knife owner. You actually have to be careful around him when saying something is pretty, or nice. He just gets it for you. Thankfully he is not a good listener or we would be broke broke broke. SO thank you Claudia and Ray.
Finally, Thank you to all the people that take the time to share what they are learning when they go on retreat or to a workshop/training. I know you are tired after a full day, so when for example Peg Mulqueen from Ashtanga Dispatch shares a clip of David Robson teaching Transitions (jumpback-jumpthroughs) on facebook, you suddenly realize how many weird ticks, complications, and obstacles you have tacked on to “your” method, and immediately try it his way and swhoosh! Off you go. Thanks Peg/Ashtanga Dispatch.