Cornbread, discipline and self-practice

Made three layer cornbread this morning. Yes, I cooked! I guess the holidays got to me. The Cop got up, poured his coffee, looked at the cornbread on the counter and said, “What’s this for?” Kind of like he’d found an alien or something. He did enjoy a nice big hunk of it, though, slathered with butter.

The recipe is from the Tassajara Bread Book, and it’s the best cornbread ever. A thick layer of cornbread, a thin layer of custardy sweetness, and a top layer of crispy whole-wheatness. Mmmmm. And it’s really easy to make.

***

Here’s a quote I read in Esquire magazine, courtesy of Michael J. Fox: “Discipline is just doing the same thing the right way whether anyone’s watching or not.”

It got me thinking about self-practice. Which then got me thinking about something Tova wrote last week: “i love my self practice so much. i wonder how much of the internal stuff would come to light if i felt the pressure of a teacher and other practitioners.”

I wonder the same thing. I’ve been practicing on my own since I got back from Singapore at the beginning of November. My self-practice feels sweeter and more intimate than it does when I am attending a shala. It is less driven by other people’s perceptions or expectations (or rather, I suppose, my perception of their perceptions and expectations) — either way, it’s easy to see that when other people are involved, there is more energy in the air. Which can be good if you want motivation, and which can be good if you want direction. Not so good, if you want quiet and a minimum of energy, so that you can “hear” the internal stuff. It may just be me, but when I am struggling with a pose, it is much easier to “listen” to what is happening when I am on my own. When other people are around, I get self-conscious. Not self-conscious enough not to do the pose, but there’s enough static in the system that I can’t be as sensitive to what I’m experiencing.

And I guess since I’m writing, I might as well go there: when I am practicing around other people and I do something well, I feel proud of myself. And when I bobble something, I feel abashed. And then I have to work those energies out. When I’m alone, no pride and no feeling abashed. Everything just is what it is at that moment. Minimalist.

So anyhow, right now my motivation feels very strong, and my direction very clear. The home practice is perfect and I really love it. It doesn’t feel like discipline at all. It feels like I’m in the middle of a book that’s really good and I want to keep returning to it. I get absorbed into it, and forget about “me.” When I am in the shala, “me” is strong. Which is fine, just not what I’m interested in right now.

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5 Responses

  1. What you said here resonates with me. I’ve done a home practice on and off for 12 years (it’s how I started doing yoga) but over the past few years, I’ve gone to a studio class weekly. I stopped going to class in June. At first, I missed the energy and inspiration of a led yoga class, but I find a genuine sense of refuge and joy in my home practice, particularly when it’s daily. I just love it so much – I think about doing yoga in front of my little altar and my heart warms. I used to believe that I wouldn’t be motivated enough or progress in my practice if I didn’t go to regular classes, but I’ve progressed more in the past year than I have in the previous three. I think it’s all in the commitment to *daily* practice and your attitude/willingness to be your own teacher rather than judge.

  2. i just wrote you a response and the computer dumped it. bah. i can’t retype it now. i will just say Hi instead.

  3. I made that cornbread last week and loved it!

    Finding that joy in home practice is probably my biggest yoga “goal,” something I’d really like to experience. I’m so glad to hear that it is so rewarding for you.

  4. I think Kai hits on something important with the home practice — two things actually: the daily aspect is really important. It has to become something that’s really a part of your day, and then it can become the best part of your day. And the business about not judging oneself is quite important. If you have both studio classes and home practices, I think you tend to bring the judgment back home with you. If you do home practice exclusively the judgment and comparisons to other people just drift away. There’s nothing to sustain it. Kind of nice.

  5. Lots of good points. I agree that regularity is important, and at home it’s easier to be sensitive and suspend judgment. My experience is slightly opposite: in classes I push myself a little more, which makes me less sensitive, then at home the judgment is gone right away but the motivation and direction drift after a while. Not completely, but after some phases of self practice I’m appreciating more of a balance, including a class or two per week. Then I feel like I get adjustments and new ideas and energy, but also time to assimilate. I would probably say I feel less judgment and mind during vinyasa/misc. classes than mysore, because I’m more absorbed in the class flow; mysore can feel like more of a performance since the routine is set. Actually, writing that makes me want to get back to mysore classes also, to practice focusing on the breath and flow.

    Thanks for the Wittgenstein quote!

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