Tuesday, April 7, 2009

68/96 - Blindly Following

Monday 8:15 pm with Connease

I forgot to bring water.  But I've made it through lots of classes now with no water, and I felt well hydrated, so I didn't think it was a big deal.  Then, putting down my mat, the room felt a bit stifling.  I checked the thermometer:  110 degrees and 39% humidity.  Yikes!  So that made me a bit nervous about the lack of water.

OK, the lack of water wasn't a physical problem.  It was just another thing that I allowed to nag at me in the oppressiveness of the heat.  Some days, I might have been able to handle it with that level of heat, but last night wasn't one of them.  I tried to stay calm, to stay within my breath.  I sat out one set of Triangle, then a set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  Then I skipped out the last part of Locust.  And I still felt like I was absolutely pushing my limits, and that just getting through the class was going to be a victory.

One person left.  Two others left the room for a short break.  That was really tempting.  By the end of the standing series, more than half the class was sitting out.  Afterwards, everyone was whispering to each other:  "Was it hotter than usual?"

As for the poses, I felt more flexible than usual in the flexibility poses, and much weaker than usual in the poses that demand strength, with greatly reduced stamina.  My balancing was off, which I guess is lack of focus.

Afterwards, I felt good to have made it through, without any real complaint.  Sometimes its difficult for me to tell whether I'm really pushing myself as hard as I could/ought.  It gets even harder in conditions where its so easy to start feeling sorry for yourself.  In the end, even skipping as much as I did, I think I can say that last night's was a fairly solid effort.

The day 95 meditation discusses how, once you absorb scripture (whichever scriptures count for you), you must eventually put them away.  Ultimately, following the dictates of another leads to an avoidance of responsibility.  In the end, the important thing is deciding for yourself.  Thus, over-reliance on any scriptural guidance can become a crutch, which over time actually acts as an obstacle to walking properly.

Like others before it, this meditation focuses on the process of moving from being a student to a person with some sense of mastery.  The hard part, I think, is trying to figure out the point when you can say to yourself:  "Throw down your crutches and walk."  It's easy to see in others the signs of over reliance on a teacher, or on some set of dogma.  It's a much trickier thing to acknowledge it in yourself.  

One thing that I like about the yamas and niyamas is that they are so sparse that they force individual interpretation.  And they don't necessarily resolve into rules or propositions.  Instead, we are left with a set of words that stand for values:  caring, truth, generosity, non-attachment, moderation and purity, contentment, zeal, self-study and devotion/surrender.  Starting just with those words, I don't think it leads to a question of blindly following.  Even if you tried,  there is just too much room for interpretation, and the application of these requires too much thought.



hannahjustbreathe said...

Ah, those hotter-than-hot days are brutal. But, good for you for standing your ground, for taking the breaks you needed to ensure you could make it through the whole class. Doing that can be as challenging as hitting every set of every pose.

As for the meditation, this caught me: "The hard part, I think, is trying to figure out the point when you can say to yourself: 'Throw down your crutches and walk.' It's easy to see in others the signs of over reliance on a teacher, or on some set of dogma. It's a much trickier thing to acknowledge it in yourself."

Although it's cliche, I wonder if the "answer" to this is the old adage of: "You'll never know until you try." I don't think we can ever *know*, 100 percent, when we're ready to drop our crutches. Rather, we just need to drop them. If we stumble, we're forced to try to regain our footing or we fall. And if we can walk freely, well, then we move on, crutches left curbside.

Duffy Pratt said...

I tend to agree. Here the difficulty comes from the idea of scripture. In the end, from what I've seen, scripture rests on the following three words: "It is written." Here, the scripture (Bhagavad Gita) is saying that you have to thow away the scriptures. That's a challenging idea.

It reminds me of the end of Wittgenstein's Tractatus: "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following wat: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)"

As a practical matter, I think you are probably right. And yoga, as I've said again and again, is ultimately a highly practical thing. But here it seems like I'm getting close to what I might want to call a kind of pragmatic mysticism.