The Dude Abides, The Writer Comes & Goes…

To abide is to remain, to witness, to sustain and to look upon with kind regard. To abide is one definition of meditation: to remain with one’s own mind in a state of kind regard. To abide is a gift, a discipline and a way of love & I have the most loving readers in the blogosphere!

I’ve been AWOL for months, focused on other areas of my practice, following lights I didn’t at first realize would lead me away from blogging. And yet, you keep visiting, reading & letting me know you are out there. My own practice has become more vigorous and maybe you’ve been following the CampNYoga developments on Twitter or Facebook. How has your practice evolved in recent months?

So while the Dude Abides, I come & go and I’M BACK! I’ll be posting about weekly and next week I’ll have an update on the first, invitation only CampNYoga, complete with photos 🙂 Twice daily yoga and meditation classes, dharma talk with Kirtan on Saturday evening, massage in camp, gourmet organic camp cooking, wine sponsored by Meagan the Wine Goddess at ABQ Whole Foods. We’re not calling it a retreat, because it’s an advance: we’re retreating from nothing, we’re embracing our lives with Love. Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now. Peace.

Drawing In

I tried this as an experiment recently: Sivasana at the beginning and end of class.  I’ve decided that it’s an advanced practice.

Doesn’t sound tough does it? It’s like nap time at the beginning. But have you watched three year olds who just came in from recess try to lay down? It’s like that pop-up gopher game where you’re meant to pop the puppets back down with a soft mallet. Monkey mind most active.

What a tremendous testament to our practice. Sivasana is nearly torturous for many at the beginning, and almost always luscious at the end. What’s changed? The embodied mind.

If you want to try this practice of playing dead both before and after, I suggest that you give yourself some structure for the beginning. Begin by noting sensation in your extremities. Really pay attention and feel it. Then pay attention to your sensation in your core (if you can find any at this stage, you’re particularly in touch that day). Then with each breath draw the sensations from your arms and legs and neck into your core. Now, I’m not suggesting you draw in pleasure or pain, just the unnamable raw sensation, unjudged. Some might call it energy. But it’s very concrete when you locate it within your body: the sense you have of your own body. Use your breath to draw it in.

Finally, draw all your attention to sensation down to your low abdomen and feel it expand and contract with each breath. By relaxing and contracting the low belly when breathing you are mechanically & chemically signalling your “slow down” nervous system to wake up. That’s right, wake up to slow down. There are all kinds of opposites that come together on the mat.

Roam the Hub of All Sacred Places….

“The light which shines above this heaven, above all the worlds, above everything, in the highest worlds not excelled by any other worlds, that’s the same light  which is in you.” ~Chhandogya Upanishad

What if all the thinking, all the words, ideas aren’t our minds? What if they’re the covering over our minds? Don’t get me wrong – they’re great tools. But what’s overseeing the job site? They’re not the tools you’ll need if you’re looking for your true self or for a steady place to stand.

Science tells us our minds are decentralized in the body. Yoga helps us settle into our heart, where wisdom and intelligence reside. Of course when we talk about heart in yoga, we’re not just talking about the juicy pumping muscle to the left of center in our ribcages. There are a lot of bits housed around there – chemoreceptors, baraoreceptors, lungs, thymus, arteries, lymph nodes, spine, circulating blood and air, esophagus, diaphragm. When we bring our attention to this area, when we just feel what comes up, we are contacting the heart of yoga. Our yoga.

Bringing ease to the muscles and joints around this area can be the beginning or development of this process. This is where many of us Western Yogis start, with asana. Maybe a little breathing practice. Then we might start calling that pranayama. Maybe we meditate for stress reduction. Somewhere along the way we realize these pesky emotions are less pesky, the aches are less achey, the mind is less muddled.

“The heart is the resting place of the pranas, the senses and the mind. It’s your true self, which is identified with intelligence and which finds repose in the space within your heart.” ~Nikhilananada’s Intro to The Principal Upanishads

So then we explore pratyahara – sense withdrawal. But then, where do the senses go? Niky above, says to the space within your heart, your true self. Makes some sense – it’s quieter there than the head or stomach. The feelings come up, but maybe we’re in a place where we can uncouple them enough from the words and judgments to just let them be a bit.

Now we’re practicing saucha in our hearts. Saucha – cleanliness, purity. We don’t often think of it in regard to our hearts, but after we’ve gotten glimpses of the Love that lives there, it makes sense not to store our crap on the porch. If we keep the windows clean maybe it will shine more brightly. The Sanskrit word for this place – Anahata – can be translated “unstruck”. “The space within your heart  is omnipresent and unchanging.” (~Chhandogya Upanishad ) Always with us, always available for us to touch and feel is a place that is unstruck by the blows of life, unmoved by the compliments and criticisms, the lost jobs and the awards. It is always what it is. We are always who we are. Sometimes we just cover it up with judgments, which are really old experiences in new clothes. Film on our windows.

Maybe this is the impetus to poke our noses into the pesky ethical side of yoga.  But if you’ve been cleaning your windows all by yourself, and someone gives you a step ladder and an extension for your sponge, you’ll be pretty glad to pay attention. And they’re pretty simple, deceptively so. Love, Truth, Conserve your energy, Be quiet, Be fierce, Stay Open, Be present, Learn you’re not in control, Study your experience, Respect Others’ Boundaries. But Wow! try to practice ’em all at once! That’ll give any college Ethics Professor a run for her money.

So you keep coming back to the place of quiet stillness to which your mat has become the doorway. “The heart is the hub of all sacred places; go there and roam.” ~Bhagavan Nityananda 

Fall back into your Self

Yesterday my practice was crunched between writing and dog walks and getting off to work, quick sun salutations to warm and move me. The familiarity helps me connect to contentment and stay open for the surprises of my body and my day.

I’d just finished writing on Gather about the pain body Eckhart Tolle talks about, so this way of relating to pain and perceived burdens was much on my mind. As I entered the rhythm of practice and my mind began to clear of such entanglement, I rose from the forward bend at the end of a cycle, arms circling wide, dropping my tailbone to raise my heart. The heaviness of these thoughts lifted and I sensed them as a cloud gathering from my root, up my core and coalescing in front of my third eye. As my hands rose and I lengthened my side bodies in Urdva Hastasana I felt lightness and clarity. And as I brought my hands together in front of my third eye to trace down my midline to touch my heart, it was as if my hands had come together to form a knife’s edge which dissipated the cloud.

Try it for yourself, intentionally imagining what weighs on you as a cloud in front. Standing, circle your arms up and out, coming together and slicing through the pea-thick murkiness. See how you feel.

In some cultures the Self is believed to live in the back of the body, around the spine. I was told this when I first had the bodily sensation of falling back into myself years ago. As if I’d been living out in front, disconnected, and becoming present felt like finally coinciding with myself. Fall back into yourself today. Take a quiet moment, ask what will bring you back. Even if you’re not sure what the “right” answer is, try your first idea and see how it feels, if it gives you another idea, or if you just want to stay with the feeling you’ve now found. Fall back into your Self today, again, and again.

Sustained Practice

By sustained practice of all the component parts of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and wisdom’s radiant light shines forth with discriminative knowledge.

Sutras of Patanjali II.28(tr. Stiles)

bendy-pigeon-2.jpgWait…. let me get the last of this sand out of my ears… oh, never mind, I kind of like the reminder. Just returned from a vacation on one of the Georgia islands, the highlight of which was yoga on the beach, so close to the surf that I caught a wave at one point! “Gorgeous” doesn’t begin to touch the experience. “Oneness” might… if it weren’t a word.

What does this have to do with “sustained practice of all the component parts of yoga”?  Everything and Nothing.

I’ve been engaged in an experiment in balance the last few months, and the plate I’ve been dropping is blogging.  I could give you all kinds of reasons. Suffice it to say that I’ve fallen in love with regular sleep since switching to a day shift – luscious, deep, dark descending sleeps of eight and ten hours – and this has required choices.

One of the choices has required me to investigate the role of words in my life: do I use them to reveal or conceal? And how? What I’ve learned is that I conceal by what I don’t talk about. Sometimes I conceal from myself by my story about “needing” to blog.

So I’ve chosen regular practice instead of blogging mostly and have revealed a deep need to shift the priorities of  my life. I’m scaling back on my career, or maybe I’m switching. I’ll let the radiant light reveal which in time. I’ve been working on patience. I’ve been listening to my internal monologue, creating  space for it. I’ve been practicing mantra japa. Reflecting on the yamas and niyamas. I’m finding Ahimsa – nonviolence – really difficult in ways that have shocked me. I’m thinking of tapas – fierceness – having a role in forgiveness. I’m processing a lot Eckhart Tolle’s book.

Oh, yeah, and I’m keeping up certs in stuff like Pediatric Advanced Life Support and stuff. Oh, and vacay.

Going to go practice some saucha and clean up more of this sand we’ve managed to treck back across six states and two airplanes 🙂 What have you been up to? What has your practice revealed?

Stay tuned for practice tips, links to podcasts, reviews of awesome (and, yes, satya urges me to say so, too) and not so awesome yoga books. And of course, reports from the mat on the state of the mat. But that’s the part that doesn’t change as the impurities dwindle away….

You are This Beautiful Place

As I was resting and recouping one day, allowing the mind to empty and relax (it wants to, you know :), I realized…

I am just in this really beautiful place.

I am in this beautiful place.

I am this beautiful place.

I.

Beautiful Place.

You are, too.

Awareness & Thinking: A User's Guide to Recursive Consciousness

Something Tolle said from the very beginning rubbed the trained Philosopher in me the wrong way: Stop Thinking. That’s like blasphemy for someone who deals in definition, analysis and understanding. Or so I initially reacted.

Tolle makes a deeply subtle distinction between thinking and awareness that helps to illuminate the nature of reflective, or recursive, consciousness. Simple on its surface, the fact that human consciousness is multileveled and that the levels are free to act independently or interact together has been the bedrock of philosophical observation since the Ancients. Plato and Aristotle used the metaphor of the tripartite soul. The Medievals related to God as the ordering principle. Descartes made a crucial, revealing and powerful error in taking as his bedrock “Cogito ergo sum” often translated “I think, therefore I am.”

Tolle directs us behind thinking, defined as unbridled naming or language using. Who is it who thinks, and thus knows “is”? (Yes, Billie, it does depend on what the definition of “is” is.) Tolle’s work is no polemic against analysis or language, but a careful understanding of its relevance, which has for so long been taken to be universal. Language depends on distinctions, on duality. The very structure of sentence making depends on the subject object distinction and is remarkably useful. We are often seduced by this usefulness, however, into mistaking description for experience. Tolle’s call is one to experience, to silence punctuating our endless naming which breaks the present apart into past, present, future, memory and expectation, subject and object.

Take breathing breaks to interupt the stream of unconsciousness and bring awareness to thinking mind. Do you know where your mind is and what it’s up to? Check in, surprise yourself.