Saturday, March 14, 2009

53/73 -- Holy Backbend, Batman!

Friday off.
Saturday 9:30 am with Lenette

Another great class with Lenette.  Class simply flew by.  I pushed hard throughout, maybe too hard.

At the beginning of the year, I decided I was really going to try by the end of the year to see the ballet bar during the first backbend.  Today, I felt like I was getting close, and something let go in my back.  I might even have seen the bar, but the whole experience was so close to hallucinatory that its hard to say what I see.  I actually fell out of the bend backwards, and it took me a while to get my bearings back, realize I was in the yoga room, and get going with the forward bend.  So I might have accomplished my goal for the year, and I don't even know.

The aftermath isn't quite so great.  I've felt some tenderness in my lower back all day, and I think I may have to be cautious about it.  Oddly enough, the backbend itself was so otherworldly that it took quite a while before I made any connection between the soreness and the bend.  It was like it happened to someone else, so it couldn't be causing my problem, could it?

Yesterday's meditation returns to the opposition of fear and love.  The basic idea is that our fears cause us to make all sorts of little retreats in our daily lives, and these lead to discontent.  The antidote is to live with love, faith and openness.   The shift in approach can lead to contentedness and even joy in our daily lives.

The funny thing for me is that he leads with a quote from Ecclesiastes to show the true nature of being content.  And its not either of the ones that I would expect.  Ecclesiastes begins with one of the great laments:  "Vanity of Vanitys, all is vanity ... for there is no new thing under the sun."  And it resolves a bit later with the wonderful poem of contentment that got turned into the Byrds' hit song "To everything there is a season, and a purpose to everything under heaven."  I had not thought of it before, but it looks like Ecclesiastes is a near perfect meditation on content and discontent. 

Today's meditation is about how lack of knowledge, and the strategies we devise from false information, are the cause of pain and suffering.  In some ways, this is obviously true.  But take one of the examples he gives:  finding solace in a pint of Ben and Jerrys (it used to be Haagen Dasz).  I've done this, or eating similar to it, in the past.  When I started, I knew that it was going to be bad for me, and I knew I would feel terrible later, and that I would regret it.  So, in some sense, the knowledge was there.  But I took the wrong course even knowing that it was wrong.  And I think that this is much more common than most people believe.  Most people come under the sway, from time to time, of the imp of the perverse.  They do the wrong thing because they know it is wrong.  I'm not going to try to explain it, but I think it puts a challenge up to the basic idea.

Ultimately, there is a difference between knowing something and truly understanding it.  There are so many different words for "knowledge" and most of them are a bit ambiguous.  What yoga brings, perhaps, is a deeper understanding or appreciation of the harms that we do to ourselves, and it may also bring a longing to cease and desist.  It's taking the first few bites of the ice cream and realizing, "I've had enough."  or "I don't need anymore.", or just instinctively putting it away.  At this level, I think "awareness" may be a better word than "knowledge."  I knew for years how to become more healthy, but it took a few months of doing yoga to connect on some level my awareness with my book-learning.

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