the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sarah, Shaun and Finding Sukha

I started to fall in love with "Finding Sukha" right at the door. Painted onto the entrance is a cosmically colored figure who is reaching, sweetly and curiously, for the very door knob you are place your hand upon.

The studio itself is at once both cosmically beautiful and modestly simple, a very accurate portrayal of its intent. As students set up their mats, many fall right into meditation, setting their dristi upon the gloriously stained glass at the front. The right wall was dedicated to an array of candles, which scattered light on the hardwood floor.

The most incredible element of the studio: it's incredible friendliness. The studio is intended as a place to gather and share love, light and energy; this message comes clearly across. Some students stand around the sign-in desk, there is an open quality to their gathering. They smile at you, welcome your presence. After class, students may offer you tea, chocolate and conversation. With the incredible minds and earnest hearts that Finding Sukha gathers, you would be a fool to decline.

My first class was with Shaun. Shaun's immediate presence was accepting, kind, calm, mature and contagious. Shaun truly understands the value and responsibility of "holding the room". I felt myself drop deeper through my breath as I gradually took on the same evenness, the same acceptance I was offered.

I signed up for the week, and checked out Sarah's class next. Sarah's presence is one of loving vitality, radiating energy infinitely and impossibly from her tiny frame. She engages both sociable and receptive energy, creating a class where you feel equally engaged in a challenging or restorative posture. Her voice is serene, while her sequencing smart, simple, creative and above all dynamic. I am surprised by how with the lightest touch, she creates deep and mindful adjustments.

Finding Sukha is truly a welcoming oasis that finds it's home in the neighborly Alphabet City & East Village zone. It is truly beloved. Whether you live nearby or not, you should meet this incredible community, take class, and perhaps stay and chat....http://www.findingsukha.com/

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Unknown vs Luck

“I don’t know” is one of my favorite truthful and courageous statements.

We often doubt of how exactly things came to be, how they are now, or how they may be in the future. Often observation- or perhaps manipulation- brings us to identify certain variables and patterns which give a sense of insight and causation. And yet, sometimes our explanations seem flawed, incomplete or fruitless. There are forces at play that cannot be isolated, patterned, seen or understood.

Like most confrontations with the unknown, this is a bit threatening, so one hastens to retreat.

The formula for retreat is simple: agglomerate all that you cannot identify into a box. Give that box uniformity, a single base consciousness, characteristic or intent. Label the box.

Sample labels include “talent”, “luck”, “nature” or “the force”.

Let’s explore this deeper with luck:

What is luck? What is to say that someone or something is lucky? What property can one assign it? At most, one points to previous successes, and without identifying any unifying causational factors amongst them, one shrugs his or her shoulders and says “well, that’s luck”. Luck is precisely the unknown and unpredictable, what happens that is beyond a person’s control.

And just what lies beyond a person's control is unfathomable, immeasurable and most likely infinite.

So how can it be that anyone “has luck”? How can you have the unknown, the unpredictable and precisely that which is outside of you? How can you be without it?

This carries the unfortunate repercussion that luck, through our acceptance of the concept, is something real and tangible, it exists like any object, you can have it, or not. Is luck a quality? But how can anyone have, hold, or seek a quality that is inherently indescribable, mysterious and unknowable?

It reminds me of Richard Freeman’s statement that purusha (the truth of being that is naked behind form) is inherently impossible to capture. The moment you say that anything is purusha or that purusha is any thing or quality, you are hiding it behind prakhti (form).

Precisely so with the example of “luck”. The second you point to anything and say “that is luck”, all you really say is “the causation of that is variables I cannot identify or explain”. Or more simply, “I don’t know”.

There’s a tendency which I’ve noticed to agglomerate all that one does not know and understand into one category, “the unknown”, which quickly gets labeled with something sweet such “talent”, “luck” or “the force”, for example.

I reject the unity of this notion- just because there are an incredible amount of variables in a complex world that are constantly in play and effecting every single action that you can possibly take- does not mean that these variables have one universal consciousness. They may have a billion consciousnesses; they may have infinite consciousness, but to unify them all under one purpose is oversimplification.

I believe there are an unknown number of unknown forces that are at play in any interaction. This makes figuring out what happened, what is happening, or the possibilities of what can happen incredibly difficult. It means that any knowledge, regardless of whether it is past, present or future, is inherently incomplete. That doesn’t make it worthless; knowledge is an incredibly powerful tool in action.

But no matter how much knowledge you have, you always act with variables of uncertainty. You can seek shelter in small mastery; obsess with the identification of every variable. But the unknown is still present; it is inescapable even in moments where you doubt its presence (and even more so in those).

Perhaps we could instead embrace the unknown? Relish in the joy of knowing you live within an infinity of cosmic chaos in constant interaction with your own.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Denial and Toxicity

I truly believe denial is toxic.

Your body and mind store what your consciousness and ego may prefer to brush off. Denial is essentially a fragmenting of one’s experience and a fragmenting of one’s self. I have yet to discover a way to delete experience (and as Spotless Mind fans know, perhaps we don’t want to), yet I am acquainted with my often unconscious attempts to do so.
Denying memories, thoughts and experiences is the fastest way to duality. The denied concepts are alienated from the active consciousness and lurk in (metaphorically) a shadowy pool. Fear and pain fortify the barriers of that pool, denying oxygen to the now rotting experience.
As the mind has to work around the barricaded rot, it builds inconvenient detours that promote irrationality and delusion. One’s outer world mirrors this inner mess, and become smaller, more anxious. The majority of one’s mental function is wasted on contemplating different pathways around this dangerous rot, and one’s life becomes the continual avoidance of some terrible fate.

The rotten shadows begin to poison the spirit, corrupt the mind and deaden the body.
So, that all sounds terribly unpleasant, so let’s move onto the nice stuff….

Why is it so easy to do this? Usually, being busy is the main culprit. Which is why I like my mat. There are times in the practice of yoga and meditation where one is focused on the specifics of body and breath. And there are times to let that go. There are also times to just observe the mind and gain understanding.

Stuff comes up in pigeon. Heart-openers. Meditation. And curiously enough, in conflict and shadow work [shadow work is tracing your judgment of others to the fear in your heart]. I do believe that an active acknowledgement of experience is helpful.

This happened. I felt this. I thought that.

And then comes the best part: And I am letting it go.

And sometimes, a wave of emotion can occur at this moment, but frequently, it’s more of a sense of relief.

Acknowledge and let go, come back to the breath. Acknowledge and allow, return to the moment. Experiences must be received, for all experience is true. And I do believe that any experience is a way to transform your understand of a situation, grow and open yourself up to worlds you could never before fathom.

…..In other news, I read that having an actual physical mat isn’t in vogue anymore, so perhaps my metaphorical mat isn’t so stylish either? Oh no!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Susan Lip Orem

What I've come to expect of my Iyengar classes is a gentle, teasing acknowledgement that this yoga is being done together, that the experience is happening with all of us in this room.

You aren't encouraged, as in other classes, to enter your "own" zone, one that is purportedly removed from everything else in the room, from other people, even from yourself. I will admit I love this sentiment, despite realizing that, whether it is or is not an illusion, there is faulty logic to this.

Iyengar teachers have a tendency to address you often in class, joke around a little, and in general create a presence for the entire room. Susan was very much like this, and incredibly active with her class. Constantly making notes and adjustments, and often joking around with her students, Susan has tremendous amounts of knowledge to offer.

We did an unusual sequence which focused on the connection of the knees behind the shoulders, hip opening related work, and finally ending in lotus. We also practiced getting into lotus from headstand and shoulder stand. Or attempting. All-around wonderful class. I wish I could remember all the little adjustments so I can practice them at home...I probably have a better chance of remembering on my mat than on the computer.