Friday, October 8, 2010

Paradox and Contradiction

One of my students noticed a seeming paradox in the way the physical practice works with the mind. If the body is very uncomfortable, you can't seem to work on quieting the mind. On the other hand, if the body is very comfortable in a pose, the mind tends to wander off and start doing its own thing. Both are definitely true in my practice. If there are lots of little irritations in the body and it does not want to quiet down, then the mind doesn't seem to want to quiet down either. On the other hand, if the body is quiet and the mind is busy chattering, then I can be fairly sure that my most challenging poses will bring my attention back to the moment.

Practice is actually full of paradox and contradiction. In that way, it is a true mirror for life.

I've been thinking a bit about why we are able to "do" or "not do" certain poses....I put those in quotes as we all have our own definition of what "do" looks like. :)

I think there's both a physical and mental answer to that question. After 9 years of practice, I still do not lift up and jumpback...why?
The physical answer is that my upper body and core strength develop very sloooooowly. The mental answer is that I just don't want that transition very badly. I'm not all that fussed about it actually.

...but even with slow development of upper body and core strength, handstand drop-overs are really coming along...again why?

I've started to think that in order for poses to happen physically there are 2 things that need to happen in my mental practice. First of all I have to want to do the pose. If I don't actually want to do it, then I won't do the work....but paradoxically, I also have to be ok with the idea that even if I do the work, the pose may never happen. I have to be willing to do the work without expectation of results. There has to be non-attachment, but not apathy. Only then do I really pay attention to each breath and each moment. Only then is this yoga.


  1. Have to want it and not be attached... "intention" and "detachment", yeap! you nailed it!, I agree, its like planting a seed and then letting it grow without moving the soil to check if it is growing... and of course, putting in the work... great post!

  2. Thanks Claudia!

    I like that "planting a seed without moving the soil to check if it is growing"! (I'm a biologist working with plants in my day job.) :)