Sunday, May 30, 2010 a good way

Self-portrait Chillin' May 2010

Since the weird virus I had a few weeks back I feel like I've had a lobotomy...but, in a good way. Let me explain.

When I was a fledgling yoga teacher my mentors were, for the most part, middle aged women verging on menopause with households, husbands, children and ageing parents to manage. Aside from teaching yoga, participating in workshops on yoga and being part of a yoga community some of them also worked part-time at "real" jobs (teaching yoga was viewed as a form of karma yoga — selfless service and as such paid a pittance).

In comparison, during the 10 years (from my mid 20's to mid 30's) that I was with them, my life was yoga focused, simple and uncomplicated. Single, with a healthy, happy, family back in Ontario, my time was my own.

Every week we attended a class called Beyond Hatha Yoga offered at Yoga Centre Victoria's digs in the local YMWCA. Here we'd explore the works of Swami Radha through self-study, writing, writing and more writing, then discuss our responses to such questions as: what is an aspirant, who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc.

In that class, on our yoga mats and in meditation sessions, realizations would rise up for a few, brief, shining moments. But, when my mentors returned to daily life, so easily and profoundly was their equanimity shattered that a common complaint was, "I thought yoga was supposed to make you calm!"

This comment has been directed at me by council members in the last few years.

I have informed them that, contrary to popular belief, people who are drawn to yoga, more often than not, are not naturally calm individuals. Yoga reveals what is — both the sublime and the ridiculous which is a no sweat experience for me on the mat or within the confines of a yoga studio, retreat or workshop where all have the same intention and speak the same language.

The challenge is to reside calmly while participating in life as the veils of illusion are peeled away. As we witness the reality of our lives, realize the consequences of our choices, the character of our loved ones and ourselves are exposed (in an often less than flattering light) it's difficult not to loose it, not to re-act unfavourably with anger, sorrow, frustration and all the other unpleasant moods that can befall us.

With the aftermath of "weird virus" my thoughts have been quite clear and my emotions easily manageable; as if someone has altered my sense of time. Urgency is gone, evaporated...poof... and, since time pressure is at the root of much of my anxiety, my emotional state is levelling. I am still aware of things that tick me off, that hasn't changed, it's just that they don't seem to break through to an intolerable level because they don't seem to stick to me. For the time being my hackles are down and my wei chi (defensive chi) is impermeable to negativity. In essence, I have become a good way.

Today I'm bearing witness to the contrast between the "speed" of the Tasmanian devilish flurry that had engulfed me before the weird virus vs its aftermath, this refreshed state of calm. It seems totally unreal, incomprehensible that:
a) I could have gotten myself into such a state in the first place
b) I couldn't see it coming or building up
c) I could only recognize its intensity in hindsight

I know it's probably only a matter of time until I get "spun" and scattered again, but for the moment I am enjoying being in the cool, calm and collected zone and am doing all I can to identify supporting behaviours that are coming so naturally and effortlessly to me now.

I have been working with a weight management (aka weight balancing) client and one of the 4 principles of eating — to eat mindfully without distraction — she finds most challenging considering her hectic lifestyle. As an observer, it seems a simple matter of perspective and prioritizing. I don't ask clients to do anything that I can't do so I too have been eating at least one meal a day mindfully which means no reading, watching TV, talking etc.; just eat.

The idea is simple, as you chew each bite of food 20 times put down your utensils and enjoy the taste, texture, sight and smell of the food, and eating becomes a form of meditation. But, as I eat I catch myself on the verge of engaging in scattering behaviours:
  • Without thought, a nervous twitch reflex prompts me to reach to pick up a magazine, the newspaper or glance at the notes on the side of a cereal box (that's how addicted I am to reading and keeping an internal voice going on).
  • My mind travels backwards and forwards in time like a fidgety child unable to stay in one place trying to get me to come along.
  • I have to fight the compulsion to multi-task, to do something as I'm eating in order to "save time" but, I don't know what I'm "saving" it for. Aside from breathing, what could be more important than fuelling the body; my body?
  • Emotions generate stories that begin to spin themselves in my mind; at other times stories generate emotions all of which threaten to crowd out the senses that are keep me anchored in the present.
Happily, I find mindful eating, intended to bring awareness to a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, is slowing me down, shifting my perspective and increasing my mindfulness during daily activities in a pragmatic way. None of my other meditation practices has done this.

This seems a horrible thing for a yoga teacher to admit, but here it goes. I am becoming aware of what my relaxed rhythm feels like. That there is such a thing seems news to me, it's been that long since I last was in touch with it.

As I bring myself back to just eating, I now notice how violent my "speedy" actions feel; how violent I feel when I violate my relaxed rhythm. When I have the inkling that something else needs to be done at that very moment I'm engaged in eating mindfully it is felt an insult; unbelievable!

How long have I been doing this and in how many different ways?

Fear is underneath it all generating my speediness. Fear that:
  • I won't be able to keep up (with whom or what seems irrelevant)
  • "it" (whatever it is) won't get done in "due" time (whenever that is)
  • if I don't do it right now I will forget it (but the thought inevitably recurs and with it a growing sense of urgency)
To quell the rush of things that increase my sense of urgency I'm setting priorities - 3 per day. 3 things that I feel need to be done come to the front of the line, anything else I elect to deal with is a bonus and everything else can come back another day.

And, for the moment the Tasmanian devil in me is gone. Please, let me know when you see her again. To break the spell, the phrase is, "I thought yoga was supposed to make you calm!"

Synchronic happening observed - as I was in the middle of writing this the other night (Sun May 30th - ignore the time stamp on this post as I worked on it over a few days, finally posting it on Tuesday June 1st) I took a break and came upon a TV show in which Stephen Hawking was talking about Time Travel and he states these facts:
  • "mass slows down time"
  • Time differs in different areas of the earth i.e. time moves slower nearer the pyramids.
This got me wondering. When I feel grounded I feel more present, solid, centred as if my molecules are more collected; my sense of time slows. So, when I feel scattered and spun are my molecules dispersed a little more randomly into the universe making time speed ahead and leaving me attempting to "collect" myself while seemingly forever trying to catch up? Just wondering.

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