Ah, karma. Such an interesting thing. I always think of it as the mind’s habits. Habits which arise in this lifetime, and habits left over from past lifetimes. We don’t even think about these habits–they are the “wallpaper,” the “way” we think our minds are, just a given. With meditation, I’ve become a little bit aware of how those habits get made, how they can be let go of, etc. Lots of practicing, is how the zen masters say you can burn off your karma. I always kind of heard that in exactly the way you’re warned not to–I heard it like I was looking at the finger pointing at the moon, i.e., zazen leads to burned-off karma. It’s not that, though. It’s not linear or causal–though with practice your karma does indeed seem to shift.

Today I thought about body karma, which when I think about it even a teeny bit I realize can’t be separated from mind karma. Except I can’t conceptualize without splitting them off, so I will. What brought this up was practicing with The Cop this morning. More accurately, he practiced and I observed the Moon Day. Gave me a chance to pay more attention to him, since usually I just practice with him and he’s kind of on his own. Which really may be to his benefit, because this whole Ashtanga teacher thing stymies me. When to help, and when to just leave someone alone. When someone needs help physically and when they don’t; when they need help mentally and when they don’t. Sigh.

When I started zazen, I just went to a zendo and they told me how to sit and then I sat. Anything else I learned was pretty much on my own initiative. Granted, I am overly attached to researching my interests–so in zen, as in Ashtanga, I did lots of background work on my own. I’m a little single-minded when it comes to these things.

And now The Cop wants help and I’m pretty much at a loss. I think I can only practice with him and then eventually bring him to a Saturday led (once he’s off his awful work schedule).

So anyhow, helping The Cop this morning made me really see body karma–the habits of the body. And I realized that this is what I am feeling change with my Ashtanga practice. Sure, I feel despair about my tight shoulders–but they are made of my posture, my old practice of weightlifting, hundreds of climbs on rocks and artificial walls, the way I hold my shoulders based on my fears and beliefs and tensions, etc. They are simultaneously the shoulders I am stuck with and the shoulders I have made. Likely they will follow me into other lifetimes, somehow.

And as I watched The Cop (who has the same kind of shoulders, BTW) work his forward bends, I realized that there is body karma getting burnt off in me in relation to my lower back. There is a whole belief system in me about my lower back and how it works and what is safe and how it moves and feels–and all of those habits are in flux due to Ashtanga practice. Kind of like my solidified habit of body is freeing up somehow. I can’t really say much more about this, because it defies words, and I imagine it’s irritating for people to read such nebulous text–but hey, it was either that or write about what I had for breakfast.

One other note: yesterday at Volleyball Guy’s, the strangest thing happened. I was finishing up practice when I was struck with the most incredible feeling of insecurity about being a slacker. I try to keep a holistic perspective on my practice–I really try not to get too attached to good or bad, or to specific poses, or despair about difficulties, or whatever. I breathe and I keep my mind still and whatever happens, happens, and I figure if I keep at it for a decade, I’ll be alot better in 2016 than I am in 2006. But suddenly the whole thing kind of came crashing down around me and I wondered if I should be doing something else, something different, something more, to be a good practitioner.

I have no idea what that was about, and I’m not going to make any assumptions about it. I figure I’ll just see what I feel like next time I am there. Quite honestly, I pretty much go along thoroughly enjoying my practice, and I think I just had a moment of regression, a throwback to a childhood of Catholic guilt, and maybe some weird reaction to having an authority figure present after weeks of rolling along with my home practice during his vacation time. Just a little bit of my mind’s less helpful habit of insecurity. Strange. Vaguely unpleasant. But, ultimately, just grist for the mill.


One Response

  1. Body karma, what a good way to describe it. I too feel all the past in my movements in my practice. The forward head, the hips tight from carrying my babies.
    Other traumas, all stored here and there. One thing opens up just to reveal a deeper more acute problem. It sometimes feels like a no win situation! I have really been meditating on my Shiva statue lately, really understanding the concept of destroying all so I can begin building the new. Really trying to appreciate that. But jeeze, there is a lot of old…..LOL!

    I had raisin bran with soymilk for breakfast.

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