Behind every unconscious impulse and conscious decision lies a motivation.
Discovering the REAL motivation behind what we do helps to uncover our hidden desires, but it takes quite a lot of digging and tunnelling into the dark areas of the psyche.
So what motivation lurked behind the impulse to sign up for Glenn Ceresoli's 3 day yoga workshop this year?
I think I’ve done six or seven of Glenn’s workshops in the past, the last one in January 2008. Glenn is a highly gifted and exceptional yoga/spiritual teacher, but I remember feeling in the last two workshops that I learned nothing new from him, that I had exhausted what he could offer me.
Yet it is Glenn's teachings over the last 8 years that have most influenced my approach to yoga practice. Asana is simply a tool that Glenn uses to bring about conscious awareness, alignment of intention and action, utter presence, clarity and peace of mind. His approach to yoga practice is my approach. It is authentic, disturbingly confrontational, and relentless in its quest to uncover unconscious and unproductive thought patterns and reactions.
Through Glenn’s teachings I’ve been INformed and TRANSformed.
So when I heard from Kosta just after Christmas that Glenn would be here in January, there was a lot to consider.
Was I being foolish to even think about committing to three days of intense yoga while still subject to unpredicatable emotions and moods?
The impulse to do the 3 day workshop (6 sessions) was strong. I really needed to uncover the motivation behind the impulse. In order of importance, this is what I found:
1) DISTRACTION - The strongest desire was for a distraction to direct my attention away from Mark's death. Grief is a natural human response to death and I have allowed it to takes its course, but wallowing in self pity is unproductive spiritual sabotage. A few days immersed in an intense yoga practice may help lift my mental focus out of the self pity trap.
2) RECONNECTION - Its been nearly 2 years since I've been in a yoga studio and I do miss being part of the lovely community of yoga teachers here. Engaging in casual conversations is irritating, but there is a desire to connect with the community of people who I share a common interest with.
3) VARIETY - Glenn's yoga is closer to my current, more reflective Iyengar practice now than it was a few years ago. When I did his last two workshops my daily practice was in the more flowing Ashtanga style. But the value in Glenn’s teaching is his ability to pull you right into the moment. And there is always benefit in doing long forgotten poses and exploring common ones from a different perspective.
Friday 13 January 2011
DAY 1 morning session (6-8.45am)
Prepared for my unpredictable emotions to keep me in bed at 5.15am this morning, I was relieved to wake up with neither resistance nor tears. About 30 or so people were at Glenn’s first 6am session. Feeling humble, I choose a spot in the very back corner where I feel protected and unnoticed. Glenn talks a lot in the first session, making his intention clear, setting the flavour of the workshop. His intention is to bring the light of self awareness into our practice.
We only do a few poses in this first session:
Supta Baddha Konasana over a bolster, hands interlocked and placed on top of the head with palms facing up
Ado Mukha Virasana (knees apart)
Cross Legged Forward Bend
But that takes two and a half hours.
I get to work 15 minutes late.
Unfortunately having to rush off to work straight after the session didn't allow me time to reflect on what Glenn said or to remember many points.
Glenn's words flow directly through my psyche and out into the poses in the moment. I am completely engrossed in his teaching.
I remember he spoke about Action, Reaction Interaction. Apply an action while in an asana, watch the reaction, then integrate what you have learned into the psyche so it will automatically infiltrate other poses. This is the interaction.
To illustrate, Glenn reels off some instructions while in Dandasana and when applying them, we observe the flow on physical, mental and emotional reaction - some quite obvious, some more subtle. Then in the following poses we transfer the same instructions and apply the same principles.
Some instructions were easily accessible - like moving the thoracic spine towards the sternum and the sternum towards the navel, or the top of the pubic bone towards the sacrum. Others were more subtle psychological instructions - like remaining calm and clear when the body is under pressure and the survival instinct kicks in, or finding interest and staying in a pose when boredom niggles at us.
As we turn our feet out for Trikonasana, Glenn points out our habit of looking down at them. Only beginners need to look where their feet are and none of us are beginners - we must sense the placement of our feet, and trust that sense if we want to move on from beginner's mind.
In Trikonasana, my entire body responds to a simple visualisation - the arms should form one straight line, like a thread, from left fingertips to right fingertips, the collarbones at the centre of the line. With this simple internal picture, I feel my arms align to the internal ley line.
DAY 1 Evening session (6-8.30pm)
Supta Baddha Konasana, as before
Virasana with arms extended up and hands interlaced, palms up
Half Dog Pose to wall
Half handstand, feet up the wall
Uttanasana, feet apart, sitting bones pressed into the wall
Prep for Pincha Mayurasana: we kneel with elbows on the floor into a corner of the wall, forearms are up the wall, back of hands flat against the wall with the little finger side of the hands holding the block betweent them. Straighten legs, walk in to the maximum, pressing the upper back into the block then lift up heels as high as possible.
Half Pincha Mayurasana - facing centre of room, forearms to the floor, with feet halfway up the wall, then lifting alternate legs
Full Pincha Mayurasana
Bridge pose on a block lifting the pelvis up halfway and allowing the block to pull the skin down on the back (this was the Grief Pose I thought I invented a few days ago)
Laying back through a chair with hands gipping the rung
Bridge pose, block under sacrum
At some point in the middle of the Pincha Mayurasanas, Glenn gave an analogy (I can’t remember the context) about meeting a stranger and not caring if they pass quickly out of your life, and how different it is when we are attached to someone who leaves us - how much we miss them. That just cut right into my open wound. The tears came in the middle of the class, there was no hiding. For a moment I thought about walking out with tears streaming down my face, but I pulled myself together and tried to reconnect with what Glenn was saying instead of swimming around in how much I miss Mark.
DAY 2 morning session (7.30-10am)
I remember very little from this session because as soon as it had finished I went into panic - Glenn and 3 other senior teachers were coming to my place for dinner. Suddenly I had to plan food, shop, cook dinner and dessert, tidy and clean my dishevelled house, take Buffydog to my son's place (Darrin was bringing his lovely dog Marley) , and all in the 4 hours between the morning and afternoon yoga session.
I remember doing Parsvottanasana
Virabhadrasana 3 - which I couldn't do because of my damaged lumbar
and Handstand to the wall
The other poses escaped in the blizzard of manic activity that followed this session.
DAY 2 afternoon session (4.00-6.30pm)
Supta Padangusthasana, firstly with the leg straight, then lowering it to the side, then lowering it across the body. The entire sequence, holding the leg in each position for an eternity on both sides, took about one hour.
Viparitta Dandasana over a chair
Glenn's favourite backbend - laying through the back of the chair with hands holding the back rail (little fingers touching near the centre)
Paschimottanasana with a bolster
Sarvangasana, Eka Pada Sarvangasana, Halasana, Karna Pindasana
Eka Pada Sarvangasana then lowering both feet to the wall for a Setu Bandha variation
It was an honour and a privilege to host dinner on Saturday night for Glenn and the three senior teachers. Each one is amazing and unique in their own way and dedicated to teaching and living their yoga. It wasn't until later that I realised they each so perfectly embody an element: Glenn is fire; Simi is water, Kosta is air, Darrin is earth (well maybe Kosta and Darrin could be a 50/50 mix of air and earth). Whatever, the four elements were all gathered around the table in my big, empty ballroom, illuminated by the candlelight and the inner glow of their own unique presence.
DAY 3 - morning session (7.30-10am)
My body had stiffened and my mental state was heavy.
Supta Baddha Konasana
Ado Mukha Virasana
Parivritta Parsvakonasana - started by kneeling on the back knee with the front leg bent, then raising the back leg while keeping the pelvis the same distance from the floor. We had to do this a couple of times before we could do it properly. Once lifted, the back leg has to work like Dog Pose.
Virabhadrasana 1 - a block under my front foot helped alleviate the compression in my lumbar
Upward Dog pose starting with the front pelvis into the front of a chair and the hands on the chair seat. Elbows are bent, but once straightened the instruction is to extend the triceps into the elbows which lifts the upper chest and helps the thoracic spine move deeply into the body. The little toe side of the foot must stretch towards the outer knee.
Upward Dog Pose from the floor with toes tucked under
Some quick counter poses because we'd run way overtime: Cross legged forward bend with a block pressed diagonally from the floor into the lower abdomen, then Paschimottanasana.
DAY 3 afternoon session (4.00 - 6.30pm)
I arrive at the studio 20 minutes late for the afternoon session, thinking it started at 4.30.
Mind in a cloud somewhere today.
I set up my mat and props and join the others in Janu Sirsasana, a block betwen the inner thigh and the sole of the foot.
Parivritta Janu Sirsasana, much easier for me than Janu Sirsasana - side bending is less restricted by my spine and joints than forward bending
Baddha Konasana - I can't bend forward more than a couple of inches today, so stay almost upright while mostly everyone else has their heads to the floor. I don’t care at all.
Some shoulder opening poses through the chair
A headstand preparation to the wall with forearms up the wall, palms open and back of the hands pressed against the wall; head is to the floor and the torso and legs are in a Dog Pose position.
Headstand, raising the legs together - lots of anatomical instructions to go with this – start with the knees and feet as close to the nose as possible, pelvis over shoulders, press inner edges of wrists down, extend triceps into elbows, move thoracic spine towards sternum and slide sternum down towards the navel...etc...etc...
Supported shoulderstand in a chair, then some variations 1) legs lift up to the ceiling for a few minutes, 2) bend knees and put feet on the back of the chair, 3) drop the kness out to the sides like Baddha Konasana 4) lift the legs over to Halasana - I couldn't, my lumbar body parts couldn't support the move from the semi backbend (the sacrum was still planted on the chair in this supported Shoulderstand) over into the forward bending Halasana position.
Glenn imparted so much information during this workshop, not so much about the asanas, but mostly about how to work with the mind through the asana.
Being fully in the experience, I was content to follow wherever he led me, to observe and explore the internal landscapes. I was happy to let his instructions wash through my being then let them go, not harden my mind and pollute the purity of my experience by trying to capture and record them.
Earlier this year, I spent a magical evening watching the changing colours of a golden sunset on Uluru (Ayers Rock) in central Australia. Mesmerised by its mystical aura, I wanted to remain receptive, sensitive to whatever energies, messages, visions, feelings were available to my expanding range of senses in this sacred place. Around me were a hundred tourists, obsessively trying to capture images of Uluru on their cameras and mobile phones to take home and show their friends and families. Click, click, click...
They were there, but they weren't experiencing Uluru with all their senses.
Small mind was suffocating big mind.
This can happen in a yoga workshop - you can be so busy trying to record images and information for future recall that you miss the gift of being fully present.
Dropping below the surface I was able to stay in the direct unfiltered experience, with no click, click, click recording going on.
Hopefully my subconscious mind recorded some of Glenn’s wisdom and will slow release it over time to drip feed my malnourished practice.
After the final Savasana on Sunday evening, the workshop is over.
I say a few goodbyes to people I may not see for at least another year.
There are too many people milling around Glenn, asking questions, vying for that last little bit of the teacher's attention, so I don't say goodbye to Glenn.
As soon as I leave, I regret that, but its too late.
The three day workshop is over...another ending...I come home and cry.
I walk from one room to another and back again, three or four times, lost, in my own home.
The celebration of Mark's life was held today at 2pm. I could have gone betwen the yoga sessions, but I didn't. I felt no need to talk to strangers, Mark's friends, colleagues and neighbours that I'd never met, no point meeting them now or hearing them talk about the Mark they knew.
It's all too late. It's all over.
I sit in my meditation corner and cry.
I apologise to Mark for not going to the celebration, he may have been there in spirit and noticed my absence. He’d understand.
I sit in the corner and call him to me, silently, earnestly, as if the yearning in my heart will bring him back, into my room, to dry my tears and hold me again.
The yoga workshop provided a good distraction – Desire number 1 fulfilled.
It also reconnected me to old yoga buddies and teachers again – Desire number 2 fulfilled.
And I enjoyed every bit of the asana work that Glenn fed to me – Desire number 3 fulfilled.
Work has also provided an enormous distraction, there’s been little time to think about anything else. Last week, busy as a bee, I actually felt quite positive about my situation.
But in the quiet times, when I'm not busy, I can feel the huge lump of sadness sitting heavily in my heart. There is more to this lump of sadness than I can currently comprehend. It is much bigger than the grief associated with losing Mark. It has something to do with the existential loneliness of our human predicament, our longing for connection and for a love that doesn’t die.
I need some dedicated solitary time to myself to delve deeper into the meaning of this sadness, to discover the gift and the wisdom that await me somewhere beyond the surface of Mark’s death. So I am planning a weekend away, somewhere on my own...a tent, a sleeping bag, a long open road leading to a deserted beach or a bush campsite...and two full days of open space with no other commitments... it's time to reflect on the meaning of all of this...