Big then small then big again
Even though all things are shades of grey, sometimes when speaking, we are forced to paint them black or white. It could be that we lack the time, words, pause, whatever the reason, a label has been placed and something is now something whether it was the way we saw it originally or not. Everytime we open our mouths or pick up the pen to speak, a bit of meaning is lost. Sometimes, however, there can also be an opportunity to look at the output as a more defined (even if crude) statement of what the root of something is.
Ashtanga is like this. It could be its cultural foundation, the absence of common language, or maybe it is just how it is supposed to be taught — simple and to the point. And in being economic with the statement, all the little parts and meanings come together to complete a big action. Of course sometimes although the statement is understood, the focus becomes the gathering of the little parts. “Jump!” leads to “how do I externally rotate this and what breath should I do that and where should I look?” instead of just jumping. Not showing up for practice breaks into I had to do this and then this happened so then I did this and then this instead of just realizing the time was not made to make something happen. It is really easy to just jump and it is equally as easy to get caught up in the million little pieces. Which is better? Which teaches and transforms us more? I think it is all shades of grey — a definite statement of black or white. It is nothing and it is everything. Sometimes things are very specific, sometimes they are broad. Sometimes it all makes sense, sometimes it does not at all.
Getting out of the language and into the practice can be an unsettling place. Reasons, excuses, and conditions are no longer valid. “Why” becomes “why not”. My practice is my practice and just like anyone else’s I settle into patterns and reasons and excuses and conditions. Meeting myself everyday, my same teacher, my same life, it is easy to also be the same. Slowly, I become something that I am allowed to be even if it is not my most maximum expression of possibility. And then something changes. A new teacher, a different breakfast, a new walk to work, and in an instant, I am confronted with the difference between where I am and where I think I am and have the possibility to be.
There was this transition between postures that was particularly challenging to me. Eventually I did it and then slowly felt that since I did it I didn’t have to do it everyday but could pull it out whenever I wanted to. Sometimes this is true, but it turns out that this was not like riding a bike or “hula-ing” a hula hoop. I was working with a new teacher and they looked at me quizzically when I didn’t take the transition. I then asked myself “why not” and spilled into a million little pieces and then decided that yes, “why not?” and tried. And tried. And am still trying to not think and just do because in this case, the grey is turning into white and I want it to be black because it can be. Because it starts as the grey and then things become black or white before we know it.
I think that this is what it is all about. Seeing, changing, transforming, becoming, and being. A constant big then small then big again. An endless cycle of being who you are, losing that, and then coming back again.
(Video via youtube by govindakai of led intermediate series in Mysore, India at KPJAYI. Students are working on Karandavasana…)