Taking one more breath to focus my attention on the present moment, I am releasing the temptation to attach to thoughts and judgments. This morning it took all my focus in my second Sirsasana (headstand). My mind kept trying to tell me what was going on, when my breath already knew all about it. It is like having something distract your attention by running across the road ahead of you. Your attention is immediately pulled and all systems begin to go into alert, even though your own path is not actually affected by the action of the other, who has already gone from one side to the other. Meanwhile, you fall out of headstand because your mind is too full of muscle work and fear and thinking about balance and strength, instead of just breathing along the spine and lifting from the Muladhara (the root chakra). The same thing can happen in any moment of practice, hijacking by the head right out of the moment into some idea or feeling or criticism.
Don't give in! Just observe that the mind is at work and continue with the breath. Maybe you are approaching the edge of what is comfortable for you and the mind tells you to push through with muscles and will power. Back off and breathe into the place that is threatening you... perhaps it is the hamstring or the memory of the hamstring.. either way it is so much more interesting to find that you can release that to sustain yourself, rather than push that to make something happen.
Trying things that are new, or that seem difficult, often brings up this kind of mental chatter. Back-down-or-push-through thinking comes from the dualistic mind: either/or, strong/weak, can/can't... dualistic. When released into the breath, it is possible to simply experience what actually is in that moment without judging it, without turning it into something. I like to use Ujjayi breath in this kind of moment to draw my attention, to give even the sound of the waves as support for my focus. I can feel the breath gently grating through the back of my throat, like a whisper of love while I notice my muscles burning with the contraction or my spine lengthening in an inversion. When I go from Padangusthasana (forward bend holding toes) to Utthita Hasta Padangustahasana (standing up extending one leg to the side holding the toe) there is a moment on one side when I can feel my mind tipping my balance. It is the strangest thing, yet I also know that I can pull my breath from the floor through my standing leg and exhale out the other leg. This is an energetic connection of the breath throughout my body, my being, that has nothing to do with the balancing act my mind is chattering about. If I allow the distraction, I feel the separation of bending and standing, the dualities of balancing and falling, of folding and stretching. All of these concepts tend to knock me out of the asana. When that happens, and it sometimes does, I watch it happen like a fly on the wall witnessing the whole comedy of errors. And it is this witness consciousness that seems endlessly compassionate, willing to see it as comedy rather than tragedy, ready to accept whatever is happening, including the process of aging that my body is experiencing.
The practice of yoga includes the watching mind, the falling body, the laughing and the disappointment. It includes the feeling of awe and wonder as I rise from a full forward bend attached to my foot and elongate into that right angle leg-hip stretch. Even though I know that it is my muscles and bones that are in the asana, it really is my breath that gets me there. And even more important, my willingness to let being present take priority over whatever else my head might be telling me. It is then that my head gets the best gift from the practice, the open space to see itself, to really be more and more of what it can be, of finding me, expressing the human being I am. There is no point in projecting what will happen or aim for a particular thing, in my opinion. It is always just this intense quality of being that makes yoga infinitely interesting and engaging to me.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Beyond the Distraction of the Mind
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