The Meditation from the Mat messages today (I’m reading several at a time since it’s a library book and has to go back) have to do with not being too harsh with one’s self and not racing and running through yoga as one would a regular “sport.” If I find myself unable to achieve a posture or the deepness of one – or a state of mind that I feel I ought to be able to – my training has been like most Judeo-Christians, to feel shame and then to be angry with myself. These entries are teaching and remind me that it is not the yoga way. We should observe what happens, and let emotions swirl away. Boredom, frustration? They arise and pass away. If an asana or the pace is difficult . . . rest. In child pose or rest in the posture.
Then there were a couple about how most come to yoga through an exercise-type class, but find themselves hungry for more. They suggest the “more” is the yamas and niyamas. Which at first I suppose it is. How doing the physical, the asanas every day without the yamas and niyamas is like rowing your boat madly all night only to find in the morning you are still tied to the dock.
I had a long yoga session yesterday. 40 minutes or so. Some parts felt better than others. I still felt jerky and like I wasn’t sure how I should be moving from one to the other. That – how to get from one asana to the next when you haven’t worked up to the full Rishikesh sequence – and how to breathe – when inhale, when exhale – are two weaknesses of the text. I think I remember that in general one exhales as one enganges in movements that bring limbs closer to the trunk and when lifting, and inhale on the reverse. Maybe I can find a reference in the others, or maybe Van Lysebeth says in a general comment somewhere. He doesn’t include it as a part of each asana’s instructions, which I’d prefer. Before I begin today, I’m going to review all the directions for all four of the ones I’m doing, and maybe also the Locust and the first 3 parts of the Sun Salutation.
I realize I’m already spending 40 minutes, but I don’t have to spend as long in each posture or do all of them every day. It shouldn’t take me as long to get my breathing under control and get relaxed before I start as I get better, either.
[Pelvic pain had been getting increasingly worse; almost went to emergency room night before, resolved to make appt with ob/gyn today. Journal entries much taken up with whether or not to make appt for couple weeks now]
One of the Meditations from the Mat readings is about pride. It is amazing to me how much pride can still be a factor even when I am practicing in a room by myself where no one can see me. No one is going to laugh if I look ridiculous or struggle with something that “should” be easy. No one will ever know how long it takes me to master certain things nor how many mistakes I make along the way. Likewise, there is no one to congratulate me or stroke my ego for doing something well or learning fast. Yet I can’t seem to stop keeping “score” in my head, imaging an audience, imagining what Jim will say when he sees what I can do eventually. Fantasies develop around the first time I get to attend a class with others . . . how they’ll be amazed by my knowledge and stillness and form and grace . . .!!! And then I remember that I won’t know any, or few, of the asanas they do, nor how to move between them. Probably I will breathe wrong, and may have developed all sorts of bad habits. So the fantasy turns nightmarish, with everyone laughing at me, only they are too evolved to laugh – they just feel pity and compassion for poor little me who needs so much correction.
All of this in split seconds, then I realize – “What am I doing? What is the purpose of this again? To impress people when I visit an ashram some far away day? Or a random person who peeps over the fence some summer day? To wow Jim with my new flexibility?” But Pride has long been my enemy, my foe. And spiritual pride is the most insidious. It sneaks up on me in so many guises. Satya – honesty – is the way to combat it. I think to acknowledge that yes, there are parts of me that would like to show off how well they have mastered the asanas is helpful. Especially when I remind those parts that the honest truth is we need a lotof work to deserve the praise of others. We are in this for many reasons: the pursuit of ultimate liberation, health here in this life, increased widom, patience and compassion, better digestion – LOTS of reasons! If the ego’s drive for recognition helps get us through the hard parts, I guess it isn’t such a bad thing. It just can’t be allowed to rule the castle.
Hmmm. What a concept! Observing what is, in oneself, and accepting it! Not slating parts for immediate or eventual demoliton. This is kinda new.
Another reading (several actually) discusses the riches that come from small changes in our daily lives, the “doing the next right thing.” He talks about correcting his flat feet by learning to lift his arches in yoga. But it took a teacher. We can only see so much about ourselves; at some point one needs a teacher with more knowledge and wisdom who can see what you can’t. The Upanishads and Patanjali say if you do the work to get ready, when you are ready the right teacher will appear. But they were written in the social context of India, where there were teachers everywhere. What are my chances here? My only option is to trust their wisdom. Do all the preliminary work. Get as ready as I possibly can, go as far as possible on my own, and see what happens. I can always drop in at the downtown center, too, to see what it is like. I shouldn’t reject it without every visiting.
The third yama is asteya, non-stealing. What are all the ways I steal without thinking about it? Borrowed books unreturned? Work time in which I am unproductive? I think I make up for that in spades. “When we look honestly at the ways in which we’ve been stealing, we come to understand that in each instance, there is an attachment to a specific result that overrides our deeper values.” P.42 “Beneath the attachment we find fear.”
He provides a sutra that speaks to that fear: “When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come.” Yoga Sutra If he’s right, which he surely is, all we have to do is trust. Trust that the Universe will take care of us, will provide what we need and what will give us deep pleasure. If you really, really believe this, there is no need to steal anything from anyone. Not time, food, money, a kiss, a compliment . . . you can just relax into the faith that whatever it is that you need is on its way to you.
My yoga practice really is taking 40-45 minutes every day and leaves me in a great state of mind to meditate. I guess I need to get up even earlier or something so I can add 30 minutes, or at least 15, of that to my routine. I have to begin making some kind progress on knowing my Self. I feel panicky about it, as if I’m racing the clock, which surely isn’t the right frame of mind in which to find the most healing parts of myself. Maybe after I see the doctor I’ll be able to let some of the anxiety go.
Wow. The first reading included the quote, “Our vision is beclouded and the pathway of our progress is obstructed until we come to know that God can and does express as Good in every person and every situation.” – Ernest Holmes. Rolf talks about how students come to him with anxiety over physical ailments and problems in their lives and he used to tell them that those were opportunities to be mindful. Now, he says, he thinks about it as an opportunity to pay closer attention to what we do, and to put our faith in our ability to heal. “We are not meant to be on the edges of our seats, anxiously paying attention so that we can control events and outcomes. We are meant to stand firmly in the postures of our lives, bearing witness to the moment, to our experience of the moment, aware as we do so that, in the words of Charles Johnston, ‘we are encompassed and supported by spiritual powers’.”
Maybe all I need to be doing right now is be aware of myself experiencing this pain. Stand in it, and do my best to feel the support of the universe. Have faith in my ability to heal myself. Yesterday I did have a cool moment of feeling the earth spinning on its axis, me a part of it, held by its gravity. Have faith in healing like I have faith in that, that I won’t fall off the planet.
The last yama is chastity, brahmacarya. Temperance. Literally, to walk with God. Gates makes the loud point, or point loudly, that to interpret this as celibacy is to miss the point.