27 October, 2012
I was stumbling my way through the interwebs some weeks ago (before my recent vacation) and found this funny, yet insightful quote:
“I don’t like to write, but I love to have written.” Michael Kanin
That quote made me chuckle to myself, partly because it’s a good giggle, but mostly because it reminded me of something I struggle with. A weakness. After all, we ARE human, right? Rare is the person who loves the long process of creation or change MORE than the positive results that we hope for. All too often, what we love is that dark chocolate fudge brownie (*fooooooood*, focus, Shakira, focus) , but we don’t enjoy the precise and sometimes complex steps it takes to bake something so yummy. We don’t enjoy the process. All around us, our instant-gratification culture reiterates and reinforces the message “You can have what you want, right now, why wait?”.
When I first drafted this post, I was in a deep place of sadness and struggle, on the mat and off. I love my Ashtanga practice, but I had become demotivated and resentful of it, particularly with Kapotasana A, a deep backbending posture, said to be one of the great Gateway postures of the Intermediate Series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. I would try to apply my “Mind of the Meditator” play-script like my teacher said to do, listen to my breath, calm my thoughts, and still I couldn’t get my elbows to the ground and it felt as though my shoulders were being ripped out of their sockets. I would panic. I would run. Truth. I knew this was a posture that would challenge me, but I simply had no idea how much and that terrified me. So, I would rush the process. I wouldn’t give my body or mind the time it needed to work through the deep opening and strength (not just flexibility, as I discovered recently) that this advanced posture requires. I didn’t want to go through the process. I simply wanted to be on the other side of the gateway, where I could say “I did it! Next!”
The truth is that my mantra had become “I just want to get past this”, I wanted that instant gratification. Faced with that realisation, I decided to change my approach. I had the priceless opportunity to spend four days of Mysore-style practice with Kino and Tim. I said to myself “No matter what it takes, I won’t run from Kapotasana, or anything my teachers have to say”. On the first two days, Tim helped me get into the posture. He was amazing, so calm in the face of my obvious sadness (which he sensed) and panic and almost-tearful protests. He saw (as Kino did) that my body was ready for the posture, but that my mind didn’t want to trust the process. He talked me through the alignment cues that I knew and would previously try to dash through. In the midst of my mind-fogging fear, I suddenly felt my hands on my heels and things got REALLY clear. Tim had given me a new playscript, both for alignment and for my attitude.
Even after that, on the second day, Kino asked me just before we did my backbends “How’s Kapotasana feeling?” , and I told her about my fear and sadness. She kindly said “You just stay here for a while, let it integrate, you’ll be fine”, I simply said “Thank you”, and did my dropbacks and Chakra Bandhasana, touched my heels a second time (yay! it wasn’t a fluke)
On Day 3, I worked on Kapotasana again, breaking the movements down slowly, then Kino came over and worked with me. In her calm, almost-mesmerizing voice, she guided me past my fear and helped my grab my ankles from the air this time. I was like “whoa, I can feel it, just as it is” And THAT is when I remembered to just be, and the results of the process flowed over me. I could hear my breath and heartbeat louder than ever, and then, just like that, the moment was over. I was back to kneeling and Kino said “Ok, here’s the next posture…”. I was stunned.
That day, she gave me 5 additional postures to work on, and split my practice. I now work on the Primary Series to Navasana and Intemediate Series to Eka Pada Sirsasana. (Sorry for the Ashtanga geekery)
The biggest lesson I learned over those four days was surrender. I told myself “I will stay here, stay to learn the lessons I need to learn, and actually try to understand and apply them on and off the mat, long before I am even ready to pass them on”
There’s a reason that Kino thought I was ready for Kapotasana and I know that now, and no matter how I struggle sometimes, I have complete faith in her ability to see the things I cannot, to sense the breakthrough where I have often felt frustration and despair. Most importantly, I’m learning to trust, myself, my body and also in others.
The greatest gateways are the ones we create in our minds, we cannot breach them with force, only with stillness, deep trust and faith in the journey. In the process. And I’m still there 🙂