Tuesday, September 1, 2009

166/242 - Attention to relationships

Sunday off.

I planned on going to class. First in the morning, but I couldn't wake up, and when I did, I still had the headache I had when I went to sleep. Then in the afternoon, and I was on my way to class, but the headache, which had gone away for a few hours, returned with a vengeance. It was bad enough that I didn't think I would even make it through pranayama. So I took Sunday off as well.

That's two days in a row again, and I was feeling very guilty about it. But then, my knee thanked me. It made tremendous progress with the extra day off, and now its almost back to normal. So maybe the screaming headache was trying to tell me something.

I think the day 236 meditation is really funny. Gates says that yoga seems to present us with a "bewildering array of practices and priorities." But, he assures us, the truth is much simpler. We just need to focus our attention on relationships and bring the yamas and niyamas to our relationships. Which relationships? As examples, he mentions our relationship to our breath, to the bottoms of our feet, to the ant crawling across the kitchen floor, to our families, to God. And it's with the examples that I laugh. Yes, its simple, but it doesn't seem to me to be any less bewildering. In short, we need to focus our attention to every relationship we have to every single thing no matter how big or small, no matter how concrete or abstract. That's a whole lot of attention to focus...

I'm not saying I disagree with him on this. And in concept, I suppose it is fairly simple. But it also strikes me as enormously daunting. I'm not sure that a focused mind could really concentrate on each and every relationship individually. Maybe that's where surrendering and becoming one with things comes into play. You try so hard to focus on all of those relationships that eventually you have to just give up, and let go, and perhaps that's where it all comes together. Or maybe its possible to develop a much more focused mind than I have.

The point that I think is very interesting is his insistence that learning this focus is connected to our time on the mat. And here, I basically see the point. We focus intensely on ourselves, and ultimately we should be coming more aware not just of an individual part of the pose, but of the pose as a whole. And I can see how that development of increasing awareness might expand even further outward. So, I can see the direction that he's pointing in, but the destination strikes me as being way over the horizon, at least for me.


hannahjustbreathe said...

This post made me smile.

The only two relationships I can muster a thought about in yoga is the relationship between one pose to the next (camel to rabbit, for example) and the relationship of my body and mind. Anything beyond that is just too much to handle with all that breathing, stretching, compressing, etc., going on!

Bosco said...

I guess one way to look at existence is that we are the sum of our relationships, to everything that exists in our lives. Being comfortable, at peace, in all those relationships, seems to me to be a good objective to focus on - as opposed to being in opposition to the things.

Hannah, I am sure you are relating to all the different parts of your body as you breathe, stretch and compress, right? Relating to your lungs, hamstrings, neck, etc.? I have a love-hate relationship with many parts of my physical self, depending on how they are serving me at any particular time - and part of the yoga practice for me is about turning these more consistenly into love-love relationships. And that has obvious big implications for how I am able to relate to other things, like people.

Duffy Pratt said...

I've got no problem with the goal of being comfortable or at peace with all relationships. What blows my mind is the idea that I might be able to focus on all of them at once. If asked, I would have thought that you get something right, then put it aside for a while in its right state, while you focus on something else. And, of course, in asana practice that's a recipe for backsliding or disaster. The awareness really does have to start being everywhere, or my hands will start to drift apart in Half Moon while I'm thinking about pushing out my hips.

waylon said...

hi duff - some thoughts on this.

i don't think he means to focus on these relationships all at once. maybe he means you bring this focus to these myriad relationships when you are interacting with them in the present moment.

ie. if you are talking with your wife at that moment you bring your full attention and focus and all the yamas and niyamas into that relationship. it is your entire focus and the really purpose of your life, that interaction, that moment.

then later if you are staring at an ant walking across the kitchen you bring your full attention and all the yamas and niyamas into that moment with the ant. it is your entire focus of your attention and the purpose of your life, watching the ant. nothing else matters besides the focus on that ant.

then later when you are in dandayamana bibhaktapada paschimottanasana you bring your full attention and focus and all the yamas and niyamas into that moment during that pose. it is your entire focus and the purpose of your life, nothing else exists outside of that moment and the attention you bring to it.

i have been trying this lately. when i walk to my car it is my entire focus and purpose. as i type this is it is my entire focus and purpose. whatever i am doing at that moment it is my entire focus and purpose. it is working pretty well. you have to give up a sense of control to do it which is kind of scary for a little bit.

just some thoughts. i definitely agree that learning focus is connected to our time in the room (on the mat.)

al always thanks for the blog - sorry for the looong post! :)

Duffy Pratt said...

There's never any need to apologize for the length of a comment. I always appreciate hearing from people.

I looked back at the meditation, and you may well be right. Gates may be talking about relationships serially, and not necessarily in parallel. And that's certainly a more comprehensible short term goal, even if eventually the idea is to start bringing full attention to more than one thing at a time.