Tonight's class was fantastic and just alot of fun. We had severe thunderstorms, so the class was small, only eight students. Sherie kept the pace going, with just the right mixture of humor, motivation, compassion and just being a hardass.
She says that the mistake that we westerners make is that we always want to push to go deeper into the poses, and we are in a rush to get there. If you are in a rush, she suggests not going for depth but for frequency. According to her, two classes a day every day for five years should do the trick. Apparently, that's what she did, and I'm just in awe. She admits that Bikram himself recommends two classes a day for two years to heal any serious injury. But five years? The mind boggles.
Later, when talking about breathing, she mentioned that for nine months of that time, she was practicing with nine cracked ribs. She said that will really teach you how to breathe in the poses. I started laughing at that, and she then said, "We don't offer rib breaking here, that's for the advanced class only."
I was incredibly strong during class. I didn't even feel fatigued toward the end of standing series. Instead, I was just overflowing with energy, and everything seemed to come easily. And it wasn't because I had held back at all. I just felt better for some reason.
And I got my best compliment ever in Triangle. Going into the first set, Sherie said that my movement was beautiful, and then went on to say that she had taught four classes that day, and the way I went into Triangle was the best thing she had seen all day. And to be clear, she wasn't praising the pose itself. Rather, it was the focus, concentration, and precision of how I moved into it that she liked. And that just made my day. Especially since at the time, all I was doing was listening to her and following along. That's exactly what I've been trying to do, and its so nice to hear that it's working sometimes. And it pretty much stoked me up for the rest of the class as well.
The Day 116 meditation in some ways retreads the same ground as the previous day. Gates focuses more today on how people mistakenly define themselves with external things, or even worse, with their faults. Thus, some people are their jobs or their ambitions or their relationships or their educations or their hobbies. These external definitions are all screens that get in the way of discovering the true self.
In some ways, the process of stripping away the false definitions sounds dangerously like DesCartes first meditation. Descartes makes a laundry list of all the things he can doubt, stripping away everything, until he's left saying that the only thing he can't doubt is that he doubts. Thus, Cogito Ergo Sum (I doubt, therefore I am.).
I'm not saying that this is exactly what Gates does. The question I have is how does one distinguish between describing oneself, and "defining" oneself. There can be lots of true descriptions about a person. For example, I tend to overanalyze things. But that's not "who" I am. It's just something that happens to be true about me. Ultimately, I don't think "who" I am, or anyone else is for that matter, is subject to definition. And its not because there is nothing left when you strip away all the descriptions. Rather, what is left when you strip away the descriptions cannot, by definition, be described. Therefore it cannot be defined -- it is ineffable. (And maybe that is our ultimate connection to divinity.)
In the end of the meditation, Gates describes how the process of coming to know yourself works off the mat (just as yesterday he gave a glimpse of how it might work on the mat). It's pretty much the same, a moment of stillness brings peace and the feeling that things will be all right. If this is so, then it goes a long way to explain the spiritual growth that seems to come naturally to people through asana practice alone. It's the emphasis on practicing stillness that seems to be the key.