Monday, February 18, 2013

My Yoga Book Report: The Scared is Scared

Now a few weeks into things, I've started to work on reading ahead in the book as much as possible during my morning and evening commutes. If I want to complete the book before teacher training starts in two weeks, I don't have the luxury of stopping after each exercise to wait to have time to give it a try before moving on. I am getting quite chummy with the witty and illustrious Erich, whose instructions include helpful tips such as "do this for the perfect amount of time." He guides me through the exercises as best he can - "please understand," he says, "that what I am attempting to describe is an activity that is essentially non-verbal" - and I visualize myself doing the movements (or lack thereof) as the train hurtles on, carrying me to and from Manhattan each day. He is patient with me as I attempt to pay attention to reading that which is not a story and I am patient with him as he tries to explain the unexplainable.

Of course, I am also trying to do the exercises described whenever I get a free moment. I start each little meditation session with a round of the counting-backwards technique to find stillness before moving into the new exercises. For the past few sessions, I have been working on something Erich calls 'heart breathing.' This involves laying on your back, closing your eyes and breathing deeply, physically feeling the expansion in your ribcage with your fingers while focusing on the metaphysical feeling you get in your heart as fresh oxygen enters and leaves the body.

My first attempt at heart breathing is a total bust. Clay is home and walking around doing his own projects, and I can feel his footsteps in the floor and just can't get myself to focus on what's going on in my body. So, I table it for a later date, when I have the house to myself. Even then, while it goes a bit better, clearly this is not for me - I can only lay on the floor, eyes closed, breathing deeply for a minute or two before I start to fall asleep (something I am already quite good at).

So I move on to expanded heart breathing - the seated version. This exercise has me sitting in stillness for a moment before taking some deep, exaggerated breaths - first in and out smoothly, then after a while, holding in to feel the stretch and expansion before the release. This is intended to help you to better feel your energy vibration not just inside, but specifically within the heart. This I am able to do, although it makes me nervous to make exaggerated movements while trying to stay in a deep meditative state - definitely out of line with what had previously been instructed, about staying as relaxed and still as possible. Which is a bit confusing, but I try not to beat myself up over it and instead move on to the next.

We do some other exercises, me and Erich, with some aaahhhhh breathing sounds, some new mantras, some different postures and focuses. I am not really that great at any of them, and I just really can't seem to find the time of day to commit to what this whole thing seems to require. I tried once to get up early in the morning and do it, just for a few minutes in what has to be the quietest moment of the whole day, but the recency of having been asleep was problematic - this is somewhat sleepy stuff, meant to be practiced while fully awake. So, I need to work on how I'm going to make this work in my noisy, activity-filled life.

My success with the exercises aside, I am definitely following what he's trying to say, which is that you (and you, and you and you) are not YOU - we are all part of a collective, connected experience. We exist in a state of muffled energy, and if we can strip away the years and layers of self-concept and ego that we've built up mainly from what we've been told about ourselves by others, we have the capability to see who we really are and benefit from that amplification of energy, that forgiveness. Meditation gives us the opportunity to find that pure you-ness that's been buried - hence why it's such an important pillar of the yoga practice. It also reminds us that we have the capability to control what goes on inside our heads - just one of the reasons yoga is commonly touted as a remedy for depression. With practice, it helps us to accept the negative thoughts for what they are and let them swirl away with the rest of the bathwater.

Kids know all this better than adults, I think, because they're still tapped into their imaginations and not super concerned with what anyone thinks of them. They do not see the realm of imagination as any less real than anything else, which is really a very pleasant way to go about your business and allows for fantastic access to all that you-ness inside.

Christy sent me the below video, which I found to be so incredible and truly illustrative of all the points above. Keep watching it all the way to the end - the beginning is a little less relevant (although a great example of that rich imagination) but right at about four minutes, shit starts to get real.

"Just think of something else until the nervous has gone out of you - I let that thing disappear out of my head."

This kid manages to articulate everything Erich is trying to say about meditation in a total of approximately three minutes of babble. Pretty interesting stuff.

I am trying to remember to let the stuff out of my head. My scared is scared of pizza, too.

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