Not knowing

Woke up this morning feeling depressed. A very unusual feeling for me. First thought of the day: I can’t do this (seriously, I never think this way), and I’m too old (a thought I’m astounded to even hear myself thinking).

They were more than thoughts, though, they were the seeds of beliefs — they had resonance and gravity and they were bubbling up from the place where emotion meets language in the subconscious and starts to form beliefs. Nuh uh. I won’t have it. If thoughts like this are starting up, it means I have to be more mindful of the internal monolog that usually goes on under my radar.

First off, sort the facts. Here’s the sticking point: Someone told me SKPJ won’t allow people over 40 to start intermediate series. That little piece of information is the grain of sand around which my belief is being built. Well, that and the fact that I was brought up to never put myself in harm’s way. No physical danger. The Cop and I visited with my parents yesterday and my Mom told me that my Dad had taken a walk in the desert. They live in a planned community and their place is on the very edge. Beautiful raw desert beyond their fence. My Dad, as she put it, “went outside the fence” and took a walk.

“I had my cell phone,” he said.

She wasn’t buying it. “You can’t get reception everywhere,” she countered.

He walked a mile. This is how I was brought up.

Then, when The Cop and I got home from visiting my folks, we watched “Babel.” Human suffering. Great, just what my subconscious needs before sleep. How can I possibly be surprised that I woke up convinced that my life is pretty much over?

The only thing that kept the hope alive was pain. No kidding. I had pain in my back. Here’s an idea of how poor my awareness of my back is: I had to actually touch the pain to understand where it was. Lower back I understand; the rest of it, foreign terrain. A wilderness, really. Outside the fence of my consciousness and not safe for me to explore, even with a cell phone.

The pain was right where my lower ribs end. Oh! I was so happy! It was my thoracic! You know what this means, don’t you? It means I actually managed to stress my thoracic area in practice. Which is just what I’m aiming to do. It’s not a horrible pain, just a little nagging thing. I felt more concerned about it than intense lower back pain, because it is less familiar. But I told myself to just go along with it and see how this thoracic thing plays out.

No ibuprofen. No coffee. Nah, I’m lying. I had coffee. Skipped the NSAID, though. Went to practice, as is my habit, despite feeling weird emotionally. The thoracic thing stayed all through practice, and was quite a good reminder to make the most of up dog. I even used it as the marker that I was trying to curl over as I went back in kapotasana. First try was solo. Fine. Mostly about getting more acquainted with the fear. Second try was assisted by Volleyball Guy. He stood over me and took my right hand to my toes, then took my left hand to my toes in a very exaggerated manner that made me lose whichever foot I had as he moved the other hand. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, repeating the motion so I could see how my shoulders have to rotate to grab the feet.

When I came up, I told him thanks, and that I am not used to articulating my shoulders separately, that in weightlifting it’s all about stabilizing the whole shoulder girdle. “You go back to that in third,” he said. Interesting.

As I drove home, I realized that I am back to a broader perspective of practice. I’ve spent recent months working on details of primary. I had the big picture squared away and my breath all smoothed out, and what I needed to do to fine tune each pose was very clear. Now, I’m back to broader strokes. To really not knowing.

Not knowing is most intimate.


7 Responses

  1. My friend who is over fifty got Pasasana from Sharath last year.

  2. Haha! Okay, then. That was a quick solution to my belief-system problem! I know it seems incredibly dorky, but I’m really happy to hear that.

  3. Lino Miele was in his 40s when he started ashtanga. And Gwendolyn Hunt was in her 70s. And they both went well beyond intermediate.

  4. Aw, I feel so happy! I have a picture of Gwendolyn Hunt as my screensaver at work. She’s doing a gorgeous backbend.

    I’ll see if I can track down more info on Lino. Didn’t realize he started so late.

    Thanks, Sanjaya! Much appreciated.

  5. OMG he went OUTSIDE the fence??

    I’m a stay-inside-the-fence-type myself, so I can relate.

    I would be really happy if I could go a day without pain in my thoracic, but I get where you’re coming from 😉 My lumbar is a mystery to me.

  6. Yeah, the whole fence in the desert thing cracks me up!

    I’m continually amazed at how little I know about my back. I’m hoping the backbends will bring me some consciousness. The whole back thing is somewhat overwrought, though: I was brought up in a family of people with back pain, so was taught that backs are tenuous — a dangerous wilderness you don’t want to go exploring.

  7. Thanks for the post and all the comments. Starting Ashtanga last year when I was 45 has always been a little “troubling” to me…. ;->

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