International adventure, prajna paramita, hood latches

A day off. In fact, four days off for the holiday. What a relief! The past week has been a whirlwind at work and at home. I don’t really participate in the Christmas thing, but still, it winds everything up quite tightly, doesn’t it? On Thursday, I brought My Gift to the airport, where she set off on her first international adventure.

Her dad lived in Amsterdam for years when she was growing up, so she spent portions of her summers and school vacations travelling in Europe. I would put her on the plane here in the US, and her dad would be there at the end of the journey. She travelled as an unaccompanied minor, which meant — at least back then — that the flight crew really kept a close eye on her. She flew business class, and was a cheerful little international traveller from the time she was 9.

This trip, though, is her first self-funded, self-planned adventure. It involved a plane to Chicago, a connecting flight to London (coach, not business class), and a train to Wales. No flight crew to oversee, no parent to verify arrival, no one to help with all the luggage. She was very, very happy and excited when I dropped her off at the airport. And she arrived safe and sound in Wales. Apparently there were late planes and train fiascos and all sorts of mini travel-dramas, but she got there. So all is well.


Lately, I’ve been starting practice with a stick of incense and recitation of the Heart Sutra (Kwan Um version). I always feel a little question in my mind as I add the sutra. Definitely not part of the tradition. But it “translates” what I learn in practice into my personal belief system. It’s an extra “step,” this little translation, and all would be the same without it, but still, for now it helps me understand what I am doing.

The Maha Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita
perceives that all five skandhas are empty
and is saved from all suffering and distress.

form does not differ from emptiness,
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness,
that which is emptiness form.

The same is true of feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

all dharmas are marked with emptiness;
they do not appear or disappear,
are not tainted or pure,
do not increase or decrease.

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind;
no realm of eyes
and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

No ignorance and also no extinction of it,
and so forth until no old age and death
and also no extinction of them.

No suffering, no origination,
no stopping, no path, no cognition,
also no attainment with nothing to attain.

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita
and the mind is no hindrance;
without any hindrance no fears exist.
Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

In the three worlds
all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra,
is the great bright mantra,
is the utmost mantra,
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering
and is true, not false.
So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,
proclaim the mantra which says:

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.


Notes from the Ashtanga research satellite office:

Chakrasana: Driste! I found this week that my driste in chakrasana tends to drift up toward my feet — that I am watching my legs/feet to understand where my body is in space. It throws the whole roll off. Tuck the head and keep the driste tucked, too. I’ve been trying to correct for the problem by consciously looking at my tummy — though I suspect what I need to get to is nasagrai driste. Tummy driste is better than padayoragrai, so I’m on the right track.

Urdhva dhanurasana: I’ve been setting up for urdhva dhanurasana with my head touching the wall. Then I tuck the corner that my hand/wrist makes into the corner of the wall. And lately, I’ve pressed my forearms into the wall, too. All the way up to the point of my elbows. This seems to keep my lower arms from getting discombobulated as I go up. Initiates a kind of alignment. I’ve been looking carefully at the relationship of my hands to my shoulders, turning them the way Vanessa suggested in an earlier comment on this subject. And I’ve been trying to get more conscious of my lower psoas muscles. A little attention revealed that my right lower psoas is much tighter than the left. And it even came with a strong and immediate visual image. A Jeep Wrangler hood latch. Yup, that’s the psoas situation for me. Strong hood latches. Luckily, I know that these kinds of latches loosen up with continued use.



I have some things I need to accomplish: purchase cheesecake for Christmas Eve at my parents’ house (no, all of you baking Ashtangis, I do not relish the thought of a day in the kitchen!), do some reading/documentation for work. But you know what? I need a day off. A WHOLE day. I am not going to do anything today except read for pleasure and lie around and then later, I will eat something tasty. Nice.

And tomorrow is a moon day. Oh, I feel the rest and rejuvenation already!


5 Responses

  1. Purchase. Cheesecake.


    Have we taught you nothing?

    Just kidding…enjoy your day off!!!

  2. The Cheesecake Factory is a factory. Its very reason for being is the manufacture of cheesecakes for a grateful nation. Who am I to question this? It is the way of the world. 🙂

  3. This is what I am doing today too, little Donut.

    Sorry, I get excessively affectionate around the solstice. Might I recommend it as an alternate way to flip over to a new cycle? I tend to feel pagan levels of excitement for the event. Last night: 108 sun sals (actually, maybe 118) and then my first alcohol in nearly 5 years. Tomorrow: flying to another city and submitting (though not really in my heart, it’s true) to the Christmas thing. Right with you on the uhg.

    But some ritual is wonderful. Thank you for writing out the heart sutra. It is SO beautiful.

  4. About the hood-latches. This is really where my work is now in backbends. It’s funny–I’ve gotten awfully tense in the traps doing the first portion of 3rd, which was never the case before (I didn’t ever lift much, and didn’t do much organized sports). Traps used to default relaxed, and I could know if I was stressed if they seized up.

    But now (with the semi- chronic shoulder fun) that dynamic has transferred to the hip flexors. Mine are in please-stretch-me agony the past days especially. Single pidgeon, hanuman, supta virasana. All recommended by a longtime student of Tim Miller not only for the psoas but for sacrum stuff.

  5. Hi Karen
    Happy Holidays. Thanks for the sutra, it is an important one in Zen services. I brought my mat on hoilday, but we’ll see when I can practice – too many family gatherings. I like the dristhe direction you gave on chakrasana. I’ve been cheating by sitting up to get an impulse. If I did the dristhe you mentioned, I might get a better jalabara bhanda, which will protect the neck.
    Over here in PR many people order cakes from Sam’s for the holiday dinners. This did not exist in the past, and our holiday desserts consist of coconut and rice puddings, not cakes. How times change.

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