Monday, January 19, 2009

13/19 Nonharming

Sunday off.
Monday 10:30 with Danielle

We started a new 60 day challenge today.  I took yesterday off as a day to rest before embarking on another challenge.  I haven't decided yet how I will go about this challenge.  Donna, who also did a full 60 classes last time, says that she doesn't know yet whether she will do the full 60, or do the "wimpy" challenge.  That would be shooting just for 40 classes in 60 days.  That's enough to get the free two weeks as a reward, but I don't think I could do that and accept the reward.

Today's class was very nice.  Danielle is getting better each week in her ability to encourage people, and in giving corrections and guidance between the poses.  She keeps a fairly high level of energy in the class.  The only "problem" I have with her is that her classes regularly run about 10 minutes short.  It only feels that way in some of the standing postures, notably Awkward and Triangle.  And I still feel good after class, so its not really a problem.

In the last two days, we finally get to the first of the yamas: non-harming.  The first thing that strikes me is how broad and seemingly vague the concept is.  The yamas, as far as I know, don't come with a guide to their interpretation.  How to interpret them is largely up to the practitioner, and this means that there will be lots of room for disagreement.  For example, for some the idea of non-harming leads to being a vegan.  Others don't draw that conclusion.  

In a different way, Gates seems to think that his competitive past is somehow contrary to this principle.  And perhaps it is for him.  But there have been asana competitions in India for a long, long time.  Gates may get so involved in his competitive spirit that he sees no distinction between winning and destroying his competition.  Personally, I don't have that problem, and have been able to compete at many things without engaging in any harmful thoughts or activities.

Another point that I think is interesting is that the principle applies to actions, words, and thoughts.  That makes me wonder how thoughts can harm.  From a Cartesian, dualistic perspective, that idea seems strange.  But, of course, Yoga seeks a unity of mind and body.  In that unification, harmful thoughts will hurt yourself.  And that's something I can easily relate to.  Just getting angry or impatient with a stranger, even if the stranger doesn't notice it, can set me back for awhile and can interfere with how I deal with other people.  

The more difficult question is how one can actually observe the principle of non-harming when it comes to thought.  It's easy to control what you do, and what you say, but not so obviously easy to control what you think.  This reminds me of a guitar lesson I had a long time ago, where I was learning improvisation.  At a certain point in the improvisation, I played a blue note, and it sounded really good.  My teacher stopped me and asked me what I had played, and why I had played it.  I couldn't say what note it was, and I told him I played it because I "heard" it.  He said fine, but remember, when improvising you can control what you hear.  If that's true of musical thought, why not about the attitude of our thoughts in general?

I haven't touched much on the Day 19 meditation, which deals with light and darkness.  Perhaps I will take that up tomorrow.

No comments: