Practice report, question, Lin Chi

All confused about what day is my day off. Used to be Sundays, but then when Volleyball Guy opened his new shala, there was the Sunday improv class. So I started going to that and took Tuesday as my day off. The shala’s closed this weekend, so what to do today? Take the usual Sunday break? Practice? Last Tuesday was a break day, so a sleep-in morning, which seemed great — but it was followed by a total day from hell at work, 100% vata-spiralling-out-of-control kind of day. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the lack of practice that left me vulnerable to being swept up in all the work drama.

Anyhow, I decided to practice. And it was a good one. Not tough to get on the mat: I remembered to not spend too much time dawdling over coffee — otherwise my mind gets all attached to the idea of pursuing distractions (what it likes to think of as “starting the day”). Did read a great paragraph on Tabby Cat’s blog:

Adams talks about using the moment of waking up from (regular) sleep as a chance to “follow the I back to the heart” or basically not allow the I to creep its way up from the heart to the brain (because on the way to the brain, the nice big upper-case “I” (universal Self) gets funneled down into a Grinchy lower-case “i” (ordinary egoic grasper such as most of us are). He also mentions Ramana’s concept of the spiritual heart as being in the center-right chest.

Oh yes, that’s it in a nutshell, how the mind can interfere with the discipline of practice. He has some great book reviews on his site. I got going a bit on how zen is the same as and different than advaita. Uh oh! Mind getting ready to get busy with discursive thinking! Get on the mat!

And so I did. Practice felt nice and light, both physically and mentally. Parsva dhanurasana is really interesting right now: I am not even thinking about it physically (in terms of how “well” I am managing to do the pose) but rather, I am just trying to keep my mind still so I can feel it clearly. The heart part. I’m pretty much not paying any attention to shoulders, legs, arms, spine, or tension/relaxation points. Just the heart part. No idea where this will go, but I was freaked by the feeling when I first felt it, so the thing to do now is to just experience it fully for a while. The physical work can come later.

Laghu vajrasana is playing games with me: coming and going unpredictably. I had it stabilized for a while there, but stabilized by strength and will. It’s eluded my grasp and now comes and goes as it likes. I think this is because my back is opening up from the backbending — there is less stiffness to leverage in a strength pose like laghu vajrasana. Gotta give something up to get something else, eh? Okay, that’s fine. All I’m doing now is working the freak-out factor: need to get the equanimity going, so I can feel okay whether I get it or not in any given practice. Got it today, but tried to temper the “woohoo!” response — that way if I don’t get it tomorrow, it won’t seem like such a freaking tragedy. Kapotasana feels light years away, so I’ll just plug along. I figure I’ll do a critical review in January or February. No sense judging it day-to-day; I’ll drive myself mad.

***

Okay, so if you do your Ashtanga practice 6 days a week, does throwing in an improv class based on Ashtanga on the seventh day count as too much practice, or does the improv class not count as a day of practice?

***

Can’t stop the thoughts arising and disappearing in your mind,
True awareness shining boundlessly, you must focus on the one that doesn’t move.
To realize there are neither forms nor names, nothing to pursue,
Sword of Wisdom has been used, must hurry to hone it.

— Lin Chi

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3 Responses

  1. I count it as practice, but not as ashtanga practice. (Officious hair-splitting.)

    Which is not to say that my Saturday flow class habit, which I have maintained throughout, doesn’t draw disapproval here and there.

    It’s so important to rest and recover, as part of the process of finding and respecting our own rhythms. But every rhythm is different. For me, Friday practice I tend to move very slowly, and stay slow for the rest of the day. As a result, on Saturday I wake up wired and actually use the improv to relax and tame that energy so I can devote the rest of that day to relationships and writing. For me, a bit of movement is key to triggering relaxation and calmness. And the respite from astanga routine makes it easy, and playful, and a nice release from expectations.

  2. too much practice! Rest on the seventh day–any asana practice counts as practice.

  3. Yeah, I’m gonna rest tomorrow. See how I am? As soon as I am enjoying something, I want to overdo it.

    But if I have another crappy Tuesday like I did last week when I didn’t practice, then I’m gonna rethink the rest thing…

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