Sorry I haven’t written in the better part of 2 months! 🙁 It’s not from not wanting to. The rest of this article might clarify a little. I hope you don’t resonate too much with it… but you probably will.
I was sick last week for the first time in about 4 years, to the point of getting a sub a couple of days. FINALLY I had a little time when I actually COULD write… but then had no energy and the mind was not really functional enough to put coherent thoughts together, though the seeds of this article were sprouted. What being sick DID allow, however, was some more great practice and experience in knowing that I am not this body.
As I’ve written (and talked about in class before), physical yoga practice is great for many things, as everyone knows, and one of them is to realize—paradoxically—that I am not this body. With that awareness, hopefully we can begin to ACT knowing that, at least little by little, which brings us closer to experiencing the Peace that we are craving. A lot of the other benefits of yoga get more press, I guess because those of us living in material heaven (or is it hell?) like thinking that we are our bodies since we get to enjoy so much with them… until the inevitable experiences of sickness, old age, and death, which inspired Siddhartha to begin the work/quest which later led him to be called the Buddha.
There were times in being sick, which this time included MUCH intense coughing and mostly just feeling yucky and like not doing much. Thankfully though, when I remembered, I could very easily make a “mental” shift, a shift of perspective, to this beautiful, peaceful, blissful, open-hearted place inside where I could enjoy the experience of Life, in this case of body being sick. And yes, it’s easier to do it while sick than when injured or in pain, so I figure I/we might as well practice it when it’s easier. Certainly it is possible to do when injured or in pain as well.
Again, it’s been a long time since I was that sick, but I found it surprisingly easy to make the shift, even easier amazingly than making that internal shift when I am well. Maybe that’s a sign of progress on my Path, or just a moment of Grace? One of the books I am reading, Vasishtha’s Yoga by Swami Venkateshananda, had a part last week that the shift to Awareness/the Self/Consciousness takes no effort at all. The preparation toward it seems to take a lot of effort and energy, and it does, but the actual shift TO Consciousness takes no effort at all, and the text likened it to falling asleep, which we all know can’t be forced. We can only let go into it. I found that observation incredibly helpful: just shift, relax my perspective into that unchanging Witness. Smiling happens. The Heart feels more open and full. I appreciate What Is. And then on a purely worldly level, I also strangely then have the energy to walk the dogs (slowly) and even pick up some trash on the way. I take that experience as a clear indication that the Spiritual is NOT disconnected from the physical/mental, just deeper, permanent, always FULL of Love and Giving-Energy. The physical/mental is pleasure and pain, like and dislike. (Think Yoda painfully walking with a cane, then fighting, then getting his cane back.)
When the body is compromised, then maybe what we have is not always just something to complain about, thereby willingly losing MORE of our limited energy, but really an opportunity. In fact, maybe ANYTHING we might want to complain about is, given a simple shift of perspective, an opportunity. Are we taking it? (I can’t say I always am.)
From time to time I see older people who are in a bad way, either physically or more often mentally/emotionally, and I think “Ti, take that as a warning!” meaning “Ti, do your work NOW so you don’t end up like that!” I’ve had friends who died young which I also take as a reminder to us all to DO IT NOW (whatever it is that our Heart is prompting us to do) because time in this body is limited. That idea can reveal very quickly and clearly whatever lame excuses we are operating under.
The reading of late in my classes, Yoga as Self-Transformation by Joel Kramer from the May/June 1980 Yoga Journal (for the third time in my Carrboro teaching career) is speaking recently about “conditioning” and habits. One line from last week was, “There’s no way to stay the way you are now: you either become more rigid and crystalized or you break out of patterns and transform.” My (very) old way of being sick is to just retreat into myself and feel bad. There was no Light in it. Even though there were elements of that this week, by God’s Grace, the shift was possible and healing energy could then flow, no longer blocked by my own thoughts and beliefs. (And I’m TOTALLY aware that the Divine Mother could easily give me an experience where the shift was not so easy, or even impossible. I’ve been there before and can’t say I won’t again. In those cases, just humble prayer and inward surrender to the Infinite is all that gives solace. That Loving Part of ourselves is, after all, just Pure Kindness.)
That shift of perspective is possible even when the mind/thought processes are compromised, though that takes, in my experience but maybe not yours, an INTENSE amount of energy and effort. It’s like we have to fight What Is until we just can’t anymore, and then we are finally able to open to receiving Grace.
OK, so what’s all that have to do with the title? Actually that was all the necessary setting of the stage. I’ve been noticing this repeated holding pattern in my body for the past couple of months. It’s muscular and energetic. I’ve been into exploring it, after finally acknowledging it and being willing to actually get to know it rather than just trying to fix it. (Some of you will remember the homework assignment I gave in class last week: Commit to memory this sentence from Joel’s article, “The body’s resistance should be respected since it is useful feedback.” Teacher has to do that also and has been practicing it, too!)
The week before last I finally saw in meditation that that holding pattern is how I physically recoil from What Is, how I try to get away from some part of Reality, including thoughts, that I don’t want to be with (and it happens more than I wish it did). Being off for those couple of days and my body forcing me to slow down (finally), I believe, allowed the insight to come through in meditation last night that in that place lives “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Ti!” I think I live much of my waking life in that. Fortunately, I teach yoga and have my spiritual practices, at which times I definitely DON’T do that!
I could actually see/feel, still can when I focus on it, there in that place is “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” that voice, that self-imposed pressure! OMG! When I first saw that, what a hilarious relief! Ahhh! (sigh) OK, some letting go. That’s a habit, a crystallization. But seeing it required NOT ONLY the slowing down, BUT ALSO the ability to be in the Loving Witness Consciousness so that that deep pattern could emerge and be seen and met without shame or whatever that would have it retreat back in there deeper.
I share all this since it’s likely that you, too, will find yourself in a compromised body someday (or now), possibly from sickness. You will probably also get older (oh, you are already getting older, right now!), and you might even be very old someday. Odds are you will probably even die. BUT/AND, if we do our work NOW and hone our Awareness and Love and can practice letting go of fighting What Is and then making that loving inner shift to the Peace Within, we can, I hope and imagine, move through all the inevitable changes with some ease and even joy and an open Heart.