Dropping the Story25/11/2012 21:47
When I started doing yoga, my body was overly flexible, and what was worse, I had no idea what that meant. I didn't know that most of my lower back pain was due to my genetically inherited hyperextensions. It took a long time for me to build up the strength to, literally, hold things together. Or maybe it wasn't even so much the strength as the awareness and coordination of not letting the bones and joints rattle all over the place, barely held together by my way-too-loose tendons. Yet slowly I learned to align my body in a different way, more pulling in than expanding out, more integrating than exploding.
It is interesting that my mind has a similar quality of excessive looseness. It can easily go from satisfaction and ease to impatience and anger to sadness and compassion back to smiles... and all of that in under 10 minutes. Here too, I have had to teach my mind techniques of pulling back by witnessing with awareness. Over the years I have learned to not react so quickly to the fiery impulses of my temper. I have learned to locate the root of my default reactions. I have learned to explain to myself what they are about, such as, usually when I get angry, it is mostly out of fear to seem inadequate.
This practice of explaining my reactions to myself has been very helpful, just like all the little techniques of inner thighs in and back or grounding the big toe mound. However, even the best techniques become outdated. I caught myself yesterday in the following situation: I was practicing on the mat next to my friend. Because I am such an ambitious Pita-person I was trying to impress with my yoga practice (believe it or not). All of a sudden, I realized I was trying a little too hard and started to bring myself back with the my usual story of: “Yes, that's because I was raised to believe that if you give your best, if you try hard enough, you will eventually be successful and people will appreciate you and your skill.”I suddenly however, also realized, I keep telling myself stories about myself. I constantly try to find reasons and explanations for me being the way I am. In a similar preventative way I had been avoiding deep backbends out of fear to go back into being too loose.
Both, physical and mental, have been good techniques for a long time. But nothing ever stays the same and we outgrow even the best techniques. So, I find myself laughing at myself for still needing to make up a story and a justification every time the fire flares up in me. I am also finding myself drawing a breath of relief as I hear Stephen say:“Use the technique, but then know when to drop it. It is easy to get too attached to the technique, because it has been useful for a while, but then you never just get to experience the present moment.”
It's true. I'm often so obsessed with aligning the pose so I don't collapse into my hyper extension, that there's barely any time to actually feel the pose. Or I'm so worried with finding an explanation for my boiling temper that I can never simply let myself be pissed off for a moment. And frankly, this whole re-aligning body and mind all the time can feel quite compulsive and constricting if overdone.
So whatever your story is, about why you can't do Kapalabhati when everyone's pumps are a different rhythm, or about how you can only meditate in the evening, or about how you can only pass an exam if you have all the detailed information... Maybe you can drop that story. All these explanations of “My body just doesn't do that” or “That's just not for me”. Maybe you can drop the (defensive) technique that has seemed so useful for a long time. Maybe you can just experience and let the present moment be your teacher.
Or like Stephen said today, as apparently Richard Freeman is fond of saying: If you want to let go of something, first give it some space to exist.