Thursday, July 27, 2006

surrender into reality

This month, the theme in my classes has been "Future suffering can and should be avoided." This is from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (# 2.16)... and has caught my attention for many years. It's a preposterous statement - such a thought-provoking assertion.

So, all month, this topic has been on my mind... I've been reading about it, teaching about it, talking about it, and thinking about it. I've got to thinking about the times when I have suffered most... and the times when I have suffered least. About the various ways and degrees in which I have suffered... and the ways and degrees to which I've been responsible for my own suffering. Very fascinating. And humbling too, by the way.

When I'm lucky, I feel like my asana practice takes me into the present moment. There's a depth, or infinity, there... like an endless well. A timelessness... expansive and contractive all at once.

That sort of feeling, the feeling of being present in the moment, and open to every possible outcome, as it unfolds - is the position of least suffering for me. When I am able to explore/ask questions/wait for answers/play/breathe...

The position of most suffering is when I have a plan or outcome that I am heavily invested in/attached to, and which does not unfold according to my fantasies. So hard to accept, and so hard to adapt to. All my energy goes into resisting the situation, rather than making the most with what I've got.

But of course, there's some sort of balance. I've got to have discipline to make it into the art studio or onto the yoga mat. I've got to have information and insight in order to come up with something worthwhile. There's a balance of logic and intuition.

At times I've felt my practice swing too far toward intuition. The poses get a bit sloppy. The discipline fades a bit. It becomes self-indulgent. It becomes purely sensory. With art making, the equivalent is when my art becomes repetetive, self-referential. When the pieces are more like doodles... unattached to sincere reflection or purpose. When the pieces are not intended for communication, and their inspiration doesn't extend beyond my own microcosm. The marks are free and sloppy and uncoordinated with each other.

Other times, my practice has swung in the opposite direction, All Logic. Lots of brain work - planning what I'll do and why I'll do it. It doesn't work for me. I get mentally constricted. I get cranky and feel undernourished. The self is denied entirely. I'll do poses even though they don't feel good. I guess the art equivalent is when a piece or a series becomes pure repetition. Something I'm doing because I've determined I'll do it... and the reflection has stopped. The marks are stiff and lifeless.

The rare and glorious moments of inspiration have that same feeling of infinite depth as the present moment. The idea comes from the depths of the heart, and reflects off the skills of the mind... so that the intuition and the intellect bounce off each other over and over. Each move forward carries both elements along.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Soften & Receive

I've had a shoulder injury for over two years now... and it's beginning to heal at last. In the last 5 weeks or so, my amazing friend Lorie has been treating it with massage & craniosacral work. With her skillful assistance, my shoulder has been freed from its self-made bondage with astonishing speed... which has been a fascinating process to watch.

The original injury had healed, but what it left in its wake was a muscular armor around it. The muscles hardened and unified together as an act of protection... and didn't get the message to relax after the injury had begun to heal.

Of course it's a mirror of the process that we all make emotionally, when we continue to guard ourselves long after a threat has passed or dissipated. Long after an initial emotional injury, our psyches hold on and continue to amass armor and weaponry.

After my first appointment to get the shoulder worked on, Lorie and I were discussing that the injury was on my left side - the feminine, receptive side. Later that day, I witnessed some people engaged in a heated argument... and I felt the new freedom in my shoulder constrict and flinch. Amazing! I hadn't ever perceived such a direct relationship. I realized that I had been girding my shoulder from emotional injury as well as from physical injury. I'm sure this is going on all the time, all throughout my body, but with the fresh sensitivity of my shoulder, I was able to actively perceive it.

So I have proposed to myself an endeavor to "soften and receive." Keep the muscles soft. Keep the sponge moist. ... And to be sensitive to how my emotional flinches leave physical memories in the body.

Yesterday in class we did Vrsikasana (Scorpion Pose) and I watched a few of my friends do it with such grace and strength. The pose requires such faith and such a deep relaxed contraction in the back... Watching those backs bend, I thought again "soften and receive." Allow the back to relax in on itself.

And I also got to thinking about how and when we are able receive. Obviously, a vase that's full of water can't accept any more, at least not without spilling out some of the old water. So, I guess you've got to be willing to get rid of something old in order to receive something new.