Do your practice, all is coming

I went to my first of a weeks worth of led classes with Sharath this morning in NYC. So many people, so much energy! I was in the later grouping, starting at 8:30, we were all talking and fussing about noisily until about ten minutes before we we due to start and then complete silence took over the room. Sharath made a joke, stating not to be quiet on his account, but we were all in that anticipation mode.

Eddie Stern, of AYNY, got up and spoke to kill the time while Sharath drank his much needed coffee before starting promptly at 8:30. Eddie told two jokes…the first: How many Buddhist monks does it take to change a lightbulb? Two, one to change the lightbulb and one to not change….we all laughed though he said most people don’t. ūüôā

The second: there was a priest and a rabbi at the Vatican trying to settle once and for all which faith was better, the rabbi only spoke Hebrew and Aramaic while the priest only spoke Latin and Greek, so they could only use sign language…first the priest held up his pointer finger and spun it in a circle, the rabbi answered back with a firm one pointer finger, next the priest held up three fingers, so the rabbi answered with taking his one finger and pressing it down into the outstretched palm of his other hand, finally the priest held up a fish, so the rabbi in turn held up an apple. At that the priest said, fine, you win, I’m done. He went out and explained to all first I showed him God is everywhere and the rabbi answered distinctly he is here, next I explained God has come to us as the father, son, and Holy Spirit, but he answered there is just God, finally I showed him the miracle of Jesus feeding hundreds from the gospel yet he answered with the original sin of which without, we would have never needed miracles, I had no more to top that. The rabbi came out next and spoke, saying first the priest told me to round up all the Jews and get them out of here, so I responded give me a minute, next he said I give you to a count of three, and I answered, no, we are staying right here. All of a sudden he pulls out his lunch, so I did too, then he shrugged his shoulders and left…we all laughed, and if was again reminded of the lovely lesson that everything and anything can be misunderstood.

Sharath led us beautifully of course, then spoke afterwards about the practice. He said many people confuse the yoga sutras meaning, that chitta vritti nirodahah is not stilling the mind to have mind control, but to calm the mind. That we all flit with our thoughts like a monkey but we should strive to be still like a kuala bear, calmly sitting in the tree. He reminded us it’s all practice. Practice first and formost, 99% practice and 1% theory. It’s never just the reading or even the asana, it’s putting all of it into practice, that is what’s spiritual about it, the yamas and niyamas. As an example he said someone can know their religious texts and go to temple, or church or their mosque regularly, but if their daily life encompasses doing bad things, all their theories mean nothing without practicing trying to do right action‚̧ԳŹ

Accidents will Happen

“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!”
‚ÄĒ Dr. Seuss

Part of practice, of life, are those moments where you really are truly completely mortified. Human moments, I’ve had plenty. I think I sometimes envision my mat as this intimate private space where I’m protected, invisible from judgement, free to explore. Yet, most of the time even though I’m in my bubble, there is usually an instructor in the room guiding the process, as well as fellow practitioners working just as hard, around me. On any given day in the shala, there can be laughter, tears, sighs, moans, grunts, panic, fear, sweat, flexibility, stiffness, injury, pain, accomplishment, meditation, envy, awe, enlightenment, flailing, falls, farts, and smells….yeah, and that’s just in the confines of my own mat!

Embarrassment. Yes, I’ve had my moments all throughout every aspect of my life, why would my expectations of these moments occurring in yoga be any different, or less frequent? The physical aspects of attempting asana have taught me so much more than just how to figure out what muscles to use and how to put all the components together to find ease and stability. Non attachment to the outcome and trying your best everyday is a fabulous aspiration, however, it doesn’t stop the epic fails nor days when your best is just plain awful. A sense of humor helps, I just don’t always remember that during these foibles, though in retrospect, it’s been a great salve.

As Sharath is planning his next jaunt to the United States, I was reminiscing his last visit here, in April of 2013. A week of led with Sharath is exciting, crowded and challenging under the best of circumstances. Mat to mat next to strangers, acquaintances, and friends, all in the common mass of wanting to practice under Sharath’s guidance. My fear of such a tight space was always related to getting kicked, or kicking someone, but I learned a new lesson in personal space last time.

Oh, how I love the standing sequence! As it falls in the category of done first, therefore done with greatest frequency, it is the most rote and routine part of practice for me, not that there aren’t areas to go deeper or improve, but it gets me in a great meditative place of stillness in the movement, a safety net that guides me to where my strengths and weaknesses are for that day, showing me in how my body responds to the asana, where to be most mindful. For instance, I have been trying since forever to open my shoulders more, and prasarita padotanasa C is one of those spots I work on it. A week or so before his visit I over zealously tried to get my hands to the ground over my head in it and ended up doing a funky summersault instead. It was unexpected, comical, but no harm to me or anyone else, just my ego! It fell in that category, don’t worry nobody saw that, except everyone here;-)

So now here I was in led, trying to loosen up and relax my shoulders once again, but not yet releasing the mindfulness of falling, and not wanting to fall on anyone in such a crowded space! I happened to be next to an acquaintance that day. A very quiet and reserved gentleman who practiced occasionally at my shala. Though I didn’t know him well, his dedication to his practice and his kind if shy nature were both familiar and comforting…So there I was hands clasped behind my back, legs spread, exhaling my head down to the floor. Sharath’s count began and I tried to relax my shoulders open more to get that elusive touch to floor with my hands and not just my head, I did relax and stretch more forward, if the floor was touched, alas, at this point I don’t recall, because, I was so relaxed, for once, in a crowd, in count. It was time to come up and out, I was moving slowly appreciating my inhale, oddly, my hands came into contact with something soft. I wasn’t really thinking, in that meditative zone and all, but I guess in curiosity I groped slightly, trying to figure out what I was in contact with before rising completely. It was this poor innocent fellow’s testes. I was cupping his balls, seriously! Though I’m sure in the cosmos of the universe, this all took place, I’m hoping at least, in a split second of time. In my shock and horror, I flew back, away from his personal space and private parts, and promptly landed on my rear. I couldn’t look at him, and in the mercy of led pace, picked myself back up on the double to get into prasarita D.

There were no words spoken, neither of us ran away, we continued to practice, I was really at a loss for how to address it, and was grateful for the time and asana to diminish my transgression. As we finished up after our final rest, I gave this lovely man a contrite smile with a nod of my head, lowering my eyes in true regret. In it I was trying to convey, hey, it was an accident, I really really didn’t want to fondle you, I’m very sorry for the intrusion and over reach, literally…He very politely gave me a smile and nod back, I hope accepting my unspoken apology because words would just make it more awkward than it was….so yes, I still fail, I make mistakes, and I feel safe in my bubble on the mat, but now keep a little more awareness and though I’ve had my share of mishaps since then, I plan on stacking during prasarita this September with Sharath.