I don’t have a natural body awareness. Hence, it’s not always easy for me to translate even a visual example of how to do an asana or breathing technique. When Sharath showed nadi shodana alternate nostril breathing exercises after led class, I incorporated them into my routine. My teacher at the time came up to me a few days later and sat in front of me as I was attempting them. Quietly, he said do you mind if I show you what you are doing? I said sure go ahead. He then sat in front of me and without laughing managed to show me my exaggerated head jerks from side to side that looked more like I was trying to do some funky dance move along with my alternate nostril sounds and moves that seemed more like I was trying to shoot snot out of my nose without a tissue versus a calming breathing exercise. I was giggling and appreciated the visual I needed to get the correction from my overzealous attempt to breathe. I can be a tad too enthusiastic at times, but with anything awareness is the first step, at least that’s what I tell myself.
When I was 18, my brothers and I were visiting with my dad at a lovely golf resort on the ocean in northern Florida. We were all going out to play a round of golf, when the Pro at the club stopped us. Weekends and women were a no go on the golf course in this genteel southern community. Who knew that feminism hadn’t reached the southern parts of the good old USA…the Pro very kindly told my dad he’d take me out to the driving range to hit a few buckets of balls and low and behold, my dad and brothers happily abandoned me under the care of possibly the most stereo typical chauvinist I have ever met.
Anyway, I was annoyed at best, but decided, I would hit some balls at the driving range just to prove to this ridiculous man, that he was wrong. He was referring to me as “little lady” which was getting on my nerves, but he was my elder, and I was sighing as he said it but just ignored the slight. So there we were, and he basically just handed me a bucket of balls and said lets see what you’ve got little lady. So I set up my first shot, swung my driver and hit. I was happy with the shot, though it veered just a smidgen to the right. I grabbed another ball and went to swing again when all of a sudden Mr. Helper told me told close my face. Close my face? I had no idea what he meant.
I am sure my face expressed my befuddlement at his guidance, but in seeing my confusion, he just smiled and repeated his directions, close your face. I swung away, and sure enough the ball landed a foot away from the last one. Each time I set up, the Pro just repeated his words, usually with a different moniker for me in front of it, honey, close your face, blondie, close your face, hit and giggle, close your face. At that last one, in frustration, I looked up at him with my face all squished up and said, I’m sorry, it’s not working. In seeing me, he laughed and laughed, with tears even, and apologized telling me he meant the club face (flat part) of my driver needed to be less angled and more vertically aimed at the ball. I thanked him for the advice, left the golf course and went to the beach to have the sun and sea air erase the madness I had let him create inside me. Why couldn’t he just have spoken more clearly?
Now granted, in retrospect, there was just so much wrong with his nature as well as the club rules but as much as I knew of golf, I had never heard the term face for the flat side of a club. Was he just being a bigger jerk or had his expertise led him to a place where he had forgotten that not everyone was as intimately familiar with the different parts of a golf driver? Maybe both. His advice could have actually benefitted my game in straightening my drive, but he did nothing that day but push my buttons, and I am sure my behavior just reinforced his misogyny. I haven’t played in years, I don’t have the desire or time. As can happen with so many exchanges, clarity was woefully lacking. His attempt to improve my game or focus did not work, by assuming I had knowledge of something I did not, but for my part I didn’t use my voice when I expressed my lack of familiarity with his terminology.
I’m in the middle of a weekend workshop with Tim Miller right now, and he is a master of clarity with a dash of humor. The wisdom of 37 years of practice as well as his passion for knowledge have made for some fabulous discussions on bundhas last night with practical application in showing asana with it as well as without it, and today on the five bodies or kleshas. He discussed the process of asana combined with dristhi, breath, and bundhas in helping to burn away our toxins, fears and ego. He frankly stated that this process is not always pleasant, easy or comfortable, I agree. I’m still processing it all, so I don’t want to go into it further yet, but he also told a story about a workshop he had done somewhat recently in North Carolina where a woman in the group flipped out on him for claiming that there may be discomfort on the path to becoming your best self. She was stuck on a point David Williams had made that pain should be avoided. I think she was confused in what each master was discussing, and was lost in translation? Causing harm should be avoided, but let’s face it, as Timji worded it, not everything that’s good for us feels good and not everything that feels good is good for us…ignorance is not simply lack of knowledge but lack of willingness to understand or accept information.
On a last note, my son looked at me tonight and said, he’s so lazy, that if he won an award for the world’s laziest person, he’d ask someone else to pick it up for him…haha, I thought he spoke with great clarity:)