22 December, 2012

Sufficiency

I've never taken a "Yoga Nidra" class before. It had been explained to me in enough detail that I had a good idea of what the experience would be. Perhaps I had too much of a preface, because it might have resulted in a bit of expectation getting in the way of the experience. I suppose there is a bit of irony in the idea of a yoga class getting overhyped.

Libby Ludlow, who taught the class, started off with a reading. I wish I could remember who the author was. But the main thrust of the passage was that we so often wake up in the morning to the immediate thought of "I didn't get enough sleep." And that this sets the tone for a continuous stream of thoughts in the same vein: "I don't have enough time... I don't have enough money... and so on." And the message was that we should consider the idea of "sufficiency." Not as in a measure of the quantity of what we have, but just with regard to our state of being irrespective of "having." The notion of "I am enough," rather than "I have enough." This is something that I have read about in the Iyengar book, and also in Buddhist books, and various pop-culture self-help books as well. It seems pretty obvious, but it's not easy to do it. And I suppose it is partly because of human nature. But it might also be because our society, especially in this country, is set up around achieving more, and more, and more.

When she did the reading, it was all I could do to not start convulsing into tears, and I am not sure why, really. It's not like it's a revelation to me. I think it may be because when someone shares a message with 60 people, and it resonates so much for me, I have to assume that we are all sharing in the same struggle... to be enough. There's some degree of comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Often I tell myself that I would like to move toward living as simply as possible, and become less materialistic, and less focused on money, and to try to become liberated from the hamster wheel of life. But before the thought is even completely formed, I am buying some new thing, or pursuing some new hobby that costs money, or deciding the upgrade this or that, or feeling like I need to advance in my career. And I wonder, if I am fully conscious (supposedly) of the paradox here, how can I keep moving toward the very things I suspect are making me ultimately less free?

I know that the issue is "the ego" and the answer is "practice." And there are no shortcuts.

Elizabeth said to us, a few weeks ago, that we need to think about what it is that we want. Because if we really want something, we are probably going to get it. And her point, I don't think, was so much about "you can do anything if you try," but more along the lines of "you should pay close attention to what it is that you're telling yourself you really want because, chances are, that's what you're gonna get." Reminds me of the "where you look is where you go" line that I heard in a self-help group about 15 years ago. Obvious, true, but sometimes easy to overlook.

Maybe I don't want to be liberated from all this?

Anyway, it occurred to me during class that my ego gets me in a lot of trouble, in various ways. It is my ego that constantly is chattering about not enough of this, or not enough of that. My ego pushes me to go beyond limits that I know I shouldn't go beyond. Lately, I have been trying to defeat the "not enough time" problem by staying up later and later, working on things that I didn't have time to do during the day. The end result is often five hours of sleep. And the consequence is that I feel pretty bad during the day, I can be moody and difficult to be around, which impacts my relationship, and then I am also considerably less effective at all the things I was trying to squeeze into the extra time.

I think I've been using my "mind/ego" too much during my physical practice. I am telling myself what I am going to do, too often in opposition to what my body is asking for. For example, it occurred to me the past few days that, every time I do a lot of twists in a class, even very passive ones, my low back ends up feeling horrible. But, because these poses are "part of the class," I just do them, because I don't want to skip poses. It's not much different from the staying up too late. And the thing they teach us over and over in yoga is to quiet the mind so that we can become aware of what our body (or information beyond our body) is really telling us, so that we can act intelligently.

I'm over a year into the yoga practice, and I see the benefits of it. And I also see that road of progress keeps going.

Forever.

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