Saturday, September 19, 2009

179/261 - Too Clever

Friday 4:30 with Cisco

For the first time in a while, I made it through class without skipping any sets. When I've had a long streak where my stamina is off (or where I've been hampered by injury), I get a bit excited about any class where I feel like I'm back on track and back to normal.

Apparently, my face wasn't telling the same tale. After class, Cisco asked me if it was a rough class. Apparently I had some other-worldly expression on my face coming out of Locust, and he thought I was having an especially hard time. I'm not aware of it, and my guess is that an "especially hard time" is just the norm for me in Locust. Even so, it sounds like there's some extra gymnastics going on with my face, and it might be a good idea to try to bring that under control a bit.

The day 253 meditation begins with a quote from Herman Hesse: "Be on your guard against too much cleverness." There follows a charming story about Gates' observation of one of his students. She first went to one of his non-heated classes, away from the Studio, and she struggled through it. He pegged her as someone likely to quit. She then came to one of his studio classes, and had a really hard time of it. He was sure she was a goner. She became a regular at his 9 am classes, despite his expectations. A month later she showed up for a 7 am class, and by this time it was clear that she was committed to the practice. After that class, she asked her name, and she said "Faith."

Its a cute story. But what does it have to do with the quote from Hesse, I wonder. Here are a few possibilities. First, perhaps Gates was being too clever when he pegged her as someone who would quit. I've seen beginners all the time, and you do get a sense of who will come back and who is likely not to stay with it. There's nothing particularly clever about it. In Bikram, I've noticed that people who come in with high expectations of themselves tend not to return. Athletes, seasoned yogis from other disciplines, people who think that the hot room shouldn't be a problem. They tend to get blown away, and if that first experience is enough of an ego blow, they are gone for good.

By contrast, there's a remarkably high return rate for people in really bad shape to begin with. The class shows its benefits to these people more immediately, and for the most part they don't have their ego all wrapped up in their current conditioning, so getting blown away by the first class is pretty much what they expected.

The second candidate for cleverness in this story is the woman herself. Maybe her response was just a clever way to answer him, perhaps because she had caught on to his expectation that she would give up. Maybe so, but if it were so, I don't think it would be the end of the story. And even so, what is there to be wary of.

The third possibility is my favorite. Gates gives away the cleverness of the story with one detail. He asked her for her name after she had been a regular for a month. This defies belief. A teacher like Gates, I believe, would get to know each of his students by name after the second or third class at the latest. So, Gates is telling us the story to make a point about faith, and the opening quote is letting us know that the story is simply a story.

And, then there is the last possibility: that the quote is warning me against my own cleverness in overanalyzing the story. It's saying to simply take some things at face value, and not worry too much about analyzing it deeply. In this case, that would mean simply reading the story as a charming story about the nature of Faith, and leaving it at that.

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