down, up, and down again – Week 5

This week has been quite a roller coaster ride – prepare for a long feedback! :)

I will start with the theory of my practice and get to the important stuff in a second. I’ve stepped beyond the 90-minutes limit of my daily practice. This was something I was a bit worried about. Will I find the time? Will I have the concentration? Will I stay with it and enjoy it?

The answers are: yes, yes & no, yes.

I’m surprised about the first one, fine with the second, happy about the third.
When I felt the whole thing was just becoming a little bit to strenuous mentally, I started experimenting with dynamic practice of some poses, as suggested in Desikachar’s book (The Heart of Yoga) and it kick-started my concentration again. So – sorry, Mr. Iyengar, I’ll adjust a little bit. You said yourself we shouldn’t become like robots… :)

I’ve been having major mood-swings concerning my ‚right‘ to exist and my talents. It was sunshine one day, rain and thunders the next. I’ve been crying a lot (yes!) and bumping my head against walls. And I’ve been pulling myself together again, thinking that I can either give up or – let go and go on. I can only fear or love what is. No other options truly.

Apart from your sage words, I also found help in some pieces of wisdom from various Yoga teachers and I’d like to share them with you. It’s three pieces of wisdom, actually.

The first one is about the definition of „Yoga“. It can mean „union“, correct, but it can also mean „to reach something that was previously unattainable“. I wake up in the morning and I’m in a place and state of mind that I’ve never known before. Even if I feel bad, I am somewhere I’ve never been before. There is constant change, constant novelty, yet there is something stable and unchanging inside of me. But there are also things I want to attain – acceptance and a more self-supportive attitude – so, the way or the path to attain these fully, can be called Yoga.

This takes me to the second thing that helped and it’s about the nature of our mind. The stable and unchanging core of our being is what perceives correctly and cuts through illusions. In Yoga, this is called vidyá – correct perception. Desikachar compares it to the person who stands still on the river bank and can observe the flow of water. Avidyá, on the other hand, is incorrect perception, and it can branch out in our mind through several main ‚lines‘. Imagine ‚incorrect perception‘ (Avidyá) as the root of the plant. ‚Fear‘, ‚ego‘, ‚disgust/refusal‘ and ‚attachment are its branches. When Avidya dominates our perception, we are swimming in the river, we can’t see appropriately and our actions are taken according to a misunderstanding of our situation. They become potentially harmful to our selves and others.

Third – and that is the most important thing for me: after recognition comes acceptance, not action. Acceptance. I just have to accept the fact that I’m in a place I’ve never been before and find the delight int this. Of course I do wish to improve myself on all levels so as to not harm myself and others; so as to be a tool of love, not fear. But – although this might be a lofty goal – it is a goal of the ego. Essentially, it stems from the idea that I am not how I want to be, that I’m lacking something. On a superficial level, this might be true, but the core of everyone is essentially whole and in a crystal-clear state of mind. I know this. Yet – my first reaction when I become aware of my own wrong understanding is the urge to change, to move and do something about it!!! And this is wrong. First, I need to accept and sit with the fact that I’m full of Avidya. I need to feel, and see and investigate how Avidya works inside of me. This is what a right understanding consists of: acceptance of what is in the sense that I regard it worth my questioning and investigation.

So – what did I see this week? I saw fear. I saw ugly urges of self-denial, self-hatred and self-destruction. Where these feelings come from I don’t know, and trying to find answers would just take me away from experiencing them now. So, while I am writing this, I am trying to sit still with the fact that I’m scared and feeling lonely. I have experienced several times already how ‚bad‘ feelings desintegrate, literally melt, once I had the courage to be with them. The courage to look at them so closely that they don’t need to exist anymore. It’s similar to a pose I feel uncomfortable in. I might have the urge to budge, to retreat, to run away mentally. But then I stay, I sit, I breathe, I bundle my awareness and – ahhhhh… – suddenly I melt. I saw this in class this week, practicing a particularly evil forward bend/hip opener. :)

Speaking of which: I’ve been to classes twice this week. Relief! It seems the one I chose last week was just not right for me, or maybe I really had to get back into the group-groove ;) I trained with two different teachers this week and both were great. Especially the one with S., who’s way of teaching I’ve always liked. What I admire especially is her eye for anatomic details. I know what to do with myself once I’m in the pose – but her approach always gives me something fresh to reflect upon. But most of all I love the fact that I can really pump her for information after class. Like: please, how does my knee-hip alignment work in this pose, and what’s the optimal rotation here for me, and why did you adjust me there, and what is my focus in this pose? Ah! I’m usually the only one coming to see her after class, so I have her for myself, yay! I’m a geek for sure, but it simply makes me happy to take care of and learn about my body in such a way.

It’s a miraculous thing, after all!

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