Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Belated Gratitude

This may be the time of year when I lean most heavily on the practice.

I've often found it especially hard to see clearly over the weeks that are referred to by malls and movies alike as "the holidays".

Fellow Ashtangis who maintain an asana practice and a "parenting practice" often refer to parenting as Seventh Series. As I am not a parent, I won't presume to understand the depth of challenges that they uncover. I might though, presume to suggest, that being a daughter, or a cousin, or a niece, or a daughter-in-law, at times too approaches seventh series.

My biggest difficulty with "the holidays" is with my own feeling of murkiness.

Underneath the swells of expectation and disappointment that come and go over these weeks is the steadiness and constancy of practice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Creativity and the Structure of Practice

A new Wired Science article says using a framework or a form to work within increases creativity.

The article has this to say: "The larger lesson is that the brain is a neural tangle of near infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry. And this is why constraints are so important: It’s not until we encounter an unexpected hindrance – a challenge we can’t easily resolve – that the chains of cognition are loosened, giving us newfound access to the weird connections simmering in the unconscious."

...More evidence that it's bumping up against the supposed obstacles that opens up my mind and nudges me toward a clearer picture of reality.
There is wisdom in working within the structure of the practice.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Cycle of Vulnerability and Withdrawl

I've been thinking a lot lately about vulnerability and my tendency to cycle through a mental phase of opening up followed by a phase of pulling in. A post on Expansion and Contraction from new blogger, Abhyasa, gave me some more food for thought.

It's interesting to me to watch where the fear and discomfort come up.

Physically, I associate opening up with back-bending and if that is true, then physically, open is my default. I have never been afraid of "doing" back bends. I was never afraid of dropping back. I have never been afraid of kapotasana. I have "lost and found" both drop-backs and kapotasana several times now over the life of my practice, yet even when they were tight or puzzlingly inaccessible, I wasn't afraid of doing the poses.

Physically, I find back-bending, at the least, energizing and at the most, euphoric...but for a long time that post-back bend exhilaration was almost always followed several hours later by a feeling of panic...a sort of vague feeling of vulnerability, a feeling that I had opened up too much. I'd have a sudden need to both physically and mentally pull in, curl into a ball and close up. The deeper the back bends and the more of them I was doing, the greater the need to close up once the post-back bend euphoria passed.

Mentally, outside of practice I followed the same pattern: the deeper the opening up, the greater the feeling panic afterwards and the greater the desire to pull in and withdraw.

For a long time, I felt a certain amount of guilt when the openness overwhelmed me and I closed down. Why couldn't I maintain openness all the time? Why the post-openness panic?

The wisdom of the Ashtanga sequencing is slowly working it's magic and the physical ups and downs are leveling out. Mental patterns are following the physical ones. Physically, I am sloooooowly building strength to match the bendiness I was born with. I notice as the body evens out, so does the mind. There is more steadiness underneath the openness and I am extremely grateful for every bit of it.