Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ego & Body: Less Ego, More Breath

Yoga class. Look around. Put your body on the mat, and see if you can get your mind to stay with you there. Every breath, awareness streaks through your body, is it really always saying "me, me, me?" Can we separate out ego in the practice so that the mind can simply be alert and not defining self constantly?

I am experiencing the oddest combinations of this as I attend classes in various Yoga Studios, Capital "Y," Capital "S." I feel very different in my little neighborhood storefront shelter-from-the-storm studio, and definitely in the classes I teach at the medical center and the shelter. This level of visibility is new for me, this witness to the ego during practice. It is a level beyond ego that observes the "me" watching the "me" on the mat. Perhaps it is because I am putting my self in a new and demanding context in which the judgment/assessment of others is more likely to be felt. My breath saves me every time, as each breath flows into my body, taking shape in the asana, somehow the "me" goes out with the exhale. I can literally become a body in space for which some "I" feels such compassion. Sometimes I can shake with love for the form taken, accepting this, and this, and this. It is "me" and "not me." Some part of me is laughing at the part of me that observes me, too. Watching "me" watch "me." Now that is funny!

Where am I when all this is going on? I am drawing my bones more squarely to my foundation, or pressing gently into the earth to find my core rising up, or simply softening whatever body parts I can notice that are clenching and opening the energy to flow more freely.

When I look around, I see ego in the bodies around me, sometimes ego seeps out and the bodies rest quietly in their shapes. Sometimes ego causes suffering, or even celebration. It raises questions for me about why people practice yoga especially in classes. I do think sometimes classes can build reactiveness, strengthen judgment, bolster existing tendencies, and increase attachment to form or goal. For some it will take a particular teacher to shake this up, or it might take a certain amount of practice before something begins to loosen the grip of ego. And it sometimes happens like a stroke of lightening, striking and obliterating what was always there; as though a solid object has simply burnt up and vanished leaving space, open space in its place.

There is no way that I can sit on the yoga mat and not be me. The wild thing is that I can truly be me on the mat and not be attached to any significance or meaning related to that. Lately I'm just flooded with gratitude for the opportunity to be doing and teaching yoga, to be breathing and sharing these moments. It is not a matter of ego if I can do this or that asana. It is not a matter of ego if I can let go or am still grasping. It is not a matter for judgment and self definition whether I do yoga or haul wood. The less I cling to ego on the mat, the more I find peace and joy in the practice.

May I just say that bodies are amazing. We humans have a remarkable vehicle in which to experience life on earth. Phew.

1 comment:

  1. I read this post and by the end my heart was singing with you...extraordinary, beautiful, thank you.