“I suffered unbearable torture in silence, weeping internally at the sad turn of events blaming myself bitterly again and again for having delved into the supernatural without first acquiring a fuller knowledge of the subject and providing against the dangers and risks of the path.”
Gopi Krishna

Kundalini – The Evolutionary Energy in Man

My shoulders, socks and lowerback … doing and not-doing

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Shoulders

My practice includes lying back bends with active arms. I start with my arms alongside my body and swing them “up above my head”. One of my focuses in this posture is softening and relaxing the shoulders every time my arms are placed back on the floor alongside my body. I have been working with this focus for a few months and there has been a gradual improvement:

  1. First I had to bring my attention to my shoulders at the right time (there are other focuses in the posture that require my attention).
  2. With my attention in place I was a bit mechanical in finishing each movement, noticing my shoulders were active and relaxing them.
  3. Gradually that become a more fluent movement … but still mechanical and somewhat separate … relaxing the shoulders came after finishing the movement.
  4. Then the two movements have merged. I am aware of my shoulders already when I start to lower my arms. When I am attentive enough I arrive with my shoulders down.
  5. Now the integration is expanding further. The question I am with now is how can I do the entire movement in such a way that no excess is created in the shoulders at all, so nothing need to be adjusted at the end of the movement. I am learning to engage my shoulders differently throughout the entire movement. It’s a curious learning because I can do it yet I can’t (yet?) describe what it is exactly that I am doing.

Socks

It’s warm enough for me to wear baggy pants that expose my legs somewhat during movement. It is also cold enough that I am still wearing socks. When I initially bend forward (on both sides) I have a tendency to pull up my socks. It is a distraction that I have noticed for some time. During winter, as my hands reached my legs I could get away with a more subtle distraction of slightly arranging the fabric of my pants. It was subtle because it kind of merged with placing my hands on my leg. Now the distraction is much more obvious.

This presents a subtle challenge. I do not know how to SOFTLY not-do something. Refraining from doing something echoes subtly with qualities such as self-judgement, an aha! of “catching myself”, expecting myself to make a mistake, etc. So while it may be possible to “not-do” something, I feel that it has more downsides to it than value. I also find it easier to move towards something I want than to escape from something I don’t want.I found 2 “wants” to support me.

The first is wanting to notice and better discern between the impulse to arrange my clothes and the action of actually doing so. I trust (from past experience) that doing so will, in time, resolve the distraction. Something seems to find satisfaction when it is given attention, making the action at first lest necessary and ultimately unnecessary.

The second is related to my eyes. For some time now, in the same seated forward bends, my eyes tend to open. So, I am trying to keep my eyes close. This is something very tangible for me to work with. More tangible then catching the impulse to arrange my clothes. I am curious to see which one (noticing the urge or closing my eyes) will take hold first.

Lower back

Because of recent life off-the-mat I have felt a bit of rigidness in my lower back and can best discern it in seated forward bends. Here too I’ve been on a subtle and gradual journey of learning:

  1. In the past I would have felt some disappointment knowing that I can bend better then I am doing in the present moment.
  2. Gradually I came to accept that my back is the way it is and to work with it as it is rather then wish it to be something else.
  3. That shift in attitude allowed me to experience a softness that improved my ability to bend. That softness improved my range of movement.
  4. That  softness also allowed my attention to move more freely (not that a-tension had been reduced) and to move to my core (abdominal area).
  5. Applying strength in my core further supported my back and improved my range of movement.
  6. Gradually I came to be curious (instead of critical) of any sense of limitation in my lower back (a curiosity which applies to all movement). I began to explore how to fully be with the limited range of movement. It became a practice of surrender … softening generated attention generated strength generated trust generated more softness.
  7. I realized that meeting limited range of movement was teasing out of me more softness and better attention.
  8. Eventually I came to appreciate limited range of movement (of varying levels, from slight discomfort to painful injury) and realized that what I was experiencing as limitation was actually my body protecting itself from further injury. When I came into that relationship I lost interest in overcoming the limitation.
  9. Since then, when experiencing more serious discomforts in my lower back, I know that I have an opportunity to refine my practice that I would otherwise not have. There are subtle things that I have learned about movement through pain or discomfort.

This kind of refined learning seems to be never-ending. I can, like in the present moment, feel more established in my lower back, less in my shoulders. Then another dimension opens up and I feel like a beginner again, where I previously felt established.

I continue to be surprised by the subtle relationship between attention, breath and movement (I haven’t mentioned breath much in this post because these days my breathing is stable and developing and less affected by life disturbances). From years of practice I feel I know better how to work within that relationship, but how it actually works seems beyond intellectual grasping … more like magic.

 

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