Tuesday, May 12, 2009

92/131 -- Acting on Beliefs

Monday 8:15 pm with Amy

When I come back to an evening class after a string of morning classes, I'm always a bit surprised.  I read in many places that yoga strives for a balance between strength and flexibility.  That idea leads to the (perhaps false) conclusion that strength and flexibility are somehow opposed to each other.  My joking rejoinder to that observation was that before I started yoga I possessed a perfect balance of rigidity and weakness.  For me, the evening classes drive home the point.  Because I always seem to be both stronger and more flexible when I come back to an evening class.  It's always great when it happens, but I also think it can lead to a false sense of progress.

Last nights class, again, was a sheer delight.  The heat was perfect, the energy in the room was high, and I felt alert and focused all the way through.  Standing Bow was as good as it has ever been.  My balance was good, and I was feeling a really good stretch in my hip, butt, and my pulling shoulder.  In the second set, I held it all the way through, concentrating just on my breath, and actually came out of it as I went into it, instead of falling and flailing.  As I was coming out of it, Amy looked at me and said "That's what I'm talking about."

Then, right after, I had a zero balance, total struggle balancing stick.  I still haven't figured out why these poses seem to go in opposite directions from each other.  But it still seems that how I do in Balancing Stick is inversely related to how my balance is in the rest of the series.

The other notable pose tonight was Fixed Firm.  I got a really good set-up for my feet and ankles, sat slowly into it, and then when all the way back and started to arch up.  I haven't been going all the way back much recently, and probably could do it because it was the evening.  Anyway, the feeling of stretch through my quads and the fronts of my knees was quite startling.  I can't remember ever having gotten that deep a stretch through my quads, and I was a little bit worried that I might be overdoing something.  As of now, however, I notice no ill effects.  That's a testament, I suppose, to paying extra care to the set-up -- a lesson I seem to have to learn again and again and again.

In the day 130 meditation, Gates talks about how dharma (the aim of spiritual balance) concerns putting beliefs into action.  The only quibble I have with this is that I tend to think that, if its not put into action its not a belief in the first place.  It' easy for people to say lots of things.  If you want to find out what they believe, then take a look at what they do.  (And I don't think that Gate's says otherwise.  I just think wanted to add my own clarification.  The word "belief" can often be a pretty slippery thing.)

Having said that, I think that Gates idea has some value in the course of learning.  To take a recent example:  I've said many times here that the world of a happy person differs from an unhappy person.   That's why I so much liked Gate's line that the world is a reflection of our hearts.  Or the simpler:  "Have a good day - or not.  It's your choice."

I would have said I believed this a week, or even a month ago.  But simply agreeing with the idea doesn't always have much effect.   I've seen a major turnaround in my practice since reading Gate's reminder about this idea.  To me, that means that although I thought I believed this idea, the belief hadn't yet ingrained itself.  It's that process -- the process of working a belief like this into your core -- that takes continual work, and benefits from constant reminders.  

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