Bowing and praying

Nansen asked Joshu, “Have you a master of your own or not?”

Joshu said, “Yes, I have.”

“Where is your master?”

Joshu replied, “In the middle of a severe winter, I bow and pray that the Master may thrive and prosper.”

Nansen realized that Joshu was a vessel of dharma and permitted him to become his disciple.


I love the master koans. I use them often at work, and now, with My Gift moving, I am bowing and praying in a severe winter.

Yesterday, after led, Crim Girl and I went to lunch. We got to discussing Iyengar ropes. I’ve never tried them, but I’ve seen pictures, and they seem like such a good idea now that my practice is at the point where I want to really try to open my shoulders for backbends. Hip opening has come along really nicely over the past year, but as my hips open, it makes my shoulders seem even tighter by comparison. Gotta focus in on the shoulders for a while.

The Cop is uber-handy and I have a devoted yoga room, so last night I ordered the ropes. Can a home climbing wall be far behind? 😉 Yes, secretly I just want to hang upside down like a bat for fun. But I can use the ropes for yoga purposes, too.

My cousin wrote to me today, and sent me a link to a shaman woman. My cousin’s daughter, who is in her late 20s, has been trying to find herself, but kind of spinning her wheels for a long time now. My cousin wondered if I thought this shaman might be able to help. This is a really interesting question to me. For one thing, I am amused that when people in my family see or hear something that seems wacky to them, they turn to me. How many times has one of them said, “It’s a really weird [book/movie/place], you’d probably really like it!” LOL!

In this case, though, I am out of my element. I know next to nothing about shamanism, But I do have the feeling that it would be good for my cousin’s daughter to find some sort of spiritual system that might offer her perspective on life. This side of the family, though, is famous for being entrenched in their idea of reality. They are heavily invested in rejecting anything that isn’t familiar.

I have no idea if Cousin’s Daughter will be able to suspend her disbelief long enough to find whatever she might need in a shamanistic experience. People often feel like they have to either totally buy into, or totally reject, belief systems.

What I told my cousin is that maybe her daughter would find something–a kernel of personal truth, a metaphor, anything–that would be useful. And it may not be immediately useful, but something that she needs later on. Who knows. At the very least, a new experience with an unfamiliar belief system is always enlightening on some level (even if not conscious). Cousin’s Daughter has struggled for years, trying to find some inner peace. Maybe this will be a teeny step in some direction.

Oh, the practice report: Led class yesterday was good. Volleyball Guy’s son, Muscle Man, taught. He gave me a really interesting adjustment in ardha baddha padma paschimottansana, which involved the turn of the binding shoulder toward the extended leg’s hip. Haha! This sounds like one of those, “my aunt’s husband’s stepson’s daughter’s boyfriend” kind of explanations. Suffice it to say, it was a nice, subtle adjustment that gave me something new to think about.

My hamstrings, which were entirely pain-free on Friday, felt a little hinky on Saturday. No great surprise, I suppose. And they weren’t all that bad, so I can’t really complain.

To my right during class was a very languid practitioner. A teacher of a different style of yoga. Her Ashtanga practice was interesting to me, because it seemed super languid. It made me think about styles of yoga (yin immediately comes to mind) where you get into the pose and then kind of go limp.

I hurt myself pretty much every single time I try yin practice–not serious injury, but tweaks–so I am very suspicious of this idea of totally letting go in poses. In terms of the Middle Way, there’s the stiff-as-a-board mode (Volleyball Guy calls it being “a yoga statue”) and the floppy mode–and somewhere in the middle is the engaged mode, where the inner experience of the pose modulates with the breath and the mind.

Anyhow, the floppy practitioner seemed pretty tired at the beginning of class and utterly exhausted by the end. I was wondering why I felt fascinated by this observation–what the lesson was–and then I thought about Mysore the other day, when I had my super-adrenalized, speedy practice.

Okay, fair enough. So whether in the middle of a speedy practice, or upon observing a floppy practice, I will bow and pray that the Master may thrive and prosper.

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