ask and you shall receive
A friend and fellow yoga TT (ahem, *cough cough*SAM*cough cough*) slipped in a “you need to update your blog” comment one day at the lunch table. For all those reading this and feeling like I have provided no context for the previous sentence, you would be right. I guess I really do need to update this blog. But having no context, starting in the middle, starting from what is is actually a perfect metaphorical way to come back to this blog.
The last four weeks have been some of the most intense weeks of my entire life. I really don’t want it to ever end. By “it” I mean the Reflections Yoga Teacher Training I’m currently in. But to cling to the idea of never-ending gushy, loving, bonding weekends with seven awesome yoga teachers-in-training would be to miss a key point of what we are learning right now (out of many gazillion things we are learning right now): being in the moment, being with what is.
A blog post I happened across today on the Ten Grave Precepts of Zen practice put it as “dancing in the grey.” I love that: dancing in the grey. So to desire these weekends of inward reflection, spiritual and emotional growth, physical growth, and earnest practice to never end is to cling to something which in fact will change. Because change is the only constant. But what we are learning now is to understand change as a fact of life and not something to judge. If we can observe sensations (emotional, physical) that arise with our experience of the present moment without judging or labeling these sensations (is it good, bad, pleasurable, unpleasurable?), we are literally re-patterning our nervous systems. Well why would I want to do that? you may be wondering. And re-patterning it to do what? Re-patterning it to experience now where our typical human response is to do anything but that.
It may only be 30 seconds longer you can sit with sensation before finding the need to label it “good” or “bad,” but each of those experiences will train you in becoming more and more adept at “dancing in the grey.” The benefit to dancing in the grey is the ability to respond to the present moment instead of reacting from your past experience, past story, ingrained fears, prejudices, or habits. And just so we’re clear, by “sensation” I mean a physical sensation or an emotional sensation. Yes, emotional sensation. That long lost thing that most of us have learned to ignore.
To bring this discursive post back to its title, “ask” yourself to sit longer without judgment and you shall receive. Receive what? Less suffering, for one. We create our own suffering with our mental processes. We are by and large unaware of our mental processes because they happen so quickly, so automatically. Range of response is another gift of slowing down. How do we slow down? Meditation is one way. Yoga is another.
Meditation and yoga both engage you in the present moment, albeit using slightly different methods. In meditation, you train yourself to return to the object of your meditation, whether it is the breath, physical sensation, sound or other device each and every time you notice your mind taking off on its wild dance, which is its natural state. Otherwise known as monkey mind, or to borrow Paula‘s story, the mind is a slippery fish. It flips and it flops. The fish dies. Silence. Anyway, discursive, wild, disorganized, chaotic, and totally rebellious are adjectives you could apply to the nature of mind. This is human nature. We are all wired this way.
Meditation trains you to return to whatever the object of your meditation is using a mental process. Yoga trains you to return via a much denser vehicle: the body.
Yoga slowly brings you into that grossest and most present of realities, the human body, by asking you to layer by layer observe what is happening. In a yoga class, this layer-by-layer way of observation arrives spontaneously as a practitioner applies him or herself to the practice.
Downward dog. What’s that? All of us on the path of yoga asked that once, and most of us still do. What the heck is downward dog? Well, it’s many things, and you arrive at those things layer by layer by layer. At first it might be simply getting your heels to the mat. Or perhaps you are exploring lengthening your spine by lifting your sit bones. Anyway, as your ability to perceive these subtle details grows, so does your ability to suspend judgment. It’s no longer “bad” that your heels don’t touch the mat. It’s just where you’re at, and knowing this enables you to work exactly where you are in this moment. Slowly, this creates change in your asana practice and it creates change in your experience of living. So you may not be in a perfect relationship or earning what you would like. You can begin to see these places where you are as stops along the way, and suffering naturally lessens when you put less pressure on yourself to “be” this or “do” that.
I would like to share more of my recent experiences in yoga teacher training, personal creativity, healing, philosophical ruminating (oh do I love to do that) and cookie eating in this blog. Perhaps I will return to updating it regularly. Did I mention that the TTs as a group (TTs = teachers-in-training or people in the Teacher Training thus, TTs) have turned into a bunch of cookie monsters? Cookies and tea. This is one of our rituals for feeding our hungry bodies and souls.
Thank you if you have read this ramble thus far, and I will return.
ps: It just occurred to me that, once again, this blog follows little “theme” other than whatever is on my mind at the present moment. I guess that is in keeping with something that has in its title “Observer” but at the same time, my professional line of work (web technologies including search engine optimization) would say that’s a big no-no for getting found and ranked on the Intarwebz, but whatever…I will just have to be ok with dancing in the grey of that incongruity!
~ by Lola/Dakini's Bliss Yoga on April 19, 2010.