Tuesday, January 6, 2009

4/6 Practice and Renunciation

8:30 am with Danielle

Class was mostly good.  I'm making gradual progress in Fixed Firm and on my left hamstring in the final stretches.  Balancing was better, but my toe was still bothering me.  For the most part, I kept a pretty good focus.  But there were times when I caught myself planning my day.  I don't usually have that problem in the morning.  But for some reason, early on, my mind was prone to wandering.  I settled down somewhere in the balancing series and things got better from there.

Today's passage puzzled me.  Gates talks about practice and renunciation.  One point he makes I think is exactly on target.   If you plan to renounce something, and then don't back up the plan with clear action (practice), then you are almost bound to fail.  This seems pretty obvious to me.

Another point he makes has become clear to me more recently.  He says that habits that seem to drop out of your life when you start yoga may not actually be quite so hard to break.  The practice by itself may not be enough to break the old, bad habits.  I dropped a bunch of weight when I started Yoga, simply because I had, sort of miraculously, found out that sometimes I wasn't hungry when there was food before me.  I also drank lots more water, and didn't snack so much.  But I didn't do any of this with any conscious effort.  Gradually, I've found myself slipping into some old habits as I've gotten more used to the yoga practice.  I'm not leaving stuff on my plate as often, and I am snacking more often.  It hasn't had any ill effect yet, but I can see that it might.  So, here is an example where the practice might have to come together with some kind of renunciation.

On the flip side, I deliberately gave up soda last February.  I think the yoga practice has helped me keep this commitment.  And I also tend to think that I haven't slipped here because I made a clear commitment not to do it anymore.

Now, for what puzzles me.  Yesterday, the idea was not to focus on being negative.  In some ways, renunciation seems to me to be a very negative idea.  I'm thinking of the "If thy eye offends thee, then pluck it out" sort of renunciation.   So yesterday, I was stoked by the idea that you just ignore your bad habits, and focus on the positive, and the bad stuff melts away.   Now I see a different message, and one that shows there is hard work ahead.  Maybe it wouldn't sound so negative if Gates used the other word he says is a substitute: non-attachment.   Committing to non-attachment seems much more neutral (but also less active) than renunciation.  I guess the trick here is to learn how to renounce some bad habit or attitude without also beating yourself up, or punishing yourself, over it.  

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