Sunday, March 29, 2009

63/88 Self Study As Process

2:30 pm with Miranda

So after yesterday's really tough class, I went to a 2:30 class today, having eaten nothing all day, and feeling about the same as I felt before yesterday's class.  And it went fantastically.  I didn't need to drink any water.  I stayed collected throughout.  I didn't skip anything, and pushed really hard for the most part.  I don't know what yesterday's problem, but once again Bikram shows itself to be like Forrest's box of chocolates.

My balance was really good today.  I didn't fall out of any of Standing Head to Knee.  And I had a very slight breakthrough:  in Toe Stand I actually got both hands off the ground for almost two seconds on my left toe.  I've gotten to that on the right side (but not today), but I've never been able to lift the second hand on the left side without falling before.

Back strengthening was all good.  So were Rabbit and Camel.  And I felt especially good for some reason in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  I still couldn't breathe, but I had my knee locked on the right side, and came close on the left.  All in all it was a really strong, and a fun, class.  I'm thinking that might partially be because I felt like savoring Miranda's last few classes before she goes back to Hong Kong.  I need to look into whether there's anything I can do to help her visa application.

Yesterday's meditation strikes me with a few things.  Gates relates self study to non-attachment.  Basically, the more openminded a student is, the more likely that self-study will help.  To the extent that people cling to pre-conceived ideas, the more likely that anything new will simply bounce off with no effect.  I know lots of people who read "inspirational" texts or literature, and even go to the extent of highlighting it.  More often than not, they are highlighting stuff that they agree with, stuff that is not particularly challenging to them.  I've always thought that this is a sort of reading for reassurance.  It might lead to a slightly deeper understanding of what someone already believes, but its almost certainly not going to break any new boundaries.

I've always thought that a better approach, if you are going to highlight stuff, is to highlight the stuff you react strongly against, or the stuff you don't seem to understand.  Then, I like to go back over it and, instead of saying why I don't like it or disagree with it, I try to puzzle out what it really means.  Quite often, the things I disagree with are simply things I don't understand at first blush.  Sometimes, I can get to a point where I see what the author is trying to say, and this makes it a bit easier to swallow.  Of course, sometimes I simply end up disagreeing, and other times I simply fail to understand.  But the exercise has served me well.  Too often people are ready to accept or dismiss something without really trying to figure out what it means in the first place.

The other point that struck me is how self-study ultimately needs to be focused on only a process and not on getting any particular result.  In one way, this seems pretty obvious to me.  When you are engaged in this sort of study, you literally don't know what the result is going to be.  If you did know, in any concrete way, then I think you also would likely have achieved the result.  Since the result is in some way unknowable at the outset, that means that all we are left with is process.  

And then there is the contradiction that lies at the heart of this.  One way to state the result is simply this:  be present, or be aware.  But if you try to grab being present as some kind of result, it then simply eludes the grasp.  However, if you give it up, and focus simply on the process of what you are doing -- on your breath, on the feeling throughout your body while doing asanas, to the process itself -- then you can find yourself falling into being present, being fully aware.  

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