There are many, many aspects to the energy post, and thus (and I realized this especially this morning in and through practice) there is not one energy post, but more like a realization/development now congealed enough for me to post perhaps numerous times on it.
I was thinking today (again, in practice, sort of a weird meditation, to meditate on writing, but not about practice-reporting) about posts by Owl and Jason (a dynamic duo who never QUITE come apart in my consciousness, different as they are), and how my own writing differs from their respective styles. Owl puts us there, even if we don't know where "there" is. Writing as teleportation. Sometimes I am teleported into a grey fuzziness where I know nothing, other times to (and particularly) fall woodlands up north of where I live, other times other places. Jason I think digests an idea in advance and then speaks with considerable authority (or at least with the tone of such), even when he writes in a voice of interrogation or questioning.
This blog, and especially when I think it doesn't do this, tends to write in first-person. It is highly experiential, and it wants to communicate the DIRECT EMOTION, man, RIGHT NOW! This makes it amusing when I think I can write with dispassion and totally explain something in utter clarity, because my writing style has the muddiness of the immediate ON PURPOSE. I forget that sometimes.
So when you're reading here, you are much more likely to read my miscalculations and confusions and uncontrolled emotions, not to mention the fact that I like to purge here, I don't often write for explication as much as I do for catharsis: you are much more likely to get my fog and my darkness than you are my keen light on any given subject. But that (and I value this) is what it is to be alive.
I used to be quite upset with both my new child (in his effect on my life as it had been) and my new relationship with J (again, in its effect on my life as it had been). Basic post-earthquake care (emotional earthquake). The blogging of 2009 and 2010 are full of this, and it's obvious and, I think, obviously purgative writing. I needed it.
I find now, that if I am angry about something in my life, it is almost ALWAYS the way that J's administrative job at the university eats up her life, my life, and our kid's life. That job is a big black hole of desktop bureaucracy that makes J so stressed that she can't even tell if she's ill or not. No time to exercise, to feed herself regularly, no time to prioritize, no time. None.
My kid and I are playtime and love and conversation and it's all fantastic.
But this job that J took, to get money "for C's future" and "so we can be comfortable" and all that? Hah! Financial comfort MAYBE, vast emotional DISCOMFORT for certain.
I think she acted out of fear: tenure deadline, needing international travel for research, not being able to get funding for said research; the job deferred research requirements and let her achieve tenure (yay!) without needing to panic about being "expert" in teaching or research; instead she's become something like expert in service. The deadlines were all met, the fear conquered, but the new payback for this achievement is HELLISH bureaucracy and stress combined with the very high dosage of Protestant Work Ethic that J's parents gave her, and so she has this weird un-makeable perfection that she is determined to achieve as an administrator AND as a parent, and it simply CAN NOT BE DONE, which adds to her frustration and her dedication to meeting the unmeetable limits, and it all just becomes anxiety and sadness and every time she chooses us over work or work over us, the "perfection desire" for the other group falls into disarray.
It's a horrifyingly bad emotional situation, and she's going to be doing this for probably two more solid years (2012 and 2013).
So rule one: NEVER, do not EVER, get a job in university administration.
Now wait a minute, wasn't I going to talk about ENERGY here? When the hell am I going to get back on topic?
Ok, ok, ok.
Here's how it works: I get chronically tight in the right glutes (all three muscles there: not just the Maximus, but also the Medius and Minimus). This tightness appears then disappears, then reappears, then disappears, over and over and over again. Unlike, for example, my hamstrings, which have remained long, or my shoulders, which have opened a lot from the backbending I was doing in 2010, the glutes will occasionally get so stuck that I can't twist fully into a posture that I've been able to achieve for years, such as Marichyasana C.
I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure this out, and of course trying to back off and then advance practice, through this. In large part, THIS is why my practice has such wacko levels of advance-and-recede, and why I'm doing Intermediate to Karandavasana in June and then standing poses only, in November, and why that can change week to week.
My favorite explanation, from a trusted friend, was, "There is samskaric business in your right hip." In fact, that's a big part of what I mean this post to say.
The hip musculature is part of the annamaya kosha ("food body", the outer sheath, the grossly physical, accompanied by the more subtle layers of pranamaya, manamaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas, prior, apparently, to experiencing the Atman).
I came to believe, during my child's early days, that negative emotions, or more properly, my inability to clearly and calmly HANDLE negative emotions, caused more tightness in the hip. Or, less woo-woo, I got uptight about how my life had changed and this tension (predictably) had impact on my asana practice.
I've spent quite a bit of writing here emphasizing how hard the emotions are to deal with, and playing it light on the physical symptoms, i.e., how the hip actually feels. Time to reverse that, which I think will be much more productive.
Over the past two weeks of practice, which have suprisingly been very regular, I've been seeing that in the mornings, I am pretty tight and I really emphasize breath as I move through perhaps only seven sun salutations or, often, just standing poses and maybe not even a closing sequence. VERY light practice, but with big energy moving in and out of the hip, even in sun salutations. But sometimes in the afternoon, I'll get in a full Primary, or, this week, I'll do standing and Intermediate up through Supta Vajrasana and then I'll even be able to drop back and stand up three times. Again, yes, wacko levels of advance-and-recede, I know.
And somehow through these practices, I have learned very factual, easy things about the right hip, which I used to mythologize and wax very woo-woo about. For example: there are two tightness situations there. Glutes and Psoas. The most productive postures for cracking into that (let's say, when I get out of bed in the morning) are pigeon lunges and low-lunge psoas stretches, followed by either twists or backbends. Supta Virasana, in particular, is wonderful, as is Bharadvajasana.
It is as if the glutes tighten up, restricting all of the fascia that is related to any movement between the outer (and inner, but you can't palpate that) pelvic bowl and the greater trochanter of the hipbone. One can feel both of these bones with a hand on the outer hip.
So that's why I feel a weird glute stretch when I do Kapotasana. That's why my Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (adduction/abduction, anyone?) is hung up on a tight day. That's why all half-lotus postures are difficult on the right side (again, on a tight day). That's why Virabhadrasana A, done with enthusiasm, can be just a CRACKING energy opener. That's why Supta Vajrasana can crank SO MUCH ENERGY out of me that I have to sob it out like a sort of panic attack. Even a forward fold like Padangusthasana can be intense when I have a tight glute day, because the lower back does NOT want to grant the hamstrings their full length. Janu Sirsasana A, when done with its proper slight twist, is VERY intense with the right leg bent. Again, this is why.
And it's uneven: left psoas and adduction and abduction is not affected and does not respond in kind.
So the annamaya kosha carries these symptoms: but symptoms of WHAT?
Detour to emotions: plenty of times here, I've simply expressed my anger or sadness or whatever with (easy example) the pregnancy/new parents situation, and then been quick to blame whatever I don't like about life, on that situation.
I think that's a fairly typical reaction: you feel the negative emotion, you blame whatever's around you for MAKING THAT SO, and then if you're me, you try to analyze the situation in order to REDUCE THE NEGATIVITY (which always has some external cause).
Many things are not accurate there: the emotion comes from without, and is analyzed from without. No inner work, no inner experience except "ew, this sucks, make it stop!"
Repulsion of the negative directly upon experience.
Now let's return to asana practice to try to learn something: I know from the first Uttanasana that it's going to be a big hip day. So when I feel that, what's happened for the last two weeks, is that I really focus on breathing instead of the anxiety ("how much practice am i going to do, is this worth it, shouldn't i do something else to get into the hip first, so i can Finish A Series (etc, etc)") and I end up moving until I cannot, which means until I get a big energy release from that hip. And sometimes I had chased that energy release (for example, by cranking into the Vira A's of Surya Namaskara B), and other times I had sought to defer it by not cranking into Vira A or Padangusthasana or Prasarita A or some other pose.
The immediate side effect of this was to understand asana practice as a BREATHING FACT. SKPJ: "Ashtanga yoga breathing practice, all the rest just bending." That lesson. When I crank/break the energy tied up in the hips, usually what I get is a sort of white-pain flash, like cutting your finger but not quite as intense, because it's not an actual injury, it's like an energetic breakout rather than an annamaya slice. And usually when that happens, I just stop practicing, I feel and then try to process, try to FEEL what the sensation GIVES ME to think (in a way, I try to embody the brain, turn the nervous system's cognitive powers into sensory powers, try to DEVOLVE language into sensing, and yet STILL COME AWAY with a lesson that I can verbalize).
It became necessary to make myself do at least closing chant, or, as the week developed, closing series (including backbends) even if I'd sat down still and lost the breath and all of that. It became ESSENTIAL to properly close it as an ashtanga practice, rebuilding the breath, re-entering practice. This was an absolutely transformative decision.
The processing that happens when I practice-until-breakthrough-energy is all directly about the breakthrough energy, because that's the most immediate event.
The processing that happens when I practice-until-breakthrough-energy-AND-closing-series remains sensual, remains sort of IN THE CONTEXT OF body movement, and the breakout energy becomes integrated, becomes part of the full practice event, and sometimes I just do bridges because the hip is so hungup with energy-as-static it can't bear more stretch, but other times, the energy-as-static clears, and I have big backbends, and sometimes even drops-and-stands after nothing but closing series. But the further lesson is that what KIND of backbends I have, or their QUALITY as physical postures (big, deep, stable, dynamic, all of that language) DOESN'T MATTER, and I don't mean that in the too-often-seen sense of SHOULDN'T MATTER but rather with a real and authentic DOESN'T!
Because the asana practice has been established at the start as a breathing event, even when the breath is broken by the energy untied in the hips, the closing series returns as a breathing event, where pose quality doesn't matter, and there is an ALCHEMIC process by which cognitive estimation or anxiety ("will i finish? will i drop back? this posture feels good, that one feels bad, i'm not as deep as usual here, this pose is bigger than before, this means i'll get as far as...") vanish under the vinyasa breath count and especially under what I've earlier called "flow."
Flow could be translated as "skill in motion" (and I realize Grim has done some posting about skill and Heidegger and such, I'm taking this more from the book FLOW, which doesn't define skill in those terms, or at least I can't easily translate it to those terms).
Let us take this morning as an example of all of this:
I was aiming at 9 am practice in the studio (self-practice) with a student and friend of mine, but the child was constipated and J was being a stress-case about all her work to do and how she can't achieve highly at all of it at once, and how worrisome it is to have to give the child glycerin to get him, you know, "moving" and how that makes her a bad mother, blah blah blah, just so much stress and judgment oozing out of every pore of her, and then she had to go to work before the glycerin could take effect, and she asked, "is it ok if I leave you to do this?" with a constantly-present tone of "are you sure you can handle it?" that she has had with me for three solid years, and so I was NOT in a pleased mood with her, but soon the child got relief and I texted her directly, to tell her this (all stress reduction is good stress reduction) and then packed up the boy, contacted my student to let her know I'd be late, and got over there at 9:40 where we had to wait for the 10 am teacher to show (at 9:55) and then finally practiced.
Much irritation, prior to practice. Much backbending earlier in the week. Cranky outer hips. Difficult but rewarding Padangusthasana; knew it would be a "hip day." Could NOT, simply could NOT, stick the swing-out-and-back of Utthita Hasta. Impossible. Did a difficult Ardha Baddha Padma, and then called it a practice. Full of irritation at her and her stressiness and the mess she nearly made of my morning (classic format: blame the externals, then keep moving and all the blame goes away and turns into answers to your questions; alchemy!).
Slowly, slowly, moving into backbends. Two bridges, still anger, so keen to blame her for the stress and thus the "bad" practice (wtf does "bad" practice even mean? does anyone know?) A pressup to a wheel, easier than I thought it would be, and the anger just atomized. Its lightness suprised me.
Lightness: what I mean is, I used to think of anger as sort of yellowish, almost kind of hard, but moist, like thick phlegm. It sticks inside me, gets on things, can't be washed off, can't be scraped, either. But this, this anger, was like the psychedelic light you see in the film ENTER THE VOID (which I screened on Monday, so it's relevant to me, visually here), and it just atomized, POOF, lighter even than smoke, it turned literally into a scattershot blast of electrons in the great pinball game. I almost saw it do this.
People say, "just channel it," and silly things like that. I did not push into the backbend WITH anger, nor did I "turn it" into something else. As I've said about surrender (and that post about not doing surrender is really key, you should reread it if you haven't), the alchemy is not something that I DO, it is something that HAPPENS (perhaps if we wanted to include agency, we could say that it is the result of my actions or choices, but that I am not aware that my actions have this result and thus I "don't know" where said results come from).
I also did not "ignore" or "turn away from" anger. My experience was that I pressed up, suprised with the ease, and then looked down and breathed, again with good concentration of the breath, and anger simply ENDED, sha-zam, electrons running for the limits. Replaced with skill, not in the sense of praise ("he is so skilled!") but simply with movement that was not lazy and did not strive for the impossible. Movement that was smooth and easy and which was so, sort of OUTSIDE the mind. There was not cognitive governance, which I think goes hand-in-hand with the atom-smasher of anger. The mind's fixation was changed by the body's movement, the RECRUITMENT of the mind half of bodymind, by the breathing pressup arc.
Five more times total. A lot of already-rehearsed movement. Rock back and forth. Put head down as close to feet as possible and walk in. Done and done. Difficult dropbacks and standups, but they retained this coherence, this unifying bodymind element.
Then in closing, no more anger at J (this time; it'll be back, I'm sure). A move toward compassion for how intense her chosen workload is; even a move toward compassion for her choices, how tough the balancing act must have been, how spooky tenure-or-not is. A move toward acceptance of how hard it is for me to accept what she chose and what effects it's had. Not acceptance or compassion in the cheezy sense of "oh I understand" and pat-on-the-back for comfort, but more in the sense of unangry clarity, "compassion" the way that Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism would put it (the pre-Shambhala Trungpa). Clarity unclouded by emotional reaction unrestrained.
I'm not certain that the mechanism is that my anger (or other intensity, negativity) gets thus into the annamaya and my particularly sticky right glutes. That seems a bit too neat. But something woo-woo dramatic like, "Your right glutes are a samskaric inheritance, which manifests negativity from the past lives" is also not quite right (although that'd make a good movie, maybe). But in kosha terms (and I really only know the idea of koshas from the Paramahamsa commentary on the Gita, that one translated by his student), this whole situation seems to involve the annamaya (food body, the physical practice) and also the pranamaya (energy body, the energetic "breakout," and also something in my discussion of skill, above) and perhaps EVEN the next one, the manamaya (mind body, where emotions are, they say). It's not that I "controlled" the anger, but I definitely manipulated it, changed my relationship to it. And that feels just a little bit like being Neo in the Matrix, where he dodges the bullets, you know?