As I was practicing today (three days in a row, maybe I AM back, I hope, I hope), I found myself noticing that often the difference between my “easy” version of a pose and my “hard” version of a pose is largely in my head. That is, I’m not talking about actual variations on a pose. There is some psychological shift where I’m hanging out in a pose, breathing, vs. when I’m working in a pose.
I’ll get to the shame and death in just a minute.
No, there IS a physical difference. But the difference may be only a matter of millimeters. And intention. And sweat. I definitely sweat a lot more when I’m working the practice and when I’m relaxing my way through the practice.
I feel guilty! I’m not working hard enough! I love my easy practice! The difference may be small but it is also HUGE!
I do enjoy a hard, sweaty working practice, too, but I just won’t, apparently, do that every day. (See my incredibly lame practice logs of late.) I just start failing to show up. It’s hard, I feel tired, I just want to rest. If the only option is to do the hard practice, then often, I find myself choosing NOT to practice. It’s so pleasant to have my morning freed up. It’s so seductively lovely to sit and drink my coffee while reading at the breakfast table instead of sweating and trembling on a mat.
Guilt! You know that amazing Advanced video with the amazing Santina doing her amazing practice with that amazing poem at the end? Here it is:
“Encouraging Words” by Zen Master Guishan
Some day you will die.
Lying on your sick bed about to breathe your last, you will be assailed by every kind of pain,
Your mind will be filled with fears and anxieties and you will not know where to go or what to do,
Only then you will realize you have not practiced well.
The skandhas/aggregates (matter, sensations, conceptions, impulses and consciousness)
and the four elements in you will quickly disintegrate, and your consciousness will be pulled wherever your ancient, twisted karma leads it.
Impermanence does not hesitate.
Death will not wait.
You will not be able to extend you life by even a second.
How many thousands times more will you have to pass through the gates of birth and death.
If these words are challenging, even insulting, let them be an encouragement for you to change
Do not accumulate unnecessary possessions.
Don’t give up.
Still your mind, end wrong perceptions, concentrate and do not run after the objects of your senses.
Be determined not to let your days and months pass by wastefully.
Shame! I hang my head with it! Because I do not want to practice heroically!
Is this part of going to a shala? The motivation or the push from the teacher to go further, work harder? I’ve only been in a shala five time (at the David Garrigues workshop, see yesterday’s post) and I worked like a mofo those five days. I was inspired. I was pushed to go further. I did, I practiced heroically! And it was awesome! I felt like Santina looks in her video, even though, you know, I totally did NOT look like her.
There was a gal doing those advanced poses at the workshop. She was astonishing, the power and control she had in her body…I will never, ever, have that. Because I am LAZY.
Because here at home, day in day out, I can’t sustain that effort. I come happily to my mat when I know I’m NOT going to knock myself on my ass. Maybe one day a week I want to practice like that, that quivering, focused, striving for perfection practice. Maybe one day a freaking month. The other days, I do my happy little poses and I feel lovely and then I get on with it.
I wonder if I am I wasting my time? No merit if 100% effort is not achieved! Or maybe, I’ll die before I reach the finish line? (What the hell am I talking about, “finish line” ?)
Well, I mean, I do make progress. I’m at nearly three years into this practice and my body CAN do things easily now that it couldn’t even approach when I started. Possibly my mind is more focused, too.
BUT I bet I’d be a LOT further along if I had been getting the DG treatment for three years. IF I could have stuck it out.
And there’s this: I only have so much time left. I’m 41—how much longer can I even do a difficult practice if I choose too try? David Williams says he stopped doing the hard practices in his early fifties and now, in his sixties, he does an easy Primary only (easy for him anyway, his easy is still light years beyond me). See, that gives me maybe a decade to add whatever asana I might be adding. That’s not much time! I should be working harder! And I could die tomorrow anyway and then I face my death which will not wait, which will assail me with every kind of pain! And I will have wasted my days and months doing an easy practice! The poem says it right there! I’m so fucked.
I guess this is why not everyone is a hero. Many of us are only willing to go so far, work so hard, towards our goals. We’ll practice, but only the easy practice. LAME. Jesus, I’m so conflicted! If the choice is between easy practice and hard practice, maybe one ought to do the hard practice, yes, but it seems like the real choice, the way it plays out for me anyway, is an easy practice or NO practice. I can choose the easy practice. I can show up for an easy practice.
Some practice has to be better than NO practice….
Is this the perfectionist’s dilemma? Do it right or don’t do it at all? There is no benefit from a half-assed effort?
ETA: Here is the video I mentioned. The yoga starts about the 1 minute mark. I’m not so fond of the music, but the yoga is not to be missed. Don’t miss the tick tocks at about the 4 minute mark. I notice that at the end, where the poem used to be, is now black screen. Maybe they had copyright issues and had to take it off? If you watch, you must read the poem I posted above and imagine it on the video at the end there, the combo a marvelous example of heroic practice, if you ask me.
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today's yoga practice
June 16, 2013 | 10:10 am
Primary to supta konasana. Long stay in baddha and uphavista, then ollapse. i feel so winded today!
June 16, 2013 | 10:09 am
June 16, 2013 | 10:08 am
yin yoga again. lazy yoga.
June 13, 2013 | 2:19 pm
Primary to Janu B and then I ran out of time. Better than nothing, I guess.
June 11, 2013 | 11:09 am
Primary to navasana. Chatted with Luc about his favorite show for the second half, so breathing and focus were zilch. But mama/little boy time is worth it.
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