I read today's meditation before class, and it had a pretty big effect on my practice. The meditation was about allowing ourselves to find stillness. Imagine a peaceful lakeside scene. Do you see storm clouds on the horizon? Probably not. Are there motorboats, and jet skis whipping along the shore? Not on my lake. Maybe there is a sailboat moving quietly along with a very gentle breeze. But the breeze doesn't make much more than the hint of some texture along the water. Stillness and peace. Gates says that if we learn to practice these well enough, we will begin to see through the gaps in the material world, and beyond into something deeper, and into our souls.
A few of my instructors, most notably Lenette, have talked about finding some point in each posture to simply hold still. She says that we make the most progress at the point where you can hold still and learn to enjoy the discomfort in a pose. It seems that the Bikram dialogue goes against this idea, with its exhortations to push, push, One ... more ... ... time. But there are also many places where the dialogue says "hold it," like near the end of wind removing. And often the exhortation is simply "lock the knee," and if you have done that, you should be still anyways.
Tonight, I tried to pay attention, where possible to staying still. I didn't even bring the water in with me, so there were no distractions on that front. And I did an even better job than usual of being still between the poses. But the revelation was in adding a touch of stillness toward the end of poses that I usually push really hard. Take Half Moon. Typically, I will try to lengthen my reach on an inhale, and them push deeper into the pose on the exhale. Today, I kept still on a few of the exhales. Two things happened: the pose seemed easier. No big surprise there. And I think I went deeper than usual. That was very surprising. More than that, in the time where I was trying to remain still, I felt like I could actually enjoy the pose. And joy is something I rarely, if ever, associate with Half Moon.
As class went on, I became more and more sold on the idea. Not because I had the same sense of depth that I got in Half Moon. But, trying to stay still increased my level of awareness in many of the poses. I think with more practice, I will have a much better sense of how I should be feeling in the poses. This is something that not drinking water tuned me into in the last few days, and the added awareness seemed only to deepen tonight. On top of that, I felt like I had much more energy tonight, especially on the floor.
As for breakthroughs, or near breakthroughs, I went down on the right side in Separate Leg Head to Knee with my knee locked tonight. I didn't have to try to push it back at all, it was simply locked from the outset. And then, I almost got my left leg fully extended in the final seated Head to Knee pose. I was actually a bit deeper than where I was before I hurt my knee.
I can't say that I got any deep glimpse into the interstitial workings of the universe, or of my soul. But I got a deeper sense of awareness, and took some joy away from my practice. Even if that were all that trying to practice stillness brought, it would be enough.