We had six first time students today. And there were several more who were either in their first couple of classes, or who had just returned after a long break. The first timers all had their mats behind me, so they were all I could see. My first impulse was to move. That many suffering people around was likely to suck all the energy out of my practice.
Then I looked around and realized that if I moved, they would have no-one in front of them to act as an example. Now, I don't consider myself the ideal example -- far from it. But still I'm better than nothing at all. So even if it was going to put a damper on my practice, I decided to stay put. You could say I was practicing the first niyama: non-harming or caring.
I also decided it would be a challenge to stay focused on myself and not let the newcomers hinder me. And it was a challenge. For the most part, they did great. But there was one woman in the back who was an unending parade of smirks, sighs, shaking head, towel wiping, not listening to instructions, and it was genuinely hard not to let that bother me. I had middling success with that. On the other hand, by holding myself up as an example, I think I pushed a bit harder than I might otherwise have done, and I stopped myself from sitting out when tempted.
Recently, I haven't had as much trouble in Locust as before. Today I realized why. I've been going up a bit higher than before, and I think I'm not fairly consistently going beyond 45 degrees, and by going more vertical, the pose is actually getting easier. These days, the challenge in the pose is not so much forcing myself to stay up, but actually trying to figure out how to get more of an arch in my upper back so I can get a bit more vertical. I still don't really know how far I go in the pose, but my sense is that I've made some great improvement gradually, and I'm just now noticing it.
Yesterday's meditation had two remarkable ideas. First, Gates talked about how so many people make their livings off the entirely intangible. Lawyers certainly fall into that group (except Gates refers to the intangible stuff as a kind of wisdom, and with lawyering I think the point is debatable). Even so, its remarkable how much of our lives is tied up in the ethereal or the completely intangible. I'm thinking of things like religion, marriage (at least as an institution), contractual relationships, promises. And in the simply ethereal, there's this blog, for example, and the internet, and books, etc...
The other remarkable idea is that self study entails a form of humility. Off the mat, we bow to others who have come before us and who know better. The more remarkable aspect is that he says that he finds humility on the mat because he finds himself in the "presence of the miracle of creation." Self-study on the mat leads to being present, to living in the moment. I think that that kind of presence can lead to the timeless feeling that I've talked about before.
Then Gates either waxes poetic, or runs the topic a bit off the rails. He talks about experiencing things like a fish in fish pose, like a child in child pose, like a tree in tree pose. Who am I to say that he doesn't actually have this kind of experience? But I can't even begin to imagine the "wisdom of a tree." And to a certain extent, I think people make way to much of the poses names. Why is Camel called Camel? Most likely because some yogi a long time ago decided that it looked something like a camel's hump. I don't see it. I like my owh theory, which is that camel's are nasty animals that bite and are hard to tame. But I don't think I get any "camel-like" experience from doing the pose.