I wish I had a pithy Sutras quote or something more "yogic" with which to title this, but I don't. Here is today's (re) discovery.
I went outside (in November!) to practice--it's in the low 60s, which is going to be typical of my practice temperatures until at least April-- and laid out the cotton rug and did 5 Sun Salutation A's and 2 B's before I realized that downward facing dog was not comfortable (too much sitting at the computer, in a western chair) and was not likely going to GET more comfortable as practice progressed. So I moved to a hand-supported bridge pose and then to a series of baby backbends, including cobra, locust, and a big, long upward facing dog as well as a half-supta-virasana with one knee raised and the opposite foot tucked back.
This, with sun shining and all (crim, crim practice, hahaha), was what I did today for asana practice. However: as I'd written earlier about "body flexible, mind stiff," I could feel that I still had the strength to do a one-legged Bakasana if I so chose, and to do jumps back and through, if I so chose. Body flexible. I knew this, implicitly understood it. Mind stiff: this also, I implicitly understood.
Sure, the baby backbends were intended to (and were successful in doing this) extend and stretch my right lateral hip, which becomes very irritated and tight and whiny after extended chair-sitting. Some backbending and a long stand in "Warrior 1 feet" (with the right foot back, heel down) really pull open the lateral musculature and fasciae which are so irritated by chairs.
But still, this was a practice for the MIND: now the stressors become more obvious, vision becomes clearer, self-understanding is drawn in more easily visible lines.
1) I'm stressed about driving 90 minutes to the "Third International Yoga Retreat" held down south in Brown County this weekend (see www.indianayoga.org). What will the students for the 75-minute Ashtanga class I'm subbing, be like? How many? What energy? Will I arrive on time? How will it all be run? A thousand questions.
2) I'm stressed, at a fairly consistent grade, about the job search. This is the kind of gradually-invisible-by-virtue-of-consistency stress that can, without sufficient checking-in, become the new "base level" of life stress. Writing a dissertation also carries this same threat.
3) These, along with the daily stress of householding, end up in my right hip and in my spine, and all throughout "me." However, it's not a simple mind-body thing, it's not even as fun and complicated as saying "stress shows up in the body," although that is, largely, accurate.
The asana practice that I did today was about vision, not about physical condition, not about "stilling the mind stuff," even, not really. Vision. Checking in, scanning, having a look. With what eyes? At what object? Yes, the microscope metaphor. And in postmodernism, that works this way: what eye is objective enough to regard itself under the microscope? Doesn't it realize that the seer is the seen? In yoga terms, this is ALWAYS how reality works until enlightenment, when Purusha and Prakriti really are REALIZED as separate; they already are, but it's a matter of SEEING it.
I practiced so that I could say, "You look like this today." But I didn't know that until I was "done" with the practice, I realized this in practice. Images became clear, stress became obvious. I didn't ask questions, I simply saw something that took the form of dialogue.
Who is to say that "the body" moves during "asana practice" and that this affects "the mind"? Who attributes those agents and objects? How do we know they're accurate? What if the asana practice moves the mind and the body's motion is the result? How does that change things, what things does that change?
It would be more accurate, watching a film of today's practice, to say that the question motivated me, perhaps the desire to see clearly, rather than to practice "to a certain point." Certain point often means "up to pose Q." What if one practiced up to BREATH Q or up to VISION Q? And see the passive voice construction? WAS MOTIVATED BY. Who or what is the motivator?
It's not a master of positing a puppet master. That only exists in mind and body dichotomies, and maybe in horror movies. Because, let's remember, the actual level of my stress and the amount of "chair-asana" I'd done are REAL; it is my awareness of those things which VARIES. Perhaps the stressors THEMSELVES wanted to point out their own presence and THAT is what drove the practice from which came (and as which was) the realization.
Outside a dog was barking. I heard it. Was that part of practice or not? The case for not: not unless we make some pun about "downward facing dog," maybe. The case for yes: of course it is; the dog was heard, the sky was blue, the spine was bent, the diaphragm lowers, the diaphragm rises. Shall I draw a black line around my body and say that THIS is me and everything OUTSIDE IT is not? How then do senses work? Do I sense "myself"? Do I possess what I sense, in a way, "consuming" it? Or am "I" part of "outside," even in the act of breathing, even in involuntary muscular action? Aren't, as Whitman asked many times in more lyrical language, my body and the grass the same thing? What is it, then, to "practice"?
Still, yes, there were physical sensations "within" my borders, as well as outside them (suspend here the discussion of whether the heard-but-unseen dog was "real" as well as the discussion of whether hearing refers to the outside world or the interior one).
The world (if you will) changes the mind. One is constantly invited to "listen," to "look," to do a thousand things. What I most often (and most familiarly) experience with my mind is the lack of a culture-wide program for enlightenment. If death is a certainty (transition or end or something else, whatever you see it as), then shouldn't enlightenment about mortality, or at least religion, some kind of address or answer or at least a QUESTION, be a cultural imperative? And then to see capitalism in that light, is, oddly, amusing. Make money? Is that my answer? Is that the way to answer curiosity about "what awaits on the other side"? It's like some Zen koan: you ask the universe what the "point" is, and you hear a cash register. KA-CHING!!! Or maybe you hear a Pink Floyd song. You'd crack up. You'd have to.
Q: "Hey, how's your job seach going?"
A: "Every minute Zen!"