Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Tuesday 8:15 pm with Miranda

Last night's class was very nice.  The heat in the room felt good, especially with a crazy storm outside.  I felt more flexible than I have in a while, and even though I could still feel the tightness under my shoulderblade, it didn't seem to hinder what I was doing.  And my stamina was up, I made it through everything with no problem at all.

The yamas so far have had a positive aspect that grows from the negative.  Thus, non-harming transforms to caring and love.  Non-lying becomes honesty and truthfulness.  With non-stealing, it is generosity.  Today, Gates shows that moderation or temperance is simply an aspect of personal responsibility.

First, he talks about how we are responsible for all the little details of our practice.  This is something that a few of the Bikram teacher's emphasize.  Don't get too attached to any one spot, any one side of the room.  Last week, Lenette said that instead of always pushing in Standing Bow until I fall, I should sometimes get to the point of return and just stay still, enjoying the feeling of just being still, right there.  Gates makes the same point:  sometimes he pushes really hard, and other times he allows himself a bit of rest.  The idea is that if you feel like you have started doing something because it has become a habit, or simply because you've become attached to doing it that way, then step back and think about doing it some other way. Falling out of Standing Bow is good because it pushes the stretch and shows I'm pushing my limits.  But staying at the point where I can hold the pose is also good, because it inculcates the idea that I can succeed.

There are two other ideas here that are very interesting.  First, he says that if he dislikes a teacher, that means the teacher reflects some aspect of himself that he has not yet made peace with.  Fortunately, I like all of our teachers, and always have.  The broader point is interesting, and I'm not sure if I agree with it.  In film school, I took a strong dislike to another of the students, and the feeling was mutual.  A while later, one of my friends told me how strange he thought it was that we hated each other so much, since we were so much alike.  I thought about that for a long while, and finally admitted that it was true.  Though, at the time, it didn't do anything to cure my feelings for the guy.  So, on that level, I can easily see some truth to this idea.  But I also think its at least possible to dislike some things because they are truly bad.  But maybe I'm wrong on this, as well.

The other great idea from this meditation is the idea that we will never graduate.  Of course, most graduation ceremonies are actually called commencements.  They should mark the start of a new phase of life, not the end of study.  Unfortunately, that's not the way many, if not most, people look at graduation.  In America, people think of a black belt in karate as being a master. In Japan, a black belt is what you get when they have decided that you are ready to begin.  It is not a symbol of mastery.  Instead, a student with a black belt is ready to start serious study. 

On the simplest level, I don't think I have to worry about being complacent because of my mastery of any of the asanas.  Sometimes, when I hear the "one day, eventually, in the future" language in class, telling me where I will ultimately get to in a pose, I think "so this is where Bikram squeezes in the Hindi idea of reincarnation."  But I've talked to people who do seem to do the full expression of some poses, and they all insist that it remains challenging and they still find new things in the pose all of the time.  So even if that "one day, in the future" arrives in this lifetime, even then it won't mean that I've graduated and can move on to something else.

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