For the "action" sequences of the Kino workshop (Saturday's Primary and Sunday's Mysore class) I was in substantial pain. Lots of sobbing, lots of pauses, very "David and Shelley" ala June 2011 when I was a month out of the loss of my father.
This was fine. I lived through the Primary, got some great emotional release, and let my sore shoulder not do most of the Arm Balances for Everyone workshop. Felt that my physical practice was totally shattered beyond recovery. Self-pity, but predictable, and wisely, I did not write. Not until now, when it's all long-over.
The Mysore practice was also incredibly painful, emotional/physical, more like koshas, more accurately: annamaya, expressing pranamaya, manomaya (energy, emotional bodies). Work stress, too little practice, too much worry, too much search committee, grading stress, long-held grief, all of that. Tons of shit.
I called it a practice at Marichyasana B, which I was up to, while most of the room (doing Primary) was at the final postures. Slow, painful, expressive practice. Kino came up for final backbends as I was hanging back. I told her I usually can do up-and-back but not today, and she said, "We'll go up and back, then we'll cross." Cross means cross arms and hang back then go for the Chakra Bandhasana (ankle grab). Ok, so be it. I figured if I die now, it'll be OK.
Most comfortable backbends ever. Hands way back, almost to edge of rug, so not big dropbacks, but successful and painless. Big, and I mean really huge, finger-creep Kapo-style creep toward feet. Push fingertips into floor, press up for five. Again, no pain, nothing, no agony. She's smiling, as always, and then the squish, and that's that.
Redefined my idea of the practice, the shattered-ness. Made it all about the pain itself, not about "me," not about "mine" in any sense other than that the pain was mine, but I knew that. Everything became self-evident, destiny disappeared, nothing stated, nothing lost, just the present, thanks.
Sutras talk. The final event on Sunday (this was the 11th). I went and taught and lost the first hour of it, but that was great, good class of seven (even on Mysore morning). When I walked into the room, Kino was talking about pain. The story that I remember was that she was sitting in meditation one morning in Mysore, pre-practice, and suddenly had an SI joint shift, just sitting, and then pain. Pain even in "ekam." Pain all over. But she said, since this pain came while I was sitting in meditation, it was SATTWIC PAIN.
Sattwic/sattvic (depends on if you're South or North Indian). But there we are again with the gunas: tamas, rajas, sattwa. The material from which Prakriti (as I move at will between Yoga, Samkhya and Vedanta, because my own reading mixes those at will also) is made. The material also from which you and I are drawn, along our samskaric (habitual) lines.
Kino is better in speech than she is in writing. She's written about samskaras and about pain, but I far, far prefer her in person, speaking. There has been some (to be honest, and what am I if not honest, even when you watch me lie to myself, I know no better) serious bullshit said in the yoga world about pain. "Should you work through it?" "Pain is part of your practice." Things that are open to bad interpretation, things said clumsily without the presence of a human to also provide the tone of speech, the warning, the storytelling, the wisdom. Print is lies, not to be too Derridean about it.
Sattwic pain, Kino told us, can be worked through, is a gift. But rajasic pain, like when you overcrank into a posture, that's to be respected, treated. So the pain you have in practice, IF YOU ARE PRACTICING DEVOTIONALLY, is sattwic pain. And THAT qualifier means everything.
This means you MUST be honest with yourself, to know if you are taking a sattwic practice, a rajasic practice, a tamasic practice. My painful practices had tamasic qualities: low energy, high gravity, pain, but they also had sattwic qualities: wait until you can breathe, inhale, be pleased to be able to bend at all. And my pain was transient, came in waves, transited through, was over. Cathartic pain.
But this was something Kino did NOT say in writing, this bit about "sattwic pain" and devotional practice (although she's also written I think quite brilliantly on devotional practice, and my own post with that title is my third-most read post here ever, so that's interesting, perhaps).
Devotional practice: forgoing ego, achievement, practicing pretty much for ANYTHING that is not you. Day by day, doing the system, no matter what your given practice is. If it brings tears, you do it anyway. Devotional practice.
Pain during a Devotional Practice is sattwic pain, which is a gift. This was the case she made, and discovered that this was a sort of opening in the hip, which when the hip moved a certain way, made new postures possible. Now, I like this story, but I would NEVER advise a student to do something like this. "Well is it sattwic pain?" I can only think of MAYBE one student who's capable of answering that question. It's a self-knowledge thing. And as always, I think that most of the blogosphere isn't capable of that sort of self-knowledge yet, doesn't have it yet, thinks pain is a question, can't estimate if they should keep practicing "through" pain or not. "Through" is the wrong preposition there. One should never, to my mind, practice "through" pain. Perhaps "around" it if possible, or "outside" it or "under" it or something like that, find a way that isn't that way, but not "through." Unless, of course, it's this "sattwic pain" story, in which case the pain is a gift. This is a dangerous and wonderful thing that Kino told us.
She began telling us about negative samskaras. On the 11th. This was within a week of my big post about negative samskaras, and the best way I can put it is that listening to her talk about them was like having a voice INSIDE MY HEAD, like when the Elf Queen talks to Frodo with telepathy:
"WELCOME, Frodo of the Shire! One who has seen THE EYE!!!!"
That sort of freaky shit. Kino told us that a negative samskara is like the story you tell about yourself, with all of your important events and betrayals, your whole narrative, and you eventually burn the negative samskaras in the fire of tapas, which is both the fire of discipline (devotional practice) and the fire of the asana practice itself (digestive fire). Stoking the fire of devotion is what fuels the flames that burn whatever's on the stake, and what's on the stake is your own self-story, your aggrandizing negative samskaras, your habits, your selfhood, your long history, echoing through time with the same shapes and habits and mistakes and beliefs. And LET IT BURN. Let it burn and mourn it and let there be tears and fear and terror and lose yourself and then feel better; you never needed that thing anyway.
She didn't put it like that: I've channeled myself well into whatever it was she said and can't separate the two.
But LET IT BURN in that devotional fire, she said that over and over. I nodded throughout like a guy giving witness at a Baptist church. You could almost hear the callers in back: "Come on! Say it!" and such. If you've never been to a non-denominational church of that sort, with witnessing and laying on of hands and people falling over and men crying in their suits and the guy just nodding and repeating "Uh huh! Come on!" then you've missed out. I used to go, when I was 20, to a church of this kind in New Britain, Connecticut, mostly African-American crowd, delicious and inspiring performance, preaching, witnessing, falling over, snacks and conversation after.
And I thought, THIS is what a teacher does. Sure, an adjustment's great, but THIS is how you spot someone who can teach you something.
There's no question at all that the Sutras talk was the best part of everything.
J and I have had, as usual, some edginess the last few days. I can't anymore remember precisely how this went, in chronological order of dialogue, but I write best when I disregard the externals anyway, let them fall into the rolling wheel of intensities, out of time.
It was about our search committee (I'm on said committee, she's not) meeting with the Dean today and J's critiquing my fashion choices this morning, because how you look affects how authority figures feel about you (this was her argument).
I received that the same way I received that advice at, say, 14. I believe the phrase that went through my head was, "Fucking shove it."
That was the morning; the afternoon before I went to teach the 7:15 yoga was about J advising me to do even more conference stuff, even after I got a panel accepted at a regional conference, because my third-year review (which will happen about a year from now) will need more padding. My feeling was that I'm working my ass off sideways this semester (and really, that can't be debated), and so I was in no mood whatsoever to have her tell me to do EVEN MORE work in order to "make the cut," and she can feel anger radiate off me, like heat. I got very, very, VERY angry with her, and didn't say anything, but she took the boy outside and they began playing in the grass, keeping a quite polite distance.
I processed this after the yoga, waiting for the last of my students to end rest and call it a class.
My diagnosis was this: I want more humanity, more non-work conversation, more friendliness, so I'll need to foreground that so that I can get it.
When I told her that in the evening conversation, she said, "Well when you talk to me about work, I'm going to talk to you about work, because my job is to advise faculty on how they can best optimize their positions."
This took me aside a bit: had I talked to her about work? AHA, I'd complained about the intensity of the semester's work, and her answer was not EMPATHY (which I wanted), but ADVICE about how to best HANDLE said workload.
Immediately I realized that she hadn't been hostile, she just hadn't given me WHAT I WANTED. And then the world unravelled.
Work and home aren't opposites; one isn't "human" at home and "something else" at work; home isn't (as we've known for three and a half years and counting) where the sex and joy are; work isn't supposed to be where any of that is anyway; I have identified my "I" (ego, but the I that I mean when I say, "I") with the anti-SOCIAL (as I would have called it) and home with J used to be the anti-social, but now it's the socialized, which in a word, is what I've always meant when I have complained about her valuing work and family not just a lot, but TO MY EXCLUSION. I have meant, TO THE EXCLUSION OF "I."
In short, I saw my ego again, separate from "me."
"A negative samskara is your life story, your idea of who you are."
Here is some of where "I" was founded and what "I" came to value (and I'm using quotes not for suspicion but to indicate my I-voice, my ego-voice, which I've been discovering that I don't even need; who needs an actor when you can act just fine without one?):
The negative samskara I was talking about last time came into bloom with puberty. I'm not quite sure why that is, but that's when all of its characteristic tension showed up. "I" started, by desiring relationship and finding it impossible: adolescents of both genders made no sense, there were no rules that made any sense, and everything was hypocrisy and randomness. "I" decided that this was "the social" and that it was a lie. Basically, "fuck people." However, "I" is also an extrovert, and so values people, but decided only to value people who were "real" or "onto the real," which was as we now well know, an imaginary paradise where people stated their actual desires with full honesty and then were granted (or not) those desires with again, totally clear honesty on the part of all parties.
"I" measured all social life by this standard: in answer to my description of this complex, J said, "Well didn't that make everyone insufficient?.....or Unattainable?" And that's EXACTLY what it produced, so I said, "Yes! Precisely!" and she said, "Time to get a new system."
I tried to explain to her that this wasn't my current system, but my new realizations, with distance from the "I" ego, of HOW MY EGO SYSTEM HAD OPERATED.
Alienation leads to idealization leads to the unending insistence that humanity MEET THE IDEAL STANDARDS and that leads to perpetual disenchantment and that leads to more alienation and the cycle repeats. Infinitely, and in all "my" relations.
The climbing, the sex life, the sweat and joy, of 2003-2008 all fit this social/antisocial binary. "I" work on the dissertation (social) and then go climb walls (anti-social, embodied, "true") and then go spend a sweaty weekend of joy with J (anti-social, embodied, "true") and then go back to work (social, commodified, et cetera) and then ping-pong between the two.
All joy for "I" is anti-social joy, anarchic joy, embodied anti-confusing joy.
A big incoherent (and yet skillful) mix of Guy Debord, Kafka, Nietzsche, Hesse, Dada, Surrealism, Bataille, European art cinema, and everything else "I" have been so into for so long.
BUT NOT PARENTING.
The great binary shatterer. The sword that is too sharp to be wielded.
And this is what I was saying last time: parenting gave me, and continues to give me, distance from my "I" ego. To the point that I can see it all armored and "bricked in" (as Chogyam Trungpa would have put it, the monkey who is surrounded by walls on all sides and cannot escape and doesn't know why) over there away from me.
"The child gives birth to the man," J said.
She is so totally lacking in this big ego-universe that I've lived in my whole life. No wonder we have fucked-up communication which only once in a while bursts into TOTAL WONDER like this.
I saw the same pattern, this "social/anti-social" which duplicates itself as "conformist/nonconformist" or "realism/Dada" or "Mann/Hesse" or "Descartes/Nietzsche" or a hundred other things, actually SAW it repeating through every relationship I've ever had, every job choice, every money situation, every value system, every confrontation with everything. Ever.
Negative samskara. Hugely, weirdly cosmically beautiful. Gigantic, so big.
I can BURN THAT THING? Whoa.
And I can light it up just by BREATHING? Double whoa.