Tuesday, June 16, 2009

114/166 - Being Most Effective

Monday Off.

The day 165 meditation discusses when we are the most effective. Gates collapses three ideas here: 1) not being attached to results; 2) being in the moment; and 3) doing something simply for the love of doing it.

I remember the end of my senior year in high school. We had already taken the AP exams in Calculus but not gotten the results back. From the standpoint of what we were supposed to achieve, the class was over. At this point, the teacher started showing us things about calculus that he thought were bizarre, or fun, or interesting. (Things like the mathematical definition for an object with finite volume but infinite surface area -- so you can fill it, but you can't paint it.) For most of the year, I had approached calculus like it was pure drudgery, and done well at it, but with almost no interest. After the AP test was over, for some reason I did not understand at the time, I got very interested in the subject. One day, my teacher even commented on how odd he thought it was that I was almost impossible to engage for almost the entire year, and now that it didn't count, I was one of the best students he had ever had. And that was the point: it didn't count anymore, so I was free to enjoy it on its own terms. For me, that was an early, and very clear example, of how liberating and energizing it can be to have no attachment to results. (On a similar note, I was one of the best pick-up basketball players in the area, and good enough to play on our school team, but I never did anything at all of any note in organized basketball, and my coaches always thought I was an underachiever.)

Being in the moment, for me, is something quite different. It's a much rarer type of thing, at least in my experience. Before yoga, the only ways that I had known to be in the moment came either through music or sports. I suppose there were times in school when I might lose myself in a problem that was particularly difficult (usually something in math, logic, or maybe philosophy). But that sort of thing was very rare. For me, this feeling comes when time seems to vanish, when there's no difference between what you are doing and the awareness of what you are doing.

Doing something just for the love or joy of doing it is something a bit different. I suppose if you are actually doing something for the love of it, then you won't be attached to results. And I also suppose that doing something for the love of it will more likely lead to being in the moment. But it doesn't need to. And there are different levels of this. For example, I don't think anyone truly loves to practice scales. But almost every great musician will have spent hours and hours doing this. And if you actually become a great musician, I think at some point in your life you must have learned how to practice the scales out of love (maybe not of the scales, but of music itself).

(Do you think it bothers anyone that my comments on Gate's meditations are often longer than the meditations themselves, and probably don't end up saying as much? Just a thought.)

To get to the effective state, Gate's suggests that we begin, when we encounter difficulties or struggles on the mat, by asking "What am I?" or "What am I not?" Asking this question may help with letting go of the things that are causing the struggle, which very often are false images of ourselves that we hold onto. This seems like a very practical suggestion, which will either work or not. So I may give it a try in the next couple of classes and see what happens.

1 comment:

Bosco said...

Being in the moment first becomes critical for me in Eagle pose. If I am thinking, I find it difficult to balance, especially as I try to bend my knee more and more. I have to focus intently on nothing. The death knell in this and the other balancing poses (especially Standing Bow) is looking at myself in the mirror. That always seems to put me off balance. (It has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.) If I can get my mind quiet I am fine, and as soon as I start to think I blow it. Usually the thought that does me in is "Gee, I wonder if I can actually hold this until the change?" If I have this thought I will never make it; if I can just keep focussed on nothing I am fine.

I think it really works this way in bowling. I have had some "in the zone" experiences, where I could have cared less how I would do and end up scoring very well. As soon as I say to myself, "I am a pretty good bowler" I start to deteriorate. Ie., as soon as it's about results and not just being in the moment and doing it for fun, it falls apart. I think this is true in all sports, and really all activities, but for some reason some of my strongest experiences of it have been with bowling.

I think all three ideas in this Meditation are all well illustrated by a good Grateful Dead jam, ie., "When the Music Plays the Band" the Dead are flowing together out of the sheer joy of playing, they are immersed in the moment and not thinking about themselves, and (and this is their signature feature) they aren't straining for results - it's more, come what may.