Moon

Interesting day. People seem tired and cranky and out of sorts. The moon, I imagine. I’ve been a little off kilter, emotionally, too, but not too bad.

Last night, My Gift came down from school and cooked a special Valentines meal for The Frenchman. I supervised, as she doesn’t do much cooking. All turned out marvelously, and I retired when he showed up at 8:30. I was asleep by 9 PM. And slept in until 7 AM. That should be good, right, seeing as I consider myself self-deprived? As it turns out, I just felt kind of sluggish and headachey. Maybe this 8 hours of sleep business is a big scam. Maybe the 6-7 that I usually get is just fine.

Practice was lovely. I talked with Sanskrit Scholar a bit before practice started. Told her that last week, I placed my mat exactly where I thought I would get a supta kurmasana adjustment. Volleyball Guy works his way around the room, giving each person an adjustment, and I was playing the odds that I could get the one I wanted. Which, indeed, is exactly what happened. Interestingly enough, I mostly ended up feeling like it wasn’t a “win,” like I was over-manipulating the situation. Sanskrit Scholar laughed when I told her about it. My smarts are sometimes my biggest downfall.

So today I put my mat down in a nice little spot and didn’t try to figure out what I’d get as my adjustment reward. The British Director was to my right, and The Big Guy was to my left. Practice goes along and I hear Volleyball Guy getting closer and closer, pose by pose. Ah, The British Director gets an adjustment for Marichyasana B. It occurs to me that Volleyball Guy may pass me by to give The Big Guy a hand in Marichy C, then double back for me on D. And so it was.

And what an adjustment. The single best adjustment I’ve ever had. I love Ashtanga, in part because of how it’s taught. My professional background is in educational technologies (how you teach people, and how people best learn) and of course a lot of my work involves the most cutting edge technologies (education for mobile devices, webconferencing, wikis, etc.). But you know, there is NOTHING like teaching people one-on-one.

The room was nice and toasty and the wrist grab wasn’t really tough. Volleyball Guy helped a little, but then he really twisted me, and at the same time, took the fingertips of my wrapping hand (not the grabbing one) and pushed them to grab my lotus shin. Which I could then pull against a bit to get even deeper into the pose. No words at all. Just me in this crazy, unfathomable kinesthetic experience, suddenly feeling my shin with my fingertips and going, “Oh, I get it!” in my mind. Seriously, you just can’t beat that. Teaching at its very best.

The other thing I love about Volleyball Guy is his patience. I know he’s shown me millions of things that I just didn’t “get” at the time. He doesn’t belabor the point at all. He’ll just teach it to me again another day, and perhaps I’ll get it that time. And if not, well, we’ll try again another time.

I learn best by reading (hence my ridiculously large Ashtanga library). Of course, in the end you just have to DO it, but I understand more when I see things in written form. Volleyball Guy, on the other hand, is a kinesthetic learner, like many (and maybe most, I suspect) athletes. He could be really irritated with a student who has to process kinesthetic information so much more slowly than he does — but he’s not. I really appreciate that.

Okay, the other amusement was dropbacks. I was doing some of the hanging back exercises after urdhva dhanurasana and I heard Volleyball Guy say to The British Director, “Help her. She just needs a finger on her lower back.” So The British Director did the “I’ll catch you at the very end if you need it” dropback assist. It’s such fun. I’m a little unnerved at the thought of doing it with no one standing by, but I’m sure it’ll all work out in time. Volleyball Guy came by and said, “You’ll get it next week,” presumably meaning totally unassisted dropbacks. I am so excited about it, because I love the droppy feeling. It is that same gravity feeling as falling when climbing, only upside down. My climbing falls were almost always feet first, except for a few head-first falls from overhangs, which scared the heck out of me. But I have to admit that I just love to feel the pull of gravity.

It reminds me of a bumpersticker I saw on a car at one of my old climbing hang-outs: “Gravity — not just a good idea. It’s the law.”

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Prescient

This morning, The Cat came over and stood on my thighs during baddha konasana. All I could think was, “Hmmm, ibuprofen will probably be a good idea later.” What a great crack from my sacrum, though. Mmmm.

I always love when I get the cracks on trikonasana. If I don’t, the rest of practice feels a little resistant. I have to put that expectation down, otherwise I’ll start judging how things are going to be according to that one factor. Which would be lame.

Anyhow, as per usual, I did my urdhva dhanurasanas and then Volleyball Guy came over. We did a couple more urdhva ds, and then dropbacks. Very slow, hanging, cranking-the-shoulders open kind of dropbacks. The kind that leave you panting at the end. We did five or six of those. As I bent forward to gather my wits, Volleyball Guy asked, “Feel kind of shaky?” “Not too bad,” I said. I was thinking I wanted to do the ones where I go back on my own and he catches me at the very end. He went off to do something else, though, so I figured I’d leave it alone.

Sure enough, as I got into paschimottanasana, he was back, squishing me down. My feet and legs started shaking. Hmmmm, I guess I was pretty shaky. Even as I did the lying flat/five breaths before sarvangasana, I was still kind of vibrating at a high speed.

Yikes! Backbends — breakfast of champions…

Oh. Right. Pleasure.

Hard time getting up this morning. I looked on the calendar for the Moon Day. Surely that’s why I feel so tired and uninspired? Yup, there’s one coming up on Saturday. I am already planning a criminal led class, so it’s a moot point.

My concession to tiredness was a soft practice. Work has been hella stressful lately, and though it makes me think it’s my body that’s tired, in the end, I think it’s mostly about my mind. And a little practice can only help resolve that, right?

Enough rationalization. I got on the mat.

And instead of pushing pushing pushing as faaaaarrrrr as possible into every single pose, I decided to be light and airy and just stretch into each until it felt good. You know, that nice stretchy feeling. The one I usually shoot right past as I go for the deeeeep stretchy, oooh, I wonder if my muscle’s gonna snap stretchiness.

Nice to remind myself every so often that I needn’t be driven.

So practice was light and relaxed and very pleasant. I really should do that a little more often. Such a bizarre habit I have, always having to keep pushing myself.

***

Delightful conversation last night with the monk who married me and The Cop. We were talking about documentaries, and I mentioned the Leonard Cohen “I’m Your Man” documentary. Sure enough, Sokai appeared in it for a moment, during one of the scenes at Roshi’s zendo.

I also told him about the Tibetan Book of the Dead documentary. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we saw in that film: a lama chanting and speaking to a dead body, as he tried to guide the dead person through the bardo.

The lama kept telling the released consciousness that it had to realize that its body was dead and the things that it was experiencing were the manifestations of mind. And that if it could fully realize that all of its experiences (both when alive and now when dead) were the manifestation of mind, then it could escape rebirth.

In one of the bardos, the consciousness was circling the globe, moving relentlessly, which stirs up a deep desire to be reincarnated, to settle, to stop moving, to re-manifest. The lama tries to tell the consciousness that it can escape this fate if it recognizes itself as free, but in the end, the consciousness is drawn again into an earthly manifestation.

I guess there is a part of me that is fascinated at the idea of freedom being so close, and yet so hard to see, so hard to realize. It’s like how Soen Sa Nim would say, “So easy, and so difficult. So difficult, and so easy.”

Just like yoga. Just like life.

“There will be fear”

But there wasn’t.

This morning, I did my usual urdhva dhanurasanas. Then Volleyball Guy came over and we did assisted dropbacks. When we were finished, he went off to do something else. I had a little time to spare, so I decided to do some of my hanging back exercises.

“Let’s do that again,” I heard him say, as I came up. So I set up again and he indicated that I should go ahead and do the dropback on my own. “There will be fear,” he said, “but I’ll make sure you’re okay.”

I felt absolutely no fear at all. If Volleyball Guy thinks I can do something, and if he’s hanging around to help out, then there’s nothing to worry about.

It was actually fun to tip… tip… tip… further and further back until gravity grabbed me. Volleyball Guy caught my hips at the very last moment, so I wouldn’t crash. What fun! We did it a couple more times.

When I got home, there was a note from my boss in my email. She apologized for “spreading her high anxiety” at a meeting yesterday. I think it’s sweet that she sent the note, and I was struck by the fact that I didn’t feel anxiety. I felt tempted to tell her that every morning, I work with a practice that holds the potential to scare me, or discourage me, or make me deliriously happy, or frustrate me. And the outcome of that practice is that when fear comes or discouragement or happiness or frustration, I practice letting them go.

This morning, there was no fear, because I trust Volleyball Guy. The day will come, of course, when he’s not standing right there, ready to help. And there will be fear. But that will be okay.

Sound of my own voice

Just listened to a bit of the recording of a global webconference call I was on this morning. Ack! The sound of my own voice! I really don’t like listening.

Mostly I hate speaking in public and recorded situations because when I am talking, I can’t be thinking. So I launch off into the sound of my own voice, always vaguely wondering where in the world I’ll end up, since I can’t seem to think and talk at the same time.

My boss, who is wonderful, understood that if I did a webconference this morning from 5 – 6:30, then I’d need time to practice afterwards. I didn’t get into the office until 9.

Practice was good. Nothing fancy, but nice to have silence and not have to say anything at all.

I have a little nerve thing going on in the sacrum — a little sore spot that flares up a bit every now and then. It’s flares have changed quality over the course of the past year and a half of practice. Much less frequent, less achey. But the past couple of days, there’s been a little sharp pain. Fleeting, but a bit worrisome. Hopefully just an opening, with a quick and happy resolution.

This morning at 5 AM, I read the most remarkable paragraph in Swara Yoga. First, a quick definition: Sushumna nadi is the main central nadi in the spinal cord for channeling kundalini shakti.

When sushumna is active, the breath flows through both nostrils simultaneously. Every hour and twenty minutes after sunrise, the central nadi flows for a few moments. After practicing pranayama or when the mind become one-pointed, or when one is about to commit some criminal act, sushumna also flows.

Both the suicidal terrorist and the yogi in deep meditation have sushumna flowing. When you are about to engage in some sort of crime or assault in battle, sushumna flows. It also flows during the exhilaration one feels after climbing a mountain… In sushumna both the physical organs and the mental organs function simultaneously and you become very powerful, whether in spiritual or mundane life.

After practicing pranayama or when the mind become one-pointed, or when one is about to commit some criminal act… Criminal act? You could have knocked me over when I read that.

But as soon as he mentioned climbing, I understood. Because I thought of the context with which I understand The Cop. I knew when I read this passage to The Cop, he would understand. And indeed, he did.

When The Cop talks about work or his past military experience, I always contextualize it in relation to climbing. Some things he tells me about, I equate to being 45 feet up: you could fall and be okay. Some things are the equivalent of 150 feet up: if it goes bad, you’re gonna die. If it’s over 300 feet, well, then you’re just in the thick of things and not doing much extra thinking. And if it’s over 600 feet, it’s all dreamlike and vivid.

I always thought my drawing these equivalencies was kind of lame, but now I feel more justified 😉

Interestingly, The Cop and I also are very curious about the behaviors of suicide bombers, though we take distinctly different views about them. I wonder if this relationship that’s been drawn, between yogis, climbers, criminals and suicide bombers will alter our discussions.

He’s an interesting man, The Cop. He has no tolerance for New Ageiness whatsoever, but he moved one of my movies on Netflix to the top of the list (trust me, this is unprecedented!): The Tibetan Book of the Dead rocks. We watched last night. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, it gives a glimpse into the beliefs and practices of what seem to be entirely average Tibetan people. There was one scene where people were standing on a dirt road talking about death and what happens after death, and how they interact with the dead to make sure the spirit is well cared for. One woman had a child tied to her back and she happily smiled and gestured to her child and said, “Everyone is reincarnated. You don’t know where someone has come from.”

Delightful. I love the idea of looking at these people I deal with every day and thinking about where they might have come from, what previous lives. I do it with The Cop (samurai) and My Gift (Tibetan monk), of course, but it’s never occurred to me to think that way about the people I work with. I wonder if they’ll call security if I start asking, “Who do you think you were in a previous life?”

Lesson

No more margaritas on Sunday evening. How many times do I have to learn this lesson? The Cop and I love to go out for dinner and have a drink, but it seems to be playing havoc with the dropbacks. Makes me queasy.

And it was a backbend festival this morning. Volleyball Guy let me do three urdhva dhanurasanas on my own, then came over and had me do more so he could do the adjustment where he sits and pushes his foot into my upper back. Then he put blocks on the floor for my feet and we did some of those. Time for dropbacks! (Oh, tart margarita, you’re killing me!) Dropbacks were okay. I was distracted by my tummy. I need to think about weighting my legs down and curling my shoulders back and breathing — so throwing the tummy consciousness into the mix kinda messed up my ability to keep track of everything.

Remind me next Sunday to have water instead.