Kapotasanaed

Generally I go about my business, constructing weird props and trying to live by my own paraphrase of Krishna’s words to Arjuna:

Let not the fruit of action be thy motive. Perform action, being steadfast in abandoning attachment and balanced in success and failure.

(As an aside, I think I’m going to try to include this in a presentation to my team; I like to do a little kick-off to the new year, with a few principles for the team to focus on for the year, etc. This year, concepts from the Bhagavad Gita (Just do it!) meet Clay Shirky’s concept of cognitive surplus (Cultivate & use your surplus wisely!). I wonder how this is going to fly…)

Okay, so anyhow, I’ve been going about my business learning as much as I can about backbends. And I’ve been studiously avoiding kapotasana-desire. I know I made a “kapotasana machine” out of Iyengar ropes and bungee cords (God, what a funny thing to write!), but the motivation was about finding a way to open up my armpits — and that was the only way I could think of.

Anyhow…

This morning, at Mysore practice, Muscle Man came by as I was setting up for urdhva dhanurasana.

“Where did you stop? Ustrasana?”

“Yes.”

“I’d suggest you go to laghu vajrasana or kapotasana.”

I just stared at him (I’m not very quick at 7 AM).

“Kapotasana,” he decided. “You should go to kapotasana.”

So I did laghu vajrasana and set up for kapotasana.

And the cool thing, after scaring the crap out of myself with my homemade kapo machine, was that I didn’t feel even slightly cowed by the pose. If nothing else, the kapo machine is excellent for desensitization. I went back for kapo, and while my head was still off the ground, Muscle Man grabbed my left wrist and guided my hand to my foot, then he grabbed my right wrist and brought that hand to my foot. Easily.

No pain, no panic, no problem.

“You should do the pose when I’m around,” he said. “Take the opportunity for the adjustment.”

Yeah. I think I will!

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We’re Italian

Here’s a Christmas Eve video. First, a shot of the KitchenAid mixer, then pan to a hungry beast. Into the frame, a strand of freshly-made pasta. The sound of his smacking bulldog lips is hilarious. And a final pan to the pasta I made to bring to my parents’ house tonight.

Avant-garde cinema at its finest. Perhaps Patrick will deconstruct it for us. 🙂

I also think it’s worth noting Tyler’s restraint. He knew he was getting food, but he stayed quite calm. This week, he passed his Beginner I obedience course. Next up, Beginner II, which is the start of his training for the Canine Good Citizen test. He’s remarkably focused for a 6 month old pup. I think it’s because he does yoga every morning. Well, mostly he sleeps through yoga, but still…

Armpits!

Okay, so the backbends go well, from my sterum to my toes. All I’ve got to do is crack open the armpits. Which, I think, means the chest.

Gah!

I’ll admit, when the whole “open your chest” thing came up in yoga, years ago, I had a physical/spiritual swap-out in my mind. I think it was because the concept was presented as “open your heart.” I thought I would be able to drop back and kapotasana as soon as I gave up all of my constricting spiritual habits, like being dualistic (look, I’m doing it right now!), thinking of myself as separate from everything else in the universe, indulging in discursive thought, cultivating little internal fears — you know, all the things that separate me from the one.

So I’ve been trying to plump up and pry open the individuated-self-jerky of my heart.

To good effect, truth be told. Relationships, both personal and professional, go better with yoga.

But you know, the issue of my armpits is still out there. Armpits. Really, this is what it all comes down to?

Actually, I think it’s a pectorallatissimusrhomboiddeltoidandallassociatedfascia issue. Oh, and don’t forget the rotator cuff!

I definitely have old fear about the rotator cuff on my left side, which was my most recent (though a good 4 years in the past) sports injury. Perhaps one’s most recent injury is always the one that seems most tenuous?

I’m reaching out to the cybershala for any armpit thoughts. At this point, I am crankin’ the pits with pushing into the arms in urdhva dhanurasana, hanging off the bed with weights (I’d love to hear thoughts re: efficacious arm positions for bed hangs), hanging over the wooden barrel (also known as “the rack”), and doing pigeon pose with a strap linked around the back foot, which I use to puuuullll open my chest as I lean back.

Oh, and by the way: I want a medal for all of this. I was brought up on the east coast to NOT have an open heart. Yet here I am, zazened into emotional openness and now actually cracking open the musculature to match. I imagine my family would attribute this to the years I spent in California.

Yup. Cracking myself open and turning everything inside out. Like a lobster with the good stuff on the outside.

How am I going to live without my exoskeleton?

Kindness

Last night Ty fell asleep with a toy in his mouth and his heavy head on poor Maxine’s arthritic hips. She is so nice to him.

ty-sleeps

Dayum, my fascia’s on too tight!

From The Endless Web:

endless-web2

I looked at the image above and a lightbulb went off. After decades of weightlifting, I always envision myself as a bunch of muscles that are attached to bones. Fair enough.

But I’ve been stymied in my attempts to understand what’s going on when my shoulder girdle and arms are so tight. Super tight. As in, I can’t lift my arms straight up over my head when I’m leaning back. This affects, obviously, urdhva dhanurasana and dropbacks, and even more so, kapotasana. Need a bent-armed kapotasana B? I’m your girl.

So I try to figure it out. Is it my front deltoids? The medial? Posterior? Triceps? Biceps? My lats? What the heck is stuck? What makes me stuck in a bent-armed position? This muscle, that muscle: those have been my answers.

But then I saw the picture and realized, it’s not just a bunch of separate pieces! (Yeah, I know: duh!) It’s never just a biceps issue — it’s a periosteumtendonfasciabrachialistendon issue. LOL! And that’s just the arm!

I’m happy I have such a long word for such a recalcitrant appendage. Seriously, my arms are kinesthetically illiterate compared to my legs.

But slowly they seem to be waking up. This morning’s backbends were strong, and now I have the feeling I get when my arms & shoulders have been fully stretched: the ring fingers on both of my hands feel tingly and like they are very, very long.

And as we all know, when your ring fingers are tingly, you’re having a good day. 🙂

Here’s the way to make your fingers tingle. You’ll have to take my word for it that it hurts like a mofo for me to extend my arms this way:

***

Here are some pictures from Sedona.

Looking at the landscape from the top of the hill where we saw the relics:

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The Cop inspecting the snow. (See! It’s right there on the ground!):

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The Earnest Humorist, The Anthropology Grad Student and My Gift coming to meet us for lunch:

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The Cop again, glowing in the sun:

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More lovingkindness

We drove to Sedona using some sketchy directions (yes, directions I found — which were apparently sketchy enough that The Cop declared, “Never get directions from a Buddhist!”) and eventually ended up on a narrow road at the top of a pinetree-covered hill in Sedona. There was snow on the ground and cars parked on both side of the street.

My Gift and her two roommates (let’s call them The Anthropology Grad Student and The Earnest Humorist) showed up a bit later (My Gift inherited my sense of direction).

We entered the grounds of the yoga center where the Relic Tour was housed. “One thing I notice about Buddhists,” The Cop said, “is that they dress poorly.” A fellow met us at the gate and directed us to a yurt where an instructional video about the Maitreya Project was playing.

We watched the video & then got on line to wait to be let into the building. Once in, we were directed to stand on line in front of a beautifully decorated table covered with flowers, brocade, flickering candles and shiny gold reliquaries. The Tibetans love their visuals.

There was chanting in the background and the sound of a nun blessing people.

While on line, we turned the prayer wheel and looked around. Finally, a man gestured for me and The Cop to approach a small statue of the Buddha that was standing in a glass container filled with saffron-water. We dipped wooden ladles into the water and poured it over the Buddha, holding in mind our spiritual masters, imagining the water as washing away our impurities and preparing ourselves to be open to the relics.

The relics were very intense. The video we saw showed monks, after presiding at a cremation, spooning relics out of the ashes.

Some of the relics looked like freshwater pearls, some like grains of rice. Others were perfectly spherical. Some were raisinet-shaped/sized (this was noted by The Anthropology Grad Student and The Earnest Humorist). Some were pure white, some pearly, and some amber. Some were cloudy, some opaque, and some clear.

If only I could burn up and leave just the tiniest perfect sphere. I found that such an inspiring thought — just one pinhead-sized sphere.

Some of the masters had many relic bits — Buddha was many rice-shaped ones.

And I loved the single container that held the relics of 500 Thai Arhats all mixed together.

Mahakashyapa (the first patriarch) was there!

Once when the World-Honored One in ancient times was upon Vulture Peak, he held up a flower before the assembly of monks. At this time all were silent. The Venerable Kashyapa alone broke into a smile. The World-Honored One said, “I have the All-Pervading Eye of the True Dharma, the Secret Heart of Incomparable Nirvana, the True Aspect of Formless Form. It does not rely on letters and is transmitted outside the scriptures. I now pass it on to Mahakashyapa.”

And Ananda, who I’ve always loved!

Ananda asked Mahakashyapa, “Buddha gave you the golden woven robe of successorship. What else did he give you?”
Kashapa said, “Ananda!”
“Yes!” answered Ananda.
“Knock down the flagpole at the gate!” said Kashyapa.

And Shariputra!

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

Shariputra,
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.

Shariputra,
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.

Maitreya

This morning, The Cop and I are driving up to Sedona, where we will meet My Gift. There’s a show of Buddhist relics that we’ll have a look at. I’m hoping there might be some shaktipat available…

Maitreya Project

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May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow;
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless;
And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion,
And live believing in the equality of all that lives.