7 November 2008

Lost Buddha and Paschimottanasana

Saturday 8th November 2008

The Lost Buddhas
A colleague of mine was lucky enough to be in Sydney recently and visited The Lost Buddhas exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She lent me the exhibition catalogue last week which I’ve been reading over the last few days.

Although the images in the catalogue are beautifully photographed and presented, they of course don’t compare to seeing the real thing. And yet, gazing deeply at some of the stone images, I’ve been overcome by an extraordinary sense of deep peace. In the deepest moments of gazing at a figure I seem to merge with it, taking on it’s qualities of poise, serenity, fortitude…all personality drops out of my face and it softens into Buddha-like radiance.

Divinely sweet moments imbued with grace.

"Stone is the visible history of time feeding us through a calm and radiant presence" Isamo Noguchi

From Charlotte Joko Beck (occasionally paraphrased):
"All good (spiritual) practice aims to make our false dreams conscious. Let us notice that our efforts (spiritual practice) are to perfect ourselves: we want to be enlightened, we want to be clear, we want to be calm, we want to be wise.
But as our practice leads us more and more to just being fully present, up comes resistance…"Forget reality, I’m here to be enlightened!”
In good practice we are always transforming from being personally centred to being more and more a channel for universal energy.

A major obstacle is our unawareness that all practice has a strong element of resistance. It is bound to have this unwillingness until our personal self is completely dead, and until we die, we always have some personal resistance that has to be acknowledged.
A second major obstacle is a lack of honesty about who we are at each moment. It’s very hard to admit, “I’m being vengeful”, or “I’m being self-righteous”. That kind of honesty is hard.

A third obstacle is being impressed and sidetracked by our little openings as they occur. They’re just the fruit; they have no importance unless we use them in our lives.

A fourth obstacle is having little understanding of the magnitude of the task that we have embarked upon. The task is not impossible, it’s not too difficult; but it is unending.

A fifth obstacle is substituting talk and discussion and reading for persistent practice itself. The less we say about our spiritual practice, the better. Why talk about it? Your job is to notice how you violate it."

On The Mat - foundations
Tuesday, Friday and Saturday: three early morning yoga sessions this week – over 2 hours each - all of them deeply challenging, INternal and Eternal.

I’ve been making quite an effort in all the seated poses to consciously ground the thighbone of the extended leg and draw the inner legs up towards the inner groin. These two actions increase the internal dynamic of the pose immediately. Grounding the foundation of any pose is where it all begins - you can’t build anything substantial without a strong foundation. The base is the key.

In all the standing poses, it starts with pressing the feet down into the floor; it continues with the drawing up of all the leg muscles to activate the gross energy, the legs are the engine room of the standing poses. By drawing up the inner legs, a more subtle energy is activated in the perineum and then mula bandha and uddiyana bandha will take over and direct the energy upwards to stimulate the opening of the upper chakras and facilitate a natural lengthening of the spine (to create an open pathway for the upward flow of prana).

The same principal applies to the seated poses. For example Paschimottanasana:
the feet must be flexed and the leg muscles fully engaged so the heels are actually off the floor (if they don’t you know your base energy is weak).

Both legs must be rolling inwards so the inner ankles are slightly apart. Once that is established, apply the two key actions: pressing the back of the thighbones to the ground and subtly drawing up the inner legs.

It’s not easy to maintain all these actions to keep the base of the pose steady and strong so the earth energy is drawn up, especially when the mind is scatty, but by applying the intention and noticing when the leg actions fall away, you can catch the mind’s tendency to wander and then reactivate the focus. That is how we train and strengthen and transform the mind from within a pose.

In meditation the anchor is often the breath – that is what we come back to when the mind wanders. In a yoga pose, it’s the sensations of body, breath and energy. As the mind wanders away from its engagement in a pose, the pose becomes weak; we lose focus and miss all the subtle nuances and adjustments happening in the body. That’s when asana becomes a boring repetition of making shapes.
The purpose of both yoga and meditation is to develop mindfulness and to become fully present.

Do not bother chasing enlightenment, just be completely and utterly present with whatever is happening in your life right now and all is coming.