19 September 2008


20 September 2008

A few warm days have heralded the beginning of spring.
I must have fallen asleep through winter – how easily it happens - I forgot that the seasons come and go, as all things do, and that winter doesn’t last forever.

This sudden burst of warmth in the air promises new life. Inhaling the spring air is euphoric. It seems to contain a whiff of magic essence, a natural anti-depressant that all my little peptides are responding to – hope, promise, fresh beginnings, sweetness and joy…

I sit on the brink of this new season of life, excited by its possibilities.

And I’ve decided to get a bicycle.

Practicing Presence

“To continue practice through severe difficulties we must have patience, persistence, and courage. Why? Because our usual mode of living – one of seeking happiness, battling to fulfill desires, struggling to avoid mental and physical pain – is always undermined by determined practice. We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply BEING the circumstances of our life as they are.”
Charlotte Joko Beck from Everyday Zen

Practice is not so much what I do on the yoga mat, it is the continual noticing of how I respond to every situation, every person and every thing that I encounter (including what I encounter on the mat). But it is not enough for me to simply be a witness and self-correct when I notice myself copping-out or falling into a habitual response, it is not enough to just bring full awareness to the present. Practice is now about BEING PRESENCE ITSELF.
To actually BE PRESENCE is impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. This kind of presence is so alive it instantly recognises and burns up what is false. It is pure, unforgiving and powerful.
To enter fully INTO PRESENCE, brings with it an incredible surge of power. When I'm in that zone my entire being hums with a high electrical voltage that is the actual burning mechanism of transformation, and the energy of my surrounding space is equally charged.

My son Nik, who has no spiritual practice, is teaching me about this. His social skills are zero because he has a gift of seeing straight through people’s facades and is not willing to compromise on the truth. To talk with him is to risk being cut open and exposed.
From me he demands complete presence and vulnerability because that’s the only space in which two people can honestly communicate. But my conditioning often blocks his attempts to relate honestly with me.
Nik has to quite systematically and persistently cut through my layers of conditioning and resistance exposing how thick they are before he can get to the real person underneath. Only then does he reach the tender spot and I suddenly WAKE UP to him, fully in the present.
It’s raw and brutal and honest and the most beautiful place on earth.

A few nights ago, he spent 4 hours talking about the nightmare in which he lives, eventually breaking open my heart until tears flooded my eyes. He got me there - I was alive and feeling not only his pain, but all of humanity’s pain, the pain that every single person spends their entire life avoiding.

“Attention is the cutting, burning sword, and our practice is to use that sword as much as we can. None of us is very willing to use it; but when we do – even for a few minutes – some cutting and burning takes place.” Charlotte Joko Beck

So more and more I want to be in and live from this place of honest presence, not just when I’m with my son, but with other people in my life. Unfortunately it means I am less willing to accept unconscious behaviour, so like Nik, the last of my social skills are rapidly disappearing.

5 September 2008

Recognising Injury

On the mat

Out of the blue came the realisation yesterday that my ongoing lumbar/hip pain is the result of an injury to my sacroiliac joint. I must have torn the ligaments a while ago and suspect it happened in Marichyasana C (I remember writing about a practice where I was breathing into Mari C at my limit and something just gave way which allowed my body to immediately rotate another 30 degrees)

How did I not put two and two together for so long? As soon as I realised yesterday what had happened and what had caused it (it was like a light bulb flash), all the confusion over why my lower back has been so stiff, why there’s been so much pain in my right hip,and why I’ve been battling such an aversion to yoga practice over the past 6 months…it all became absolutely clear. All the jigsaw pieces fell into place.

I'm not sure whether my high tolerance to pain is a good thing or not...in my physical yoga practice I’ve always sought out those poses and situations that physically and emotionally challenge me so that I can venture to my very edges and push them out a little further. Stretching out of my comfort zone always seemed to be the key to expansion and growth.

But for the past 6 months or so I’ve not even considered that the stiffness in my lower back that I’ve been trying to dislodge may have been an injury and not a blockage.
This is a classic example of blind ignorance – I just didn’t see it.

So I’ve continued doing yoga, enduring severe nerve pain through my sacroilium and right hip, adding to the trauma and inflammation of the surrounding tissues, not connecting at all to what was going on in this part of my anatomy.
I thought there was some kind of emotional blockage in my lumbar that I had to dislodge, a lump of concreted baggage that was blocking free movement in this area. And as a yoga practitioner, my instinct was to go further into this area of resistance and try to stretch it open to release the tension...create an opening.

What a twit.

Added to all the physical pain of practice was the emotional pain and guilt of not wanting to practice. I didn't even recognise that the underlying resistance to yoga practice was an organic aversion to the pain! And so began a deterioration of my regular yoga practice from daily to weekly.
Which led to the harsh judgement that I’d lost the discipline, lost the devotion, and I was on a fast track to mediocrity and old age.

So now that the cause of all that pain is clear, and now that I understand, I shall be a lot more compassionate and gentle with myself instead of judging so harshly.

“The person, whose moral conscience has now become more refined and exacting, whose thirst for perfection has become more intense, judges with greater severity and condemns his personality with a new vehemence; he is apt to harbour the mistaken belief of having fallen lower than he was before”
Christina Grof quoted in ‘Halfway Up the Mountain’

My 2 hour practice with Kosta this morning was all about seeing into the injury and working differently with my body. It was quite amazing to be in poses and direct my mind’s eye directly into the sacroiliac joint – there I could see it and feel it from the inside quite precisely as if under a microscope. I actually felt all the traumatised ligaments and tissues for the first time. Before today all I could feel in this area were blockages, stiffness and excruciating nerve pain which confused, scrambled and blocked my inner vision.

To blatantly ignore the signs of injury for so long has showed up how blind I actually am to some things. Naturally the next important question is 'what else am I not seeing?'

For Greenfrog:
“Psychological purification is the cleansing and shedding of psychological appendages that have been accumulated through a lifetime of unconscious living and of psychic debris that has amassed through lifetimes of karma. Through this process of purifying and casting off excess and incorrect understandings and perceptions, that which is essential and always pure becomes conscious and manifest. Thus, as one consciously engages the purification process, the false ideas and presumptions, layers of obscurity, and neurotic perceptions that motivate the false or premature presumption of one’s enlightenment naturally fall away. What is left is a clarity of perception that more accurately perceives the distinction between mystical experiences and abiding enlightenment, between pure and impure motivation, between presumption and reality.”
Mariana Caplan from “Halfway Up the Mountain”