Sunday, November 15, 2009

208/317 - One Thing

Thursday Off
Friday 6:30 am

I left the house a minute later than usual but then hit every light between here and the studio and had slow traffic on top of that. I've only been late to class once before. This time, I got into the studio halfway through the first set of pranayama.

That's not that big a deal, and I know what I should do so I rushed into the room and threw my mat and towel on the ground and started in. Rohit immediately pointed out that I was directly in front of someone in the back row. Oops! I usually consider myself to be both considerate and observant, so I was a little mortified by this. I moved away a bit sheepishly. And that shows a bit how out of sorts being late made me.

The other thing was that I had been planning on using the bathroom before class. Then I thought I might be able to make it through in my rush to get inside. No such luck. As soon as I calmed down a bit, my bladder started to complain. I left the room after Eagle, but didn't miss anything. Instead, I just blew up part of the point of warming up.

Once things settled down, it was a very nice class. In Rohit's classes, it seems easier for me to strike a balance between working really hard and finding some calm and peace in the practice itself. In this class, the room was very hot. I worked really hard and pushed myself through without taking any breaks. I did a solid back strengthening series, without bailing on any part of either of the Locusts. I came out of Rabbit early on the second set, but that's because I still can't figure out how to breathe in that pose, at least not when I'm really compressed.

But despite the huge effort I was putting into the poses, I always felt composed and confident. I'm not sure what it is about his classes, but I definitely like the effect. (I like other teachers classes as well, but often for different reasons.) So lets just say that this class just hit the spot. For what I needed on this day, it was just right.

The day 281 meditation begins with a quote that I find quite surprising:

Those who really want to be yogis must give up, once and for all, this nibbling at things. Take up one idea; make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave other ideas alone.

I hear all the time that yoga aims to strike a balance. This quote sounds like it involves a single-mindedness that crosses the line towards obsession. If one picked the wrong idea, then wouldn't the pursuit of it lead to disaster. Weren't the great megalomaniacs doing exactly what this quote recommends? So I have some initial doubts about this quote.

Gates says that for him, the idea he took up was "God." And this makes me wonder too. Very often, I think that peoples idea of "God" is basically an infinite vessel into which they can pour all things that strike them as being good. And yes, I admit that that's my projection and may not be what others do. But it makes me doubt about whether God really is a single idea in the way that is meant by this quote. For Gates, it may be, and so much the better for him.

It also occurs to me that I saw this same idea expressed in a more popular form. It's the scene in City Slickers where Curly explains that the secret to life is just "one thing." Stick to that one thing and everything else "doesn't mean shit." What's the one thing? That's up to each one of us to figure out. The problem I have with this quote is that it makes it seem like it might not matter what idea one chooses to adhere to.

I still have reservations about whether this type of single minded focus on one idea is consistent with what I've come to understand about yoga over the last year and a half. Is it unbalanced, or does the focus on one idea provide a platform from which someone can find balance? I don't know the answer to this.


thedancingj said...

I dunno if it's "balanced" or not, but I sure as hell LIKE it! Same thing as in sutras that I was reading earlier this year. "Dig one well, and dig it deep."

I guess there's BALANCE, and then there's FOCUS, right? Focus means attention to ONE thing. That message is actually pretty consistent.

Yoga actually means "union," not balance. To me, "union" doesn't mean equal amounts of everything. It means you have totally different elements (sun/moon, dark/light, left/right, ha/tha) that coexist. Hmmm. Dunno where I'm going with this one.

Duffy Pratt said...

Yes, I'm the first one to point out that when I first started I was basically a perfect balance of weakness and stiffness. Balance is not everything. Sometimes when people talk about how having a "balanced diet" is key, I want to ask them how much arsenic or mercury they would include in the balance.

If you start with the idea of "union," then I suppose its possible that focusing on any one aspect of yoga could lead to the same end, because ultimately they are all one. This is pretty much what Iyengar insists upon when he says that all of the yamas and niyamas are in each pose.

bikramyogachick said...

I love your last statement, or question. Is this one idea a platform on which we can find balance? That really struck a cord in me. I feel a bit like I am clinging to bikram yoga as that one idea, but I have been able to stand on it and find balance in other areas, by focusing so single mindedly on it.....
your posts always make me think!

Dorothy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorothy said...

You can still balance on a narrow base. That being said the idea of god is so broad that I don't know if it really qualifies as "an" idea (which was your point, I believe). Western thought tells us that we should be "well-rounded". Maybe it's just a shift in thinking away from the ideas we're comfortable with? Or maybe it's something else altogether...