Thursday, October 15, 2009

192/286 - Back to Normal

Monday off.
Tuesday 6:30 pm with Libby

Back in high school, I sprained my ankles alot between playing basketball and skiing. The first sprains took forever to heal. But over time, I would start to come down badly on the ankle. It would hurt like hell for awhile, and then it would basically be OK. The explanation I came up with for this progression was that there simply wasn't much left to tear in the ankles anymore, so the later injuries didn't really hurt anything. I have no idea whether I was right about that or not -- probably not.

But I'm beginning to think the same thing about this strange knee problem. On Friday and Saturday, the knee hurt as badly as it ever had. I was pretty much convinced I was looking at another month or more of slow rehab. Two yoga classes, and a little rest, and now it feels as good as it did last week when I was prematurely announcing that I was pretty much healed.

So now I don't know what to think, but I'm not complaining.

Tuesday night class was great. I really like the 6:30 class even though I rarely get to go to it. I'm not hungry. Revisiting my lunch isn't an issue, and my flexibility is much higher at that time. It was also my preferred time for bike riding and running. It just feels like a natural time to exercise. I wonder how much of that has to do with late evening basketball practices when I was growing up?

I got called out by Libby in the first backbend. My arms weren't straight. For me, this is one of the easiest things to forget, and I seem to forget it all the time. And it was actually nice to have that drill sergeant voice bringing me back into line.

Later on, I got a compliment in Triangle, but I think it was more because I started correcting my head alignment just as Libby called for the chin to touch the arm. It was one of those satisfying moments when I seemed to be perfectly in tune with the dialogue, and I think Libby was praising that sense of being in tune more than the actual pose.

Then, between sets of Rabbit, Libby started talking about a "student" who questioned how you could pull in Rabbit at all. Of course, I was the student, and it was from something I asked back in Rohit's workshop. I didn't question whether you could pull. My question was: What are you pulling with? The arms are locked, so you can't be pulling with your arms. And it was never quite clear where the pull comes from. In some ways, I'm still not that sure what muscles I'm using. I just know that it's going ok if I feel tension in my hands and wrists, my arms are locked, and I'm trying to move my ears away from my shoulders.

Anyway, after this, I got basically a little guided tutorial in second set of Rabbit, and it helped a bunch. There are so many details in this pose. Often, by the time we get there, I'm so wiped that I can barely pay attention to tucking my head in. But this class, I got the tuck right, got my forehead up on my thighs for the first , time in a while, and then worked pretty well on arching the back, sucking in the stomach, getting separation between ears and shoulders, and then getting my feet closer together. It was a really tough posture, but it felt great, and put a nice cherry on top of a good class.

The day 267 meditation brings us through three scenes in Gate's life. First, there is the first grader in New England, holding away from his classmates as they, returned inside, hiding behind corners, seeking the "magic that called to [him] in the quiet." Contrast with the man overseas, an alcoholic, part of "a group of men dedicated to killing other men." This incarnation looked back on the woods of New England, and his quiet moments there, as a kind of heaven. Finally, Gates talks about his return to New England, and his seeking out the Maine woods to find his lost heaven, to find the quiet he sought as a child, and how grateful he was for those quiet moments.

Finally, Gates suggests that we can know something of what he felt on his return by closing our eyes and taking a few deep, focused breaths. This idea is very powerful, but I have my doubts as to whether its true. Gates is suggesting that, if you are truly present, the experience is the same regardless of where you are. So, sitting in my room in front of this keyboard, I can share something of Gates' quiet in the New England woods simply by focusing my breathing and becoming present in the moment.

Is this right? If you are fully in the moment, then do the individual characteristics of the world become indifferent, so that all present moments are one? Actually, it may be so. This is what yogis are talking about when they say that there is nothing wrong with the world, and that yoga is union, ultimately union with everything. And if this is right, my deep resistance to the idea itself is a pretty good indication of how far I've got to go.

And yet, I still can't help but think that there must be some difference between these things. I don't think its an accident that Gates picks an idyllic place to make this connection. I will wait a long time before someone tells me how they sought out a roaring, urine reeking cubbyhole deep near the tracks of the A-train 180th street subway station in New York. Is it because the place ultimately makes a difference? Maybe not. Maybe its because the woods, which we easily imagine as "lovely, dark and deep", make it easy for us to slip into the feeling of presence. And the subway, not so much.


Bosco said...

Duffy, great post. Good luck with the knee. Yesterday I had some tightness in my lower back (gratefully, in a different place than where it usually comes (or used to come), which was absolutely BURNING during Half Moon last night. By Triangle it had been reduced to a whimper, and by Rabbit it was gone. There was a small trace of it this morning but I can't feel it all right now.

Near the beginning of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" there is a great quote, following a discussion of how people in the country are more connected to their daily reality than city people. Robert Pirsig says: "The immediate present moment (or something like that) is nothing less than the totality of everything that there is." I shared this with my friend Gene Fahey in New Hampshire about 30 years ago and he responded: "Sure, but I would still buy life insurance." I am not sure if this relates to the most recent Meditation, but I think its' a great quote and a great retort.

Duffy Pratt said...

It is a good quote, and a nicely cynical retort. Don DeLillo talks about airports and hotel rooms as being the most alienating spaces -- because they are all the same, and because they tend by design to make time and space irrelevant. (Same goes for casinos in an odd way).

Isn't it amazing how you can completely work through a pain during the course of a Bikram class. That doesn't mean that it won't come back. But often, I've gone into class with a twinge here or there, felt it very strongly at the start of class, and then have it disappear almost without noticing anything.