So let’s see: I get stuck in particular mental states because I identify with them: I’m happy; I’m sad; I’m angry; whatever. Even just whatever indistinct mood I am in at any given moment. But practice offers an opportunity to let go with every breath/movement. With every vinyasa. Basically, practice kicks my sorry ego/ass and says, “Move along!”

Practice is so effective at keeping me in moment-to-moment reality that it won’t even let me hang out and revel in practice itself: inhale is linked to movement, exhale is linked to movement, I get five breaths to feel where I am, then on to the next. “Move along!”

I try bringing that to real life when someone says something I think is lame or insulting, or something I just don’t agree with. All of the feelings come up, but practice has taught me to have them for an inhale or an exhale, and then put them all down and just go to the next moment. Take another breath. Remember that all those feelings I get: “Yay! I did the pose,” “I suck, ’cause I could do this yesterday but not today,” “The marketing department is driving me mad!” are perfectly fine but nothing I’m stuck with. And ultimately, they’re all interchangeable.

Desire is about wanting something: to feel good, to keep feeling good, to avoid feeling bad (“Oops, forgot to keep my arms straight in dropbacks!). We all go through our days getting tangled up in one thing or another. And we want to get tangled up: next time you feel angry and aggressive, take a moment to see if the energy feels kind of… well, energetic. Kind of seductive. Entertaining. Same deal with joy. It feels strong and appealing. All of this is fine. Just as long as you remember you’re never really stuck with/in these feeling states. πŸ™‚

Okay, so that’s the kind of stuff I was thinking about on the way to practice this morning. I did actually have a rather distracted start: I kept launching these little trains of thought and kept having to put them down. By the time I got to the end of primary, though, I was settled in pretty good. So good, in fact, that I felt very grounded through the intermediate poses. Usually I get all discombobulated, in terms of breath and effort.

Volleyball Guy and Sanskrit Scholar helped me out at kapotasana. I am starting to understand the backbend, and the strength of the quads, which seem to be driving this whole thing much more than the upper body/shoulders. I think I should have known this, but I didn’t until now. Anyhow, I was very surprised, after pushing up into my legs hard, to be digging so deep into the sacrum. You know how Richard Freeman talks about the “cave of the sacrum”? Yeah, well, I want to say something about the “core of the sacrum”: Yikes!

It didn’t really hurt, but it rather shocked me, the sensation. Never felt anything like that before. Then I became aware of my shoulders, because Sanskrit Scholar was pushing my elbows together. Hard. All of a sudden I kind of came to and found myself crawling my fingers toward my toes. Crawling, crawling, crawling… desperately. How freaking hilarious! What better analogy for my own desires? I must get my toes! LOL! I snapped to and started paying attention to what my shoulders felt like as my elbows were being pushed together and forget my stupid toes. They’re always there, and they already are doing just fine in the pose. ITSS. (It’s the shoulders, stupid.) But I am a crow, and my toes are the shiny, shiny object.



6 Responses

  1. wow, I like the new paint job. Pretty.

  2. You’re like my teacher for blog writing. Are you in Scottsdale? I’m working on a project in Tucson. Maybe I’ll get to practice with your group sometime. Blessings. Arturo

  3. Thanks, CJ. The person who designed it makes really nice websites:

    Yes, Arturo, I’m in Scottsdale. If you are going to be in town, drop me a note and I’ll give you directions to the shala!

  4. I read your post this morning and it set the tone for my day. Thanks, DZM: I needed some space and nonchalance about the phase of dissertation self-loathing that smothered my dreams and would have eaten my day had I chosen to feed it (self-loathing: love that feeling!!!). Not that you wanted to hear this, but I’m with Arturo in liking very much the way you do this.

    Anyway, question. I’m don’t know anything about zen (of course, nor does anyone else!)… but did visit Thic Nhat Hahn’s center in Escondido before I settled into Vipassana practice. At DP, we did a lot of heart-centered practice (and also kept on getting hugged by the monks, and having them take retreatants’ hands lovingly to walk up to the dining hall… very affectionate folks)– cultivating love as, well, an emotional state. Is that kind of lovingkindness-work different from most Zen practice?

  5. Yeah, it’s pretty different. At least that’s my impression, though I’ve never practiced Vipassana. Zen practice does not use visualizations or “thoughts” or methods (my impression is that Vipassana does). In zen, you just sit. You’re not “getting” anywhere– not to love or kindness or your heart or anything. Sitting really is just sitting. There is also very little discussion of theory/practice. Sometimes a talk from the zen master, but that’s pretty rare.

    There’s koan practice if you practice with a Rinzai school (I’ve practiced with Korean and Japanese schools, both of them Rinzai). With koan practice, you are given a koan to mull over and “solve.” The beauty part of this (and I know you’ll appreciate it!) is that koans can not be cracked by rationalization or logic. They are weird little mind-f**kers that torment you and come clear in their own damn time when you suddenly understand real life (and all its attendant delusions) just a teeny bit more, and in a way that you could never actually put into words. The koan “answer” is the only way of indicating your experience.

    So zen practice is austere and demanding in comparison to Vipassana. At least that’s my uneducated understanding. Zen can be marvelously heady, but as soon as you pursue the headiness, you’re off track. Very frustrating and absolutely hilarious.

    My first school was this one: Not sure if by looking at this you will be able to see how it’s different from Vipassana…

    Thanks for the kind words, and hey, go easy on the self-loathing. It’s addictive and it messes up your practice πŸ˜‰

  6. How to practice yoga off the mat? You described it very well. We study for life yoga for life. Yoga says yes to life and it does not deny life. Very nice post. Ursula

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