Beginning From The Beginning
"You come in with a plan and then as you begin the work you see that the surface you were going to work on is not stable enough, that you have to go a step further in, as you begin to remove the surface of that deeper level you see that the unsteadiness comes from deeper and so you continue to go deeper until you find the stable place from where to build . It's good to have a plan a structure an outlook but you can't impose an ego driven plan onto the reality you walk into. You must use the practice to be flexible enough to adapt to what is there and work with the conditions that are present. A lesson on being in the present moment. Continuously willing to drop the plan and let yourself be taken to what needs attention. When you live this way slowly you establish stability one layer at a time. So if in the future there are set backs you have a stronger foundation to work from."
Since you last heard from me I have been sitting on the idea of beginning again. This past Wednesday I completed the Advanced A series of Ashtanga Yoga, or third series, under the guidance of my teacher Eddie Stern. I remember the first time I went to Mysore, I sat in the entryway waiting for my turn to walk into the room; I watched closely the advanced practitioners in wander and awe at how their bodies moved through space making all sorts of complex forms. Their faces never seemed to change, the form changed but their state of being never faltered. They would move effortlessly from one place to the next, as if with each asana they were starting new, unfazed by the complexity. I was 26 at the time and I was very driven, I remember thinking 'I want to be just like that'. As the years passed life happened: marriage, divorce, moving, ect... but practice stayed, the more I practiced the more that desire subsided and was replaced by a deep curiosity and respect for the practice. The more I practiced the more I got lost in the experience of it, rather then the idea of completing something, or getting somewhere. Injury really thought me a great deal about having plans versus being in the moment, beginning with what you have. In order to complete this very challenging series I had to begin from the beginning. It's important to know how and why we stand in Samastith, understand where and why we inhale in certain places and exhale in others, why Surya Namaskara is so important, how it threads throughout the whole practice, why we use bandhas and how to sustain them throughout the whole practice, how much attention is required to keep the gaze steady, how much presence it requieres to keep the breathing even throughout. Most importantly how hard it is to be present, to not just go through the motions. To be reminded every time you step on the mat, what your intention is with the practice, and that as Guruji said 'Ashtanga Yoga is self study'!
After finishing practice on Wednesday I walked up to Eddie and said "Nothing special happened, it's just another pose", he said "yup". And just like that I came to realize that practice is a daily reminder that we are forever beginners. No matter the complexity of the asana, each time we step on the mat and stand in Samastitih (equal standing) we are reminding ourselves that we don't know, and 'to know' we must be present in the process. No matter how many times we do something, or how many times we have seen a person if we are present in the moment we realize we just don't know, because the body is always changing, and even though the external conditions may be the same internally they are not. This is why the practice has the power to transform you from within. This is a very humbling way of looking at life and relationships. Our ego wants to know, lead and be in control, but this leads to so much suffering. I share this story with you today as an invitation to drop your plan and stand evenly in the present moment, whether it's to practice or to face life. Learn it on the mat and use that as a reminder that Samastitih also exists in life. Begin again each day, or with every opportunity you get!
Here is a short reflection on Beginning and not having a plan. Come learn with me and Alana Kessler in Morocco October 20-26.