Home Practice: 8/17/06

Take-away from today’s practice: I know I need to extend more through the spine, particularly the lower spine, but this morning I realized that I tend to be slightly afraid of extending this way, that I kind of contract my lower back a bit to “protect” it–in part, I think, because I grew up among people who had lower back problems (which is quite common in America), and in part as a remnant of weightlifting days, when I protected my lower back by flexing the muscles. This slight ongoing contraction, or pulling back, is pretty much unconscious–it’s just the way I hold myself, and I never really noticed it because it is so “normal” for me. Anyhow, I have to work this through. This morning, with some extra attention, I managed to extend more from the sacral area, which felt quite good physically, though a little scary psychically. The extension takes some of the stress off my hamstrings, and when I do it, it seems kinesthetically “correct.”

And there was a side bonus for my sore hamstrings: instead of blindly cranking my quads to protect the hammies, I focused in and applied quad tension with more discrimination. Tried to modulate it to work with the stuff going on in my sacrum. Seemed to help.

So many things to focus on while I’m not thinking 😉

These days, I feel nervous as kurmasana approaches, so I just tried to breathe through the nervousness and pay attention to how the hamstrings responded. I’m not going for perfection on the pose, not trying to work around the left hamstring, but just trying to feel it out. Hopefully the relaxed approach will, at the very least, get me past the bad association (kurmansana = strain & pain) that I’ve established. Then when my hamstrings are healed, the pose can be a newer, gentler kurmasana 😉

Here’s a quote from Hakuin. (Editorial note-to-self: the “valiant heart that presses forward” is not equivalent to the hamstrings that press down in kurmasana.)

Such knowledge as originates from outside yourself can never assist your arriving at a great Satori, the big Awakening. Whatever you do, you must once see for yourself the fact that that buddha-nature you sought for was always yours from the start–there is nothing more important than this.

How can we see for ourselves this fact that buddha-nature was originally ours?

The Buddhist teachings have assumed various forms in the course of explanation: sudden and gradual, greater and smaller vehicle, revealed and esoteric, indeterminate, and so on. But in the realization of the Buddha Way, the most important thing is to evince a valiant heart that presses forward and never falls back. Until you can taste the joy of great Satori, the big Awakening, never fall back–it is in this spirit you must enter into practice.

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