It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve attended a core session. And in fact, it’s been a month since my last one. I’ve missed them!
For the first hour of class today, we explored two closely-related poses: Extended Triangle, and Revolved Triangle. It’s amusing to me how I can feel so differently about two poses that are so similar. I really like extended triangle; I love the feeling of being really long, then intentionally tipping to one side, and forming this beautiful body expression. I feel like a “real” yogi when I move into this pose. Conversely, I strongly dislike revolved triangle. I like triangle pose, and I like twisting poses, but when the two are put together, I’m just not grooving any more. I think it’s because my balance is still quite poor; I feel *so* unsteady in revolved triangle. (Which, of course, just means I should do the pose more, not less.) So it was good to practice the pose, and to spend some time exploring it.
The second hour of class today was an exploration/discussion of the yama “aparigraha”, which technically translates into “non-greed”. However, the larger concept is about letting go. Letting go of material things, certainly (hence the non-greed translation), but also letting go of constricting beliefs, unhelpful preconceptions, obsessions; letting go of anything we hold on to with too firm a grasp, either literally or figuratively, physically or mentally or emotionally. The notion of letting go is tough for me, and a concept/process I have been working with for several years now. Indeed, meditation is largely about letting go of the active process of thinking, and instead being content to rest in the peace of the present moment. But my mind is all about thinking, about obsessing, about ruminating and problem-solving and engaging; and to let go of those processes is tough. In fact, here’s a funny little illustration: To begin this part of the class, the two facilitators had everyone lay down, and then guided us in a brief meditation. They had us visualize a brilliant blue sky, a lovely outdoor setting (mine was a warm spring day, everything green and flowering and sunny and happy), and then told us to look up at the clouds (mine were dazzling white and fluffy). The facilitators then said that the clouds were our thoughts, and that we had a very light string attached to each cloud. And just our luck, a gentle breeze was coming, and all we had to do was just let go of our flimsy strings, and the clouds (thoughts) would be gently carried away by the wind. (Implying that we would then be in a peaceful state.) A beautiful, lovely image. And here’s where my mind immediately went: I wanted to grab an axe and violently chop all of my strings. Wow, a little overkill, no? But I caught myself, and realized that action was probably a wee bit excessive; that I could instead just open my hand, and achieve the same result with a lot less effort and self-violence. Okay, cool. But then, as I opened my hand, I realized I wanted to grab all of the strings again: what if I “needed” those clouds? They were mine, after all… This meditation activity was so, so interesting. I got to experience the conflict within myself: how part of me REALLY wanted to be free to enjoy my beautiful warm spring day, but how another part of me was so nervous/fearful/anxious, and as a result simply couldn’t bear to let go and relax. It was wild, and quite educational. Wow.
The final two hours of the session were focused on inversions (going upside down). I have no problem getting into inversions (I’m not scared to be upside down, I don’t mind the feeling of being more vulnerable in these poses), but I do have difficulty staying in them. The thorn in my side here is my lack of physical strength; I just can’t hold/sustain these physically challenging poses. I can throw myself into a headstand or an arm balance, sure; but then my body pretty much crumbles, and I tumble immediately back onto the floor. This second part of class was frustrating to me – not because I couldn’t do the poses, but because I couldn’t do them correctly. I can kick up into a headstand; but what good does that do if my muscles aren’t supporting me properly? I can struggle up into crow, but if I’m all crazy-wobbly that’s not very helpful. The “secret” to inversions is lifting up in the core (instead of pushing), and pressing away from the ground (instead of sinking into it). And I know all of this, but I just physically can’t do it well. (Yet.) So I spent the better part of two hours feeling my inside core muscles, and lifting-lifting-lifting various body parts, and struggling into and out of two poses many, many times. And getting frustrated. And somewhat deflated. And annoyed. And at the end of the day, I felt like I hadn’t made much progress.
I suspect this is where the whole concept of “aparigraha” comes in. Letting go of expectations, letting go of beliefs about what I “should” be able to do, letting go of desired results, and just accepting it all exactly as it is. Life on life’s terms. Non-attachment. Lightening up.
I think that’s easier said than done. But I know that I am trying. And so I smile.