Arises, Abides, Dissolves

So this weekend workshop with Cyndi was based on the classic teaching of Upekka, or equanimity, a 7-fold practice that literally "shifts the ground of one's existence, away from the habitual drama and towards what Buddhist texts call, "the radiant calm of the mind"".

Cyndi is a great believer (as am I, which I guess is why she resonates so much with me) that asana (postures) provide the perfect vehicle for this practice because as she says, "you can't get radiant or calm or present or strong without your body".

Hoorah for me, a whole weekend therefore on and off my mat, going slow, getting a little faster, up and down, pressing here, reaching there, noticing the relationship between this part of my body and another,  paying attention, waking up, listening, learning, moving, lying, sitting, laughing, and being reminded by Cyndi that you should "not buy into everything you think because it is all impermanent.".  Bliss.

There is so much sense in this practice, a Vinyasa practice at that, moving with the breath, in and out...everything arises, abides and dissolves again...including us one day (now being reminded of that helps to keep one's feet on the ground), and Cyndi likes to mix things up, to keep us present, and to pray attention to precise alignment. 

You know BKS Iyengar told Cyndi (and 899 other students in a worksjop she attended - see never moan again about the number of people in Monday evening's class!) that he spent his whole yoga life, say 70 years or so studying the relationship between his big toe and his sternum.  That was his life's work.  Paying that must attention.  That's incredible really.  How any of us have an awareness of how our big toe is affecting our practice?  Well we should, because I know from my own personal experience that it makesa huge difference.  Seriously!

Anyhow so there we were.  A whole weekend of practice intended to help us to pay attention, to feel more centred, grounded and stable and better placed, therefore, to cultivate equanimity so that we can "stand in the middle of all this" and see what is going on without getting hooked in.  So we learn a little more about our hooks, the things that draw us off centre, away from our grounding, the things that prevent us from experiencing equanimity.

The hooks show up on our yoga mat all the time.  The things we like - "I am so attached to this [pose]", and the things we don't like, "I am averse to that [pose]" and the areas where we are ignorant, where we have little awareness (like the fact I have been completely ignorant to the fact I have been hyper extending my fingers all these years in downward facing dog until Cyndi pointed it out and initially I went into denial and concluded I knew best (ego) and then I worked with it and I realised (woke up to/accepted) that she is right) and where we are stuck.

This is the reason I love yoga.  It wakes us up.  And all we have to do is get on our mat and pay attention.  Simple as that.

So anyhow there I was on Monday, after a weekend of embracing the concept of equanimity, doing fairly well I thought, to find that I had reversed the car alongside a granite boulder at Sausmarez Park and scratch our new car. Within half an hour I also unintentionally scratched my son's face when I tried to catch him (not very well it would seem) when he threw himself at me off one of the play apparatus (this is his new thing, jumping without notice off anything at me).

And then 2 hours later I managed to ping my hamstring. Now it has been a long old time since I injured myself in my yoga practice, and in this instance I was demonstrating (too much it would seem) in class that evening.

The funny thing is (or not as the case may be) that my intuition had been whispering about the granite boulders and the car and about giving my hamstrings a break...but that aside, I kind of think it was all meant to happen because it gave me the opportunity to put into practice the practice. And there was certainly a shift.

I didn't react.

No drama about the scratched car.  In the past I would have spent hours and hours replaying the whole moment in my head and considering how I would have/should have done things differently and beating myself up and being down on myself.  Nope.  Nothing. Oh well. Slightly annoying.  But it happened.

No drama about unintentionally scratching my son's face. Not ideal I know. He didn't even notice. And I accepted it for what it was.  An accident.  No need to beat myself up and berate myself for being a terrible mother. I caught him after all.

No drama about the hamstring. Not ideal. But it means I will need to work with it and figure out a way to heal it, and also gain a whole heap of awareness (I suspect) of how much one uses one's hamstrings in a yoga practice.

So you see the practice works.  But I know that already.  I have faith in the process. This is a practice about being grounded, stable, sane and ordinary.  All we have to do it practice and learn a little of how our mind works and get that little bit more familiar with it. Finding that gap. That gap between thinking or getting stuck or losing our way...and not filling that gap with distraction and stuff, but just staying there in that awareness.

It makes me laugh how the Universe provides us with opportunities to put into practice our practice.  Not only the situations above but the people in your path and what they bring with them so that you can clearly see the drama, and the mania when people have lost their centre, when they are drawn from one hook to another with no gaps and no stillness and lots of craving (for things to be different) and lots of resistance to how things really are (right now).  I am quite sure the lessons will continue for me and for you to learn and the opportunities will present themselves for growth. The mirrors are constantly reflecting back at us.

We meditated with our eyes open, which is a new one for me, but the practice that Cyndi was teaching.  With meditation people think we are trying to rid our minds of thought but this is not the case - at least not in any of the meditation studies I have undertaken. In this instance we are just watching the breath coming in and out, feeling it on the top of the nostrils, in and out.  And we think. A lot. But we try and catch ourselves when we have started to think and we come back to the breath.  Over and over again.

It is actually very simple.  But incredibly challenging.  Breath in and out. Lost in thought. Breath in and out.  Hooked by a thought. Breath in and out.  There we go again, planning the future or reflecting on the past. Breath in and out.  And on and on.  It can be awfully boring. And physically painful. On and on. Thoughts.  Breath.  Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, ah ha yes, back to breath.  We just keep coming back to the breath time and time again.

Cyndi made me laugh (a lot over the weekend as it happens but in this instance) because we had a question and answer session and the questions about meditation came in and people were complaining about the eyes open approach and Cyndi said something along the lines of, "every question about meditation is basically saying, "I don't really want to meditate but I was the results"". So true!!! Who really wants to sit still and watch their breath for hours on end?! Well I mean you do, once you start to experience the positive benefits but this still doesn't make the process any easier!

So its all about the middle path anyway.  Not too loose and not too tight. On our mats and in life - let us not forget that what happens on our mat is generally a reflection of what happens in life - our likes, dislikes, the manner in which we create our own suffering, how we berate and judge ourselves, how we distract ourselves from what is actually happening NOW. What is happening NOW?

Arises. Abides. Dissolves.

It all passes. This too shall pass.

With much love and gratitude


Emma DespresComment