Friday, May 8, 2009

89/127 - Powerless

Thursday 10:30 am with Danielle

It was a hard, hot class, and very satisfying.  My stamina was a bit off.  I sat out one set of  Triangle, and almost took off another set in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  At least for this day, I had no hesitations or recriminations about sitting out.  I did need it, and it gave me the energy to do well on the floor.

Speaking of the floor, I had a great Locust.  And the back strengthening series in general was really strong.  I ended up with near cramps all through my upper and mid back.  I didn't cramp up, but was absolutely on the edge. 

 I also have been doing better in the final stretch.  My heels are consistently coming off the floor, and I'm beginning to get the feeling of the pull forward.  It's still not completely there, and its a bit of a struggle keeping my feet aligned.  But lifting my feet off the floor with the knees locked is no longer sheer agony, and that is a clear step forward.

The day 126 meditation opens with an ode to Alcoholics Anonymous.  It's a nice illustration, because alcoholics clearly have some severe difficulties both with attachment and aversion.   The main point Gates wants to make is that the first step anyone takes in AA is to admit that they are powerless over their addiction.  He suggests (mostly through a series of quasi-rhetorical questions) that the same first step might be a great starting point for any attachment or aversion.

This idea ties very well to his earlier observation:  "What we resist, persists."  It's enormously difficult to beat an attachment (or an aversion) by fighting against it.  My weight has yo-yo'd quite a bit over the last 25 years.  I've lost 25 or more pounds (and as many as 50) at least half a dozen times, and always put on at least as much as I lost and more.  For me, diets don't work.  Whenever I diet, I get more obsessed with food.  The diets work in the short term, but the food obsession outlasts the diet.   Fighting to control my weight simply doesn't work.  It's an area where my willpower has only yielded temporary victories. 

It's abundantly clear to me now that I do not have the power to lose weight simply by the force of will.   Ironically, through yoga, I started to learn how to observe signals that had eluded me for years.  For the first time in my memory, I started to notice what it was like to feel full.  Before I could understand when I was totally stuffed, but not when I was simply full.  And just this increased power of observing myself led to losing close to 45 pounds.

I think the same process probably applies to all sorts of other attachments.  I have friends who just happened to quit smoking about a month after they started going to yoga.  They had tried several times over the few years that I've known them -- each attempt lasting six months or so.  This time, quitting was not a big production.  It was more like it was effortless, like the habit shed itself.  And they both have been tobacco free for almost five months.  The change again, I believe, did not come from fighting the addiction, but simply letting go of it.

And that I think is the ultimate point here.  Letting go of something is not an exercise of power.  Instead, its a kind of relinquishment of power.  It's moving from fighting something to simply observing it for what it is.   The true irony is how much power there is in refusing to fight.


bikramyogachick said...

Duffy, thank you for this post. Because I need to let go of some things, and sometimes, it's hard. But reading this helps. As always, you are insightful. Keep it up!

Duffy Pratt said...

It's always hard until, for whatever reason, its effortless.

I do hope that you will continue with your blog, even if you aren't actively doing a challenge. I got the feeling from your recent posts that you were really trying to be strong, trying to hold things together, and you were fighting to do it. Finally, when you "lost it," it sounds like you did at least start to let go of some things, and that was really great even if it means you didn't hit the 101/101 mark.

I've heard that in teacher training, people go through all sorts of breakdowns. When this happens they are encouraged to just spill it out, to let all the negative stuff that they have been storing inside to just flow in its own course. In some ways, I think you probably needed something similar.