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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Few Class Changes

Just a note to let you all know two schedule changes.

1) Due to the unsteadiness of interest, I'm canceling the Wednesday afternoon Teacher's Practice.  I will keep the Friday afternoon Teacher's Practice, which meets from 3:30-4:30pm, right before our (allegedly) Advanced Practice.

2) Due to student requests, I am changing the time of the Wednesday afternoon Hard Work class from 5:30-7:30pm to an earlier time, 4:00-6:00pm.    This change takes place today, Halloween, and will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.  I hope this means more of you can come to it.  If you can do headstand and shoulderstand and you know how to push up into a backbend, we want you in this class.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Take Good Care of Yourself

Dear Reader,
A young friend of mine recently and tragically died.  I am stunned and saddened.  All who knew him will miss him dearly.  I thought this would be a good time to offer you a passage from the Bhagavad Gita that in my sorrows over the years I have found profoundly helpful. I offer it to you, in hopes that you may find wisdom and at least a little solace in it as well.

The Blessed Lord spoke:
You have mourned those that should not be mourned,
And you speak words as if with wisdom;
The wise do not mourn for the dead or for the living.
Just as in the body childhood, adulthood, and old age
Happen to an embodied being,
So also he (the embodied being) acquires another body.
The wise one is not deluded about this.

Physical sensations, truly, Arjuna,
Causing cold, heat, pleasure, or pain,
Come and go and are impermanent.
So manage to endure them, Arjuna.
It is found that the unreal has no being;
It is found that there is no non-being of the real.
The certainty of both these propositions is indeed surely seen
By the perceivers of truth.

Know that that by which all this universe
Is pervaded is indeed indestructible;
No one is able to accomplish
The destruction of the indestructible.

These bodies inhabited by the eternal,
The indestructible, the immeasurable embodied Self,
Are said to come to an end.
Therefore fight, Arjuna!

He who imagines this (the embodied Self) the slayer
And he who imagines this (the embodied Self) the slain,
Neither of them understands
This (the embodied Self) does not slay, nor is it slain.

Neither is this (the embodied Self) born nor does it die at any time,
Nor having been, will it again come not to be.
Birthless, eternal, perpetual, primaeval,
It is not slain when the body is slain.

Weapons do not pierce this (the embodied Self),
Fire does not burn this,
Water does not wet this,
Nor does the wind cause it to wither.

This cannot be pierced, burned,
Wetted or withered;
This is eternal, all pervading, fixed;
This is unmoving and primaeval.

It is said that this is unmanifest,
Unthinkable, and unchanging.
Therefore, having understood in this way,
You should not mourn.

And moreover even if you think this
To be eternally born or eternally dead,
Even then
You should not mourn for this, Arjuna.

For the born, death is certain;
For the dead there is certainly birth.
Therefore, for this, inevitable in consequence,
You should not mourn.

Beings are such that their beginnings are unmanifest,
Their middles are manifest,
And their ends are unmanifest again.
What complaint can there ever be over this?

This, the embodied Self, is eternally indestructible
In the body of all, Arjuna.
Therefore you should not mourn
For any being.

[from The Bhagavad Gita, 2.11-2.30]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Have Prakriti, Will Vrtti

It has come to my attention that the part of my mind that gives rise to the vocal tremor is pretty much no different from any other part of my mind.  It has a vrtti, like all the citta vrttis everyone else has, all the time.   My tremor vrtti’s roots are genetic, but anyone who has DNA has those.  It’s just a bit more annoying because it’s more obvious.  It’s still the same sort of vrtti that Patanjali and Vyasa and Iyengar and all the other commentators have been explaining to us all along.  

Want to see some big vrttis? Have a look at Tourette's Syndrome.   I’m thinking that Tourette’s could possibly be a little bit more annoying than my tremor, except unlike me, please note that this man can sing, and rather well at that.  I’m not making fun of this person, whose name is Chris de Burgh.  I am, instead, rather in awe.  If you watch carefully, you will see him trying to counter the impulses as his brain takes him on it’s ride with the Tourette’s “spasms”, for lack of a better word.  This man’s concentration is immense.  He has to practice dharana in order to do this: the definition of dharana is to return the mind to the same place again and again, to the same focal point, in this case, his song, while the vrtti of Tourette’s shakes it loose again and again.  He has several videos on You Tube, and in one he comments that doing these songs utterly exhausts him.  In my experience it’s not so much the concentration that is exhausting, it’s the tearing away from it by the impulses.

This is an important point:  I think it’s more tiring for the brain to have vrttis than it is to concentrate on one thing.  That’s why Patanjali says that with mastery, asana eventually becomes effortless.  From our ordinary mind’s perspective, it’s too hard to concentrate.  But we regular folk do see the world backwards.

So all you guys out there doing your pranayama with those long, slow, smooth inhalations and exhalations, your lovely ujjayi breaths, your 20-second kumbhakas and minute-long exhalations, I do admire you, but I know you are having vrttis just like Mr. de Burgh and me, only they don’t shake your body, breath and voice.  And, as Mr. Iyengar says, keeping things from shaking does make things easier, I know from my little glimpses.  I’ll get there one day. 

I’d like to do what Mr. de Burgh has done--make a yoga video myself, with me doing the narration, but I don’t honestly think it would go over too well.  The average viewer would not think I had a vocal tremor; they would more likely wonder why my years of yoga practice have not helped me overcome my fear complex.  Feh.