Thursday 4:30 pm with Miranda
I took yesterday off and felt great. Then, for a variety of reasons, I got next to no good sleep last night. The neighbors dog barked the whole night, and ordinarily that wouldn't phase me. But I got up at 2, then 4, then 5:30 and finally at 7am, each time for a different reason, and each time the barking interfered with my getting back to sleep.
In today's class, I think I found the reason. I'm on the verge of getting sick. I bulled my way through class today, but in the process I sometimes abandoned the things I've recently learned, like stillness, and keeping my breath at all time, and smiling. It didn't matter, because it felt like a victory just making it all the way through an unpleasant class.
Here's what I mean by unpleasant: twice today I found myself getting annoyed at Miranda, once because she held a posture longer than I wanted it to go on and longer than she usually holds it, and once because she was saying things exactly the way she usually says them. I know, and I knew at the time, that I was the one being arbitrary, and that it was something wrong with me that was causing the annoyance. But that did not stop me from being annoyed all the same.
Anyway, since class I have felt totally drained. And there's no objective reason for it, so I think I must be fighting off some sort of illness, and that fight is taking its toll.
The last two meditations have been on purity again. He says that when we practice purity, when we are progressing on the yoga path, we will find that we are happy for no apparent reason. I've definitely found this to be the case, time after time, over the course of the last year. But then again, one of the reasons I liked the last meditation so much is because it presented an exercise which makes the reasons for happiness apparent. As my brother put it, the exercise is simply to count your blessings, the things for which you are grateful. And your blessings, the things that make you grateful, will probably supply more than ample reason for happiness. So on this minor point I disagree: it may seem like we become happy for no apparent reason, but if so, that's because we haven't looked for the reasons -- and there are many.
Gates says that we can start to purify the mind by letting go. We're told this all the time in class. In Savasana, if there's a thought that creeps into our minds, take not of it, and put it aside. Getting frustrated? then catch your breath, smile, forget about it and start again. At the beginning of class, teachers will say that for the next 90 minutes you can put away all of your outside thoughts and focus on nothing but your eyes in the mirror. All of these are preliminary steps to the kind of letting go that Gates is talking about. The end goal of this process is to make class a 90 minute moving meditation -- (I've gotten maybe a couple of minutes in a row on occaison, but I think that is amazing progress from where I started).
In today's meditation, the idea is that the practice of purity puts belief into action. The belief here is no more than caring for yourself. By taking the objective steps of staying clean, dressing decently, keeping your environment orderly, exercising, eating better food, etc..., you take easy and identifiable steps that put the care for yourself into action, and these small, programmatic steps start to reinforce your beliefs.
When I was in film school, I had a friend who was unemployed. He had let himself get about 25 lbs overweight. He had no ambition. He was drinking lots of beer and close to a pint of whiskey a day. He let another of my friends persuade him to start running, and going to the local YMHA gym. He started going with my other friend just to stop the badgering. Within a few weeks, he started to get obsessed with meeting a few goals at the gym. This then led to a diet, which led to quitting drinking, which led to his taking a job teaching English as a second language, and finally led to him meeting his future wife, going to grad school and starting a nice life and career. All of this started because he started to take some objective steps to care for himself. I didn't realize it at the time, but by starting to care for himself and cleaning himself, he had stumbled onto a part of the yoga practice, and it turned his life around.