29 August 2008

When the student is ready...

Saturday 30th August 2008
Living back with my son (he’s 26) is both confronting and enlightening. This young man seeks out and exposes everything about me that is superficial. His insight and honesty is truly frightening, but he can be devastatingly cruel – just the other night he told me I have no personality because I have no opinions, which made me question the last 10 years of psychological and spiritual hard work I’ve done trying to tame my ego and reverse its habit of judging and forming ego-building opinions.

Nik engages me in this confrontational dialogue because he wants me to look at myself more honestly and relate with complete transparency. He needs to connect with someone on a deeply human level – and right now I’m the only person in his life. He needs me to be fully present, honest and real, because that’s how he is. So I get challenged for my Gemini indifference, my equanimity, my serene disposition, my non-commitment to anything. He wants me to CARE.

Last week, in one of my obsessive clean–out-my-life episodes, I threw out about 20 folders full of yoga notes and all my personal journals – five exercise books stuffed full of past thoughts and insights, one journal dating back to 1996. Nik found them in the outside bin and retrieved them, absolutely aghast at my callous desire to trash all memories and hold on to nothing. He got stuck into me about how precious the past is and how we shouldn’t throw it away. I disagreed – my argument being that the past is gone and it has contributed to what we are in the present. The present is all that matters. But somehow Nik won the debate (as he always does because I have no real attachment to any opinions) and I spent the next hour reading my old journals and remembering how I got to where I am today, which tragically is not very far from where I was in 1996.
Our rather intense discussion culminated when he read a few random lines from one of my journals and remarked how it sounded like I was writing for an audience and not for myself.
There and then I confessed to having a yoga blog, and that was like waving a red rag to a bull (side note to the audience: Nik’s a Taurus)
I was accused of selling out, of writing advertising copy about my life and publishing it on the internet to strangers. Why would I do this, he demanded?
After some desperately deep self-questioning I couldn’t answer him with any integrity. He was right. I felt shallow.
Forced to investigate my true motivation for writing a yoga journal I discovered it wasn't always authentic...more often than not, I have been writing with an audience in mind. Yes writing a blog is all about sharing experiences and forming invisible links with like minded people, and sometimes it's even just for the joy of writing, but to be brutally honest it's just another opportunity for our clever egos to assert their position on centre stage.

So from now on I’m not writing a yoga blog for yoga people - this writing will be for my own personal therapy, sometimes to record the journey, sometimes to express the ineffable and sometimes just to get the heavy load off my heart.
(Which reminds me of that sweet advice "dance as if nobody's watching...etc")
Could it be that my son is actually the teacher I've been waiting for?

12 August 2008


Tuesday 12th August 2008

I just wanted to post a couple of pictures of the beautiful old run-down mansion I've been living in for the past year.
I have to move out this weekend as Fleur is back in town for 3-4 months and she'll be moving back in. After that (end of November) I can move back in and take over the lease. So from this weekend I'll be living with my 26 year old son again in my original house (but that's another story).
The mansion is divided into four apartments, two on the top floor and two on the ground floor. Mine is the left hand one on the ground floor. The first image is the left hand corner view from the driveway and the little front room with the light on is my kitchen. The other image shows the front view of the house from the street, almost hidden by trees.
I'll miss this beautiful solitary old place...

1 August 2008

On the mat

Saturday 2nd August

Not sure whether the yoga poses are stretching my still-out of-of-yoga-shape body past its current limitations (read: it hurts to go to the edge so I go way past it) or whether the depth of my spiritual practice is intensifying my experience in the poses.

I suspect the second is closer to the truth.

The sheaths described in yoga texts are for real, and the ‘real’ me can see them, feel them and move through them. Well…most of them, the final ones are patiently waiting for me.
Penetrating through yet another inner sheath brings with it a deepening understanding and actual experience of the subtle energies within the whirling vortex that is our being. As I penetrate my way into another layer, the vibration feels higher, finer, but more concentrated and powerful. New dimensions of the internal and external world are exposed and experienced. Every little thing is increasingly magnified…nothing escapes the inner eye…my heart is on fire.

I practised with Kosta at his studio this morning. It’s become a regular Saturday morning rendezvous at 8am which I treasure, even though I have to race off to work at the Art Gallery straight after. Today it went overtime: a two hour practice plus a ten minute Savasana, followed by a quick race across town to get to work by 11am.
Two hours of deep, dark yoga…digging deeper into the layers of my mind through this yoga of the body.
Emerging after practice I feel like a creature from a mythical realm, a creature not of this world. Carefully I transition, stepping back through the portal, still shimmering with the essence of tapas. It hangs about me like I'm covered in sunbeams. On the way to work I stop to pick up an espresso. The vibrational frequency of my aura is intense so I try not to make eye contact for fear of burning someone.

This is a very different yoga practice, I'm grateful to have made it this far along the spiralling yoga journey, but perhaps it is just the beginning. Each time I do a long practice like this morning’s, it's a supersonic trip into the epicentre of my soul, a journey so devoid of time and space that one day I fear I may not find my way back.

Describing the practice with a mere list of poses reduces it from extraordinary to the ordinary: All of the Surya Namaskars and Primary poses up to Marichy C, then I went over to adjust Kosta into Supta Kurmasana and came back to my mat for Baddha Konasana, Upavista Konasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, 3 long sustained Urdhva Dhanurasanas and a genuine attempt at a Headstand dropback which disappointingly my back refused to go through with. I let that one go (along with the accompanying shattered illusion of a forever flexible and youthful body) and moved on to immerse myself in the ageless grace of the finishing sequence, absorbing every luminous hue of its shimmering energetic rainbow.
Then…intense glowing peace.

Kosta’s invited me to a 4pm session at his studio tomorrow along with a few of the senior teachers from the one devoutly authentic Iyengar studio in this city. Kosta teaches three classes there but they frown upon Ashtanga as all devoted Iyengarites do. He’s planning to lead the session and will probably do a backbending practice, leading up to Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana and a series of Headstand dropbacks (with a joyful Hanumanasana thrown somewhere in between). Hence my testing out of the Headstand dropbacks today which I haven’t done for a year or more. So tomorrow I’ll just do what I can and modify what I can't.
Any opportunity for being humbled is a gift - I love it - the less I am, the less I have to prove. If you’re at the bottom of the pile, there’s nowhere to fall.
So it doesn’t matter if I can’t do some of the poses I used to do with this group of yogis because that will make them all shine brighter, and I kind of like that.
Practising yoga motivated by the intention of getting better at it is practising under the hot spotlight of the ego, and that's just way too bright for me right now.

A Culture of Triviality

Friday 1st August 2008

I read a brilliant article in a recent edition of New Internationalist by John F Schumaker entitled “The Triumph of Triviality”.
It’s a rather negative, unflattering view of our consumer culture, but it sure rings true to me.

He started off by saying
“The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but here is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living.”

(Essay writers in the book I recently read called “The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities” also seem to be naively optimistic about the future of our race, many of them believing we are on the brink of a massive global shift to a higher consciousness – BOLLOCKS!)

I quote further from Schumaker’s article…
“But something happened along the way. The pyramid (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.
Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.
Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.
Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.”

No wonder I just don’t fit in anymore.