Saturday, May 2, 2009

85/121- Ego and Pride

Friday 4:30 pm with Janna

Today's meditation fits nicely with today's class, which was a real blow to my pride.  I woke up with a headache, so skipped morning class.  The headache persisted throughout the day, and I decided to go to class anyway. 

It was hot.  Really hot.  It started out ok, with perfect Bikram weather (105, 40%).  By the end of the standing series, it had creeped up to 109 degrees.  After that, there was no point checking.  By cobra, I was ready to yell "Uncle."  A little later, I was thinking of all sorts of ways that I could maybe slip out of the room.  I skipped a set of Triangle, which happens from time to time.  Then I skipped a full set of Locust, which I never do.  Sometimes I can't get myself up for the third part, but I've never just bailed out on the pose before.  And then, I skipped a set of Camel, which I also have never done before.

Remember the quiet observer I talked about yesterday?  The third party who watches as our thoughts war with each other?  The still center that we grow to know more and more through asana practice?  Well, he was taking the day off.  

After a fairly good run of strong classes, I was once again knocked on my butt.  Instead of not needing any mantra at all,  instead of calmly thinking "Be quiet, be still, be here, be now."  which is the gibberish I sometimes force through my head when my thoughts are out of control, instead of those, I was hitting the floor chanting "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts."

And the irony of all this is that the class was exactly what I needed.  Somewhere, in all of my distress, my headache vanished.  I came out feeling beaten, but good (at least after a few minutes).  And I felt good and energized for the rest of the day.

Now, what was it that hurt so much.  In the end, I think it was my clinging to the idea that I should be doing better than I was.  And that leads us to the second affliction: pride or ego.  The big thing that was interfering with me yesterday was my own expectation about how I should perform.  If I could just have let go of that, I might still have dropped out as much as I did.  But I may not have overdone it in the poses that led up to me being wiped out.  So, in some ways, the class was just a small working through of the adage: "Pride goeth before a fall."

A couple of observations on the day 119 meditation (and yes I've fallen woefully behind again).  First, there is the idea that the root cause of pride comes from not being connected to others.   In its worst forms, this leads to people seeing others as being either objects or instruments, and not valuing them as people.   

Another form of the unconnectedness, according to Gates, is a direct result of avidya (spiritual ignorance).  When we start to identify ourselves with our achievements or abilities -- like my ability to go smoothly through a   Bikram class -- then we place to much value or emphasis on something that is not really ourselves.  We get too attached to it.  It becomes the source of our pride and leaves us vulnerable, because this excess attachment is almost always misplaced.

The other important point from today's meditation is that pride leads to errors in two directions.  On the one hand it plays to the desire to be superior to others.  And on the other hand it can feed off the fear of inferiority.   In this class, I think I was definitely prey to a kind of fear of inferiority.  Most of what was bothering me arose, I think, from my stubborn insistence that I must be better than this.  Do I really suck this badly?  The answer, at least for one class, was "Yes, you do."  And afterwards, I can pretty easily come to terms with this.   It was only one day after all, and everything would have been allright, if I could have just refrained from beating myself up.


Bosco said...

Duffy, I went into my class Saturday afternoon with tons of energy and a very upbeat spirit and by Triangle I was totally wiped out. The room was hot, but not unusually so. Bu I ended up sitting out a set of Triangle and then half a set of the next pose. That really does teach humility.

Then I think: I am not my yoga practice, I am not how good I look on the mat, I am not ultimately really my "results" in anything I do. I can love myself fully for my well intentioned purpose in engaging in the practice, and forgive myself for a somewhat "weak" class (or better yet, not judge myself at all; just quietly take note of what it was and let it go).

All easier said than done, of course. But yoga is such a great context for learning these things.

Duffy Pratt said...

Yes. Its easier said than done. It almost certainly helps to walk yourself through the litany of what you are not. But sometimes, it doesn't seem to matter.