Tuesday, March 10, 2009

50/68 - The Starting Point

8:15 with Miranda

My cable in the backyard got cut, leaving me without TV, phone, or internet connection.  What did I do when I was growing up, and there was no internet, only 6 channels on TV with nothing on them instead of several hundred, and a land line phone that I didn't like to talk on anyways?  The cable company is having pity on me, and they say they might be able to get someone out to fix it by Thursday.

Last night's class was great.  For a long time, I preferred to set up in one of a few locations where the humidifier blew.  It would send a stream of relatively cooler air when it was on, and that seemed a relief.  Last night, I realized that I pretty much don't like those spots anymore.  There have been a few times recently when I've set up in one of my old favorite spots, and then ended up feeling a bit cold, and a little distracted.  So, just like I never thought I would complain about it being too cold, now I actually find myself gravitating toward the hotter parts of the room.  Go figure.

It was crowded for a late class, with 24 people, and six! first timers.  Three of them were directly behind me, and I tried not to let it distract me, but it can be very difficult.  I know, this may sound like there's no pleasing me.  Just the other day I was saying how distracted I got by the guys incredibly focused and disciplined practice.  And now I'm saying that the newbies were distracting me.  But there it is.  

Even so, I had a really good ending for the standing series, with a strong triangle.  Then I actually felt good in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  I was solidly in the pose, hands in prayer, head fused to knee and almost fully locked out on both sides.  And I could breathe.  I don't know what changed, but I usually find it really hard to breathe in this pose, and it was so nice to be able to concentrate on locking my knee, instead of wondering whether this would be the class where I finally pass out.

Floor series was good.  Back strengthening felt especially good.  I managed to keep my breath in Locust, and then after a little unfortunate spitting up (still a problem from time to time) I got control of myself and did a nice second set with control again. 

Gates meditation talks about his time as a navigator in the army, and how in navigating the first thing that must be right is the starting point.  What does this have to do with being content?  So many people think of satisfaction, or being content, as a goal.  The danger here, I think, is that it's so easy to be critical of yourself for not having reached your goals.  And if the goal is being content, then the simple action of making that your goal is likely to derail your progress.  The effort of trying to reach the goal actually takes you further away.

For a long time, I've thought that the answer was this:  happiness is not a goal, its a by-product of having achieved other goals.  My idea is that when you do the right things for other good reasons, you may end up being happy, but that was not the point.  Basically, if you strive to do good, this might in the end make you happy.  But if you instead strive to be happy, you almost certainly fail.  (I realize I am using contentedness and happiness as being interchangeable, and they may be different, but I think the same point applies to either.)

Gates supplies a new wrinkle for me to think about.  Being content may not be either the destination, nor perhaps a by-product.  Instead, he encourages us to think of it as the starting point, by which we can set our bearings.  

I'm not quite sure what I think about this yet, and I will think on it some more.  Part of me wants to say:  If I'm content, then why am I going to yoga so often to improve myself?  And I'm not even sure if that is the reason why I go, or why I go so often.  

Underneath all of this, there seems to be a paradox:  contentment is the starting point, but how do you get there if you aren't already content.  And as with most paradoxes, I don't think you can puzzle your way out of it.  Instead, you just have to let go of it and go on.  And the same probably applies to finding contentment.  How do you find contentment?  By letting go.  You let go and that's where you find your starting point.  (Sometimes easier said than done.)

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