This morning sees me wrangling with what are, basically, attachments. Attachment in the yoga sense doesn't mean something as simple as "the necktie is mine!" It's much more about, as I understand it, ties to that-which-passes. And those ties can be (tangent: I probably read at a "junior high level," as one blog-meter puts it, because I start sentences with "and," and I know I shouldn't do that, grammatically speaking, but in spoken English, I frequently do this, and I type, in a situation like this, more akin to how I speak than how I formally write; end tangent) both literally "attachments" (to car, to relationship, to socks) as well as what are sometimes called "aversions" (to relationship, to religion, to half-moon pose) and also, they can be desires for/wishes for/dreams of (relationship, car, flat kurmasana, whatever it is).
I find myself multiply attached to practice, and in ways that are, or should be, contradictory. Let me make sense:
1) This gym I go to: essentially, I "rent space" there for two hours. Sure, they offer a dozen classes a day, but I go, do my practice, and get out.
2) Why not try a class? Is it because
a) I'm too far out for that? Hush, ego. I hear you. So noted.
b) I'm too busy for that? "My" practice counts more than my "practice"? Is that what that is?
c) Yoga class as "fitness"? I haven't maybe EVER understood my practice to be about fitness. So is it that "my" yoga doesn't fit "this" yoga? Well, to argue the other way, isn't one's yoga practice one's OWN understanding and not some organization's impersonal marketing?
d) I see an aversion (and thus an attachment) to the term "fitness," to the whole idea of "going to the gym."
3) I want classes where I can practice, I want organized humanity, all doing the same thing.
4) BUT, I want to practice alone, I don't want to do "my" practice as part of a group. Uh, hey Patrick, WHICH IS IT?
5) I want a spotlight (hi ego, how are you today?) but I also want darkness, privacy. Simultaneously.
What's this all about?
A) Fitness. The rhetoric of fitness, as I see it in gym advertising, is this (and this also goes for chiropractor rhetoric):
your job/life/relationship/other situation
is causing lower back pain/overt weight gain/some other malady;
the solution is to come to our gym/office/other location
and to bike/run/get a private lesson/do some yoga/something else
in order to become more strong/flexible/aerobically saavy/something else.
B) Privacy. I have, all things considered, a FREAKISH yoga practice for this state and perhaps for this part of the country. For all I know, I have a freakish yoga practice for most of the country. And by freakish I mean that my practice is full of what John Schumacher once called "Omigod Harry, look at that!" moments. You know, asana gymnastics. And part of me wants to be private, to turn that off.
C) Publicity. I'm an extrovert; a big one. I like to demonstrate, even when I'm teaching yoga, the far-out moves, because when I was learning, say, Primary series, it was the far-out moves, the "impossible" asanas, that I found deeply inspiring. Yes, I know that not everyone responds that way. So in part, I want to practice in public (studio room, open gym room, outside, etc.) in order to sort of "turn on the universe."
Thoughts on these three categories:
1) Fitness. When I was a teenager, I used to be the 98-pound guy that no one wanted on their team. The skin-and-bones show. I ran three seasons of track in high school, but I was deeply uncool and I had all the markers of it: too smart, not cool enough of a sport, no willingness to partake of 80s fashion, and so forth. By college I settled into a frame of about 5'11, 165 and I stayed there for years. Most of my athletics in college surrounded Olympian feats of booze consumption. Then by the time I got into a seven-year bad relationship from the mid-90s to the early 2000's, I turned into 5'11, 190 or so. I don't like looking at photos of myself from those days. Post-divorce in December 2002, I dropped 25 pounds in two months, and started climbing walls out of RAGE more than any notion of "fitness." By late 2004, with a few months of ashtanga practice under my belt, I was more like 5'11, 150. But that too, was never "fitness," it was obsession, concentration, transformation. If someone had asked me why I was practicing yoga, I would have quoted Kerouac: "Because I want God to show me his face." That's sure as hell not "fitness rhetoric." And now, I'm getting that ropy Ashtanga musculature, and I'm both pierced and painted, and I have no idea what I must look like to someone who sees my practice from a distance. Five years ago I could NOT TOUCH MY TOES. Yesterday I rather comfortably put my leg behind my head. So in a gym, on my mat, going about my business, WHAT AM I? It's a postmodern question: is my history written on my skin? Or do I seem to be the "fulfillment" of fitness advertising? Where is that 98-pound kid, with whom I still largely self-identify?
2 and 3) Privacy and publicity. Contradictions. I think that what I would really like to see in America is something like a "transformation center," which in a sense is what a gym CAN BE, and so what I mean more specifically is that I want transformation foregrounded as something to be achieved in this existence. I want it written into the Constitution: Life, liberty and the pursuit of total and complete transformation. Body alchemy. Magic and flashes of light and steam rising from the body in the early morning dark. Or, if you will, Life, Liberty, and the right to trip frickin HARD. And so now I see my duality more clearly: on the one hand, my trip, my transformation, is between me and the Cosmos, as the Cosmos, and in a way, I turn "myself" into the Cosmos. "The seen exists for the sake of the Seer." And that isn't "FOR" people. BUT, on the other hand, Jivanmukta, the enlightened ones who walk the earth. Not that I'd claim to be one (that's a sure sign that one isn't), but the idea is totally sexy--not even to be one, but to think about meeting one, the very idea that such a "person" would even EXIST. Yum! So when I hit an arm balance in a class, or swing through in a jump-back, it's about making the urge for transformation, contagious. And again, it well exceeds "fitness" as a goal. Sure, you can be fit, sure you can bike more miles or fold forward, or whatever, but TURN ON THE HUNGER! Want transformation and enlightenment and warrior power, the way a predator wants prey. Hunt it, salivate for it, chase it down and pounce on it, RAWR!!! Put your face in it and come up messy, RAWR!!!
I think that some folks can walk in the rain on a quiet night and get what I've just tried to describe, and from that, I realize that my imagery about transformation really is a hunt, a body-intensive, sweat-loving, deeply carnal thing. And this shows me, again, my attachments. A DESIRE for transformation. There's one, right there. A REFUSAL of the "weak body," the judgments of "cool" kids in the 80s. There's another one. A desire to TRANSCEND the body-hate I inherited from lay Catholicism. That's a big one.
So no, my history isn't written in my skin. But also, I don't have this ropiness from "processing issues." There is simultaneity here again: sure, Patrick, go on with your transformation "away" from thing X and "toward" thing Y. Every time you practice, reality continues to sort itself out from dark mirrors. Some day it'll sort out the dark mirror of "away and toward." Incite practice however you like; you eventually clear your incitements. THAT is non-attachment.