Sunday, November 1, 2009

201/304 - Intention vx. Control

Friday Off
Saturday 9:30 am with Connease

It was another humidity feast, and during the floor series I just hit a wall. It was probably my fault. I came in with too little sleep and maybe a bit dehydrated. But then I was stoked for the class because Sherie was practicing behind me. She's on a Bikram binge, preparing for the Asana Championships next sunday. And I haven't seen her in a while, so I was just happy that she was there, and I was expecting maybe to feed off her energy some.

That worked fine for most of the standing series, and I thought things were going along pretty well. But maybe I pushed just a bit too hard, because Triangle was a real struggle, and then I had to go down for the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. And then, I was disoriented. I almost interrupted Connease, telling her she had skipped a set of Triangle (probably because I was sitting out, and I'm supposed to sit out Triangle, so what was she doing skipping ahead?). I caught myself on time, but that was a signal of things to come.

Then, during the long Savasana, Connease shut the fans off. I don't know why. Sometimes the fans go off when its too cold. But it wasn't too cold at all. I'm thinking that maybe she was trying to control the humidity by cutting back on the sweat evaporation. The reason doesn't really matter, and neither should the fans have mattered. But they did, in a big way. I was in a perfect mood to blame all my woes on the lack of air circulation. And, I just reacted badly.

I struggled through the back strengthening series, and did a fair job of it. Then the resting poses just got to me. In Half Tortoise I felt like I couldn't breathe. I skipped the second set of Camel. I felt even more disoriented after one set of Rabbit, and then I limped through the home stretch, but made it. All in all, it was a class just to get through.

Afterward, I felt fine, but as the day went on, I got one of those dehydration headaches. So that was definitely one of the problems. In general, I think I've become a bit too complacent about my out of class water, and it's taking a subtle toll. So, for the next week or so, I may start apportioning a water intake at the start of the day, and just drink it whether I think I need it or not.

The day 275 meditation draws a distinction that I don't really understand. It's all the more troubling because I also get the sense that its a very important distinction. Most people go through their lives without paying any attention to their breath. I would have thought that it was fair to say that they simply let their breathing happen. Pranayama is breathing exercise. When we do pranayama, we focus our attention on our breathing. And I would have thought that, if anywere, it is in pranayama that we take control of our breath.

Apparently this is wrong. The goal is not to control the breath, but to ride it. The goal of pranayama is to let the breath happen, but it happens in accord with our intention. And that is the distinction I don't understand. We intend something to happen, and it does, but we don't take control of it. To me this is simply a puzzle at this point.

It might be simply that there are different levels of control that Gates is getting at. But that's not what he says. He's quite clear that we simply start with an intention and then "let go and let the universe respond." On this, I'm not sure I have a clue what he's getting at. It's definitely not something that I've experienced in any pranayama -- certainly not in Bikram. And I don't really have any idea how I would go about doing it, either.

In some ways, it sounds an awful lot like the endpoint of meditation to me. That there is a kind of unity going on, so that there is no longer an "I" that is controlling the breath. But I really am not sure if that is the idea here or if I'm simply missing the point.


Bosco said...

I thought it was a little disappointing that, with all the profound things Jung had to say, we got "One must be able to let things happen." And yet, as the Meditation shows, there is in fact a great meaning here. Like you, Duffy, I am not sure I totally get the meaning of beginning with a clear intention, and then letting go and watching the universe respond. But I think this may be another way of getting at being "in the zone." Ie., "Be the ball, Billy"; or (my favorite), "When the music plays the band."

But I think it is a great awareness to try and develop in pranayama - being consciously involved, but not forcing. In a way, GRANTING BEING to the breathing.

Duffy Pratt said...

I've thought more about it, and I think you are probably right. It's another way of getting at the idea of being fully present. I also like your way of putting it -- being involved, but not forcing.