Friday, January 2, 2009

1/2 - Action to Knowledge to Liberation

6:30 pm class with Miranda

For the new year, and the new plan for this blog, I decided to start a new running count.  In part, this will help me keep track of which day I'm on in Meditations from the Mat.  So from that standpoint, it's purely practical.  But it also shows a new beginning, which is kind of what I'm after anyways.

For anyone who wants to keep a running tally from the beginning of the first 60 day challenge, just remember to add 169/195 to the new tally.  169 and 195 are easy numbers to remember, so there shouldn't be much problem for anyone keeping score.

Class was fun today.  The heat was way up, starting about 106, but it came down a bit during the class, and it just sort of melted through me.  Class went quickly, and I worked hard while keeping my smiling happy face for the most part.  I felt better in Balancing series than I have in a while.  The back strengthening was good, if still painful.  I'll know I've really hit onto something good when I start looking forward to those four poses.

Today's passage outlined the eight spokes of traditional yoga.  Four are spirituality in action:  the yamas, niyamas, asanas, and pranayama.  The yamas and niyamas are kind of like the yoga analog to the ten commandments.  Asanas and pranayama are the obvious stuff that goes on in class.  These are the more physical, and accessible, aspects of yoga.

The other four spokes are pratayahana, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.  The first is drawing inward, the second is a kind of concentration, the third is meditation, and the last is union with the object of meditation, enlightenment, oneness.  As near as I can tell, and that's not very much, I think the last part is basically ineffable and a bit mystical. 

Again there are two parts today that especially struck me.  First, Gates says that following this eightfold path leads one from action to knowledge to liberation.  If so, then I'm definitely on the "action" side of this route right now.  But its pretty clear to me that this is not a linear course.   I think, from time to time, I get some glimmering of understanding about what I'm doing and why.  And I've even occaisonally, as I noted yesterday, had a few classes, or parts of classes, where time seemed to vanish and everything seemed right.  I'm assuming that that's a part of what Gate's means by liberation.  And as I said before, its the promise of reliving those moments that, in part, keeps me going.

The other comment that struck me is Gate's insistence that all is needed when one starts a yoga practice is a willingness to grow along spiritual lines.  I have a hard time talking about spiritual things, so this part of the program will challenge me.  I came to Bikram from a gym because I liked the yoga classes there, and wanted to try something a bit more intense and more authentic.  Like most people, I came looking for a workout and some health benefits.  I was very surprised about the way the practice changed my thinking, my attitudes, the way I treat others on a day to day basis.  I first thought of it as a side benefit.  Now, its looking like my original objectives may be the side benefits.  But I suspect that at some point, I might really understand that there is no "side benefit" at all, and that it's more like a package deal. 

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