Sunday, November 9, 2008

On and off the mat

Some of you may be familiar with The Holographic Universe in which Michael Talbot asserts that the Universe could be a hologram. Whether or not you buy into that idea, the ideas laid out in this book are engaging. One of the features of a hologram is that the entire image can be reconstructed from a fragment. Talbot gives examples of this in the real world; for example, the concept in acupuncture that the entire body can be mapped on the human ear.

I think that asana practice is holographic in this sense. From any moment of her practice on the mat, a yogi can reconstruct all the processes that take place in her daily life off the mat: all the patterns of self-talk, of holding and letting go, of ego, of resistance, of pushing too far, of denial, of connection, etc., etc. Not only that, but a breakthrough on the mat can translate into a breakthrough off the mat.

Like anything else in life, one can practice asana without being present. One can work without being present, eat without being present, talk without being present. The effects of this lack of mindfulness in asana practice can range from injury to simply not experiencing the maximum benefits of the poses. The same goes for not being present in life. Sometimes the effect is simply less joy, less appreciation, less benefit. Other times, you end up hurting yourself or someone else.
The effects of being present can be astounding. On the mat, the yogi can discover endless variations and directions in which to take the pose. There is always another level, a new discovery. Sometimes, on or off the mat, being present can result in absolute joy and peace where before there was discomfort.

Lately, with everything going on in my life, I've been finding it hard to be present. This morning, I brought my lack of mindfulness onto my yoga mat with me. It was hard to focus, hard to find the right alignment in poses I practice all the time with ease. It was time to back off and treat myself gently and kindly. This week too, I want to maintain this patience with myself. This has not been an easy fall for me, and sometimes I deserve not to push so hard. Today was a day for child's pose instead of the 100th downward facing dog. Today is also a day to nap a little and blog a little, even though my schoolwork needs to get done.

The beautiful thing about a yoga or meditation practice is that it is so incredibly forgiving and compassionate. In meditation or asana practice, the mind wanders and wanders and wanders. And yet, any moment is a good moment to begin again, fresh, from the beginning. In yoga and meditation and life, one is always beginning again. And that's OK. When you are present, the focus is not on the past, how you failed to hold attention, nor is it on the future, whether you will fail again. In fact, infinitely holding your attention is not the practice. Beginning again is the practice. We all begin again and again: it's never too late.

Tomorrow is Monday and at work, I will forget to be present. I can pretty much guarantee it. What a glorious opportunity to practice!

1 comment:

B said...

I like this one. You're so insightful!