What are they for? Well, to protect the tips of your toes. Do you know where I’m going with this? How many Ashtangis have cut their toenails just a little too short, only to realize it at their next practice?

So that was this morning’s complaint. Not bad, really, when the complaint can so easily be injury or aching hamstrings. But sure enough, my first thought after my first vinyasa was: Owie! Too short! Second thought, of course, was: How can I avoid this pain? Oh, I recognize that kind of thinking. It’s what happens in the midst of a zazen retreat, when suddenly I have an itch. I remember being tormented by that sort of thing when I first starting sitting practice. Especially at the zendo, where the silence is so profound that the slightest shift sounds unbelievably loud. So you sit and sit, distracted as all get out by the itch on your chin–then maybe you decide to go for it–reach up and scratch: oh yeah, it sounds loud as hell, the sound of the fabric of your sleeve crinkling, the slight shift on the cushion as you move your body, the sound of your fingernails on your skin, the noise you make settling back to sitting. But it’s worth it–for the relief from that maddening…hey, wait a minute, now my nose is itchy! Yup. It’s an impossible situation, an endless cycle. Try to escape one reality and face yet another. So after a while you learn to just sit. Itchy? Whatever.

So I brought that to my toenail situation. Just another physical bit of suffering that the mind needn’t be derailed by. And I also felt a little superstitious–after all, if I found a way to relieve the pain in my toes, what new suffering would I confront? God forbid, the dreaded screaming hamstrings!! 😉 So what do you do when your toes hurt? Just practice.

Today I practiced with the wall on one side of me, and The Beautiful One on the other side. She came in at the last minute and scootched into a not-quite spot next to me. It’s always a pleasure to practice next to her. And today was no different: I was totally locked in on drishti and bandhas, though kind of shallow on the breathing. It’s harder to really get into the breathing during led. Mysore is all one’s own practice, but with the added advantage of everyone else’s energy. Led, though, is more collective. So a little harder to listen to oneself. That’s fine.

And it’s a chance for me to see how things are beyond my usual Mysore practice, which ends with bhujapidasana. Let’s just say I don’t mind being at bhuja, when the next pose is kurmasana. Hopefully a good while at bhuja will whet my appetite for something new and…uh…challenging.

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