“All of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart-perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example-but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.”
Ken Wilber

Yoga Practice Spring 2020

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Tone

On the one hand, it feels like I’ve had a long sequence of uninterrupted practice. Uninterrupted by any major event (no allergy, no back strain). On the other hand, this period has been affected by a continuous sense of agitation and disruption. One cause for this has been lack of clarity and insecurity about my relationship with Iulia, a relationship that is going through a major transformation that I hope leads to a more peaceful co-existence.

The Coronavirus pandemic has added to that. My day-to-day lifestyle and routine have not changed much because of the virus. The most impactful experience of disruption for me was Iulia’s choice to travel to the UK for a Vipasana retreat at the end of February just as the pandemic was gaining momentum. This included a conversation before her travels that left me and my sensemaking feeling alone, lost and helpless … and the brokenness between the two of us (relatively close) people left me questioning the capacity of human beings to move gracefully together on larger scales. Then, as a consequence of her travels came logistic disruptions around her quarantine away from home and then return home after a few weeks.

The common thread has been a continued amplification of a sense of: wholeness when looking inwards and brokenness when looking outward at the world (both near and far). Practice has continued to be a solid foundation upon which I stand. My intellectual sensemaking feels challenged and challenging. But the sensemaking I experience through my body, breath and attention is clear and whole. I can clearly sense subtle (and gross) differences through practice and I use that in a kind of feedback loop to navigate my life.

If my morning practice indicates a sense of diminishment I look back at the previous day(s) and try to identify things that may have affected me negatively and try to adjust the contents of my days to avoid activities or interactions that drain me. The findings are not surprising and often obvious since I likely had negative emotional responses when they occurred. However, I wait for the wholistic feedback of practice to guide me. I find the embodied feedback more reliable than both excessive & fleeting emotional responses and logical reasoning. If my morning practice indicates a sense of increased vitality I try to look back and add more of what nourishes me (basically trying to increase a sense presence and mastery in my actions and choosing activities which evoke my sense of presence and mastery).

In a (simplistic) way, the result is an amoeba-like behavior of moving towards nourishing patterns and away from poisonous patterns. The overall movement of this period seems to be towards increased retreat and reduced engagement. This, to me, is not an obvious or trivial outcome.

… yet in this period I have (hesitantly) reached out to the world once again … this time with an offering of breath

Practice

Practice has remained at its core unchanged. It has however fluctuated. I adjust the practice in response to my sense of vitality.

There are fluctuations that seem to have a roughly-monthly cycle. This will include 2 or 3 days of tiredness where I switch modality of practice to either maintenance or, if necessary, healing. I’ve started logging some information about these ~monthly recurring events and am curious to see if a pattern will emerge over time.

Then there was a larger-scale periodic fluctuation. I do not recall the fall months well (too much time has passed). However moving into winter I felt a steady increase in vitality and expansion in breath. Then, during winter I came to a kind of stand-still in vitality but the quality of my breath suffered.

Most of winter I experienced some blockage in my nostrils … mostly the left … which effected mostly the Pranayama practice but sometimes also the asana practice. I accommodated this by shifting from Pratiloma Ujjayi to Anulom Ujjayi – still using a 1:2 ratio. That brought stability back to my practice and allowed me to ease the breath by shifting, as necessary, from 8 breaths a round to 6 breaths a round.

Somewhere in late January/early February, there was a turn and I felt vitality gradually and steadily increasing. I started to feel strong in my core, extended B.K. holds returned and spread throughout the practice and a sense of strength and lightness returned.

Pranayama had expanded within the 1:2 ratio to a steady peak of 8.8.16.8. But the blocked nostril was still there and I started to feel constrained by it. Some weeks ago I decided to shift back to a 1:1.5 ratio and a 10 second inhale, still with Anuloma Ujjayi, currently peaking at 10.5.15.10. In recent days the nostril blockage seems to be easing somewhat … though seasonal allergy is just around the corner … so curious how breathing evolve over the next couple of months.

The Mahamudra journey has gone through fluctuations (in response to my overall vitality). Over the last 2 months it has seen renewed vigor and is currently hovering around:

12.4.12.4 x6 breaths
12.4.12.8 x3 breaths
12.8.12.8 x3 breaths

Shortly after the new year, I was able to chant Yoga Sutra chapter 1 completely and I started learning chapter 2. I was surprised to experience a much-accelerated learning curve … I am nearing completion of chapter 2.

  • Full practice is almost 3 hours long and occupies my mornings.
  • As the weather has improved we’ve started spending more time outdoors working. I am warming up to that. I currently feel good working physically for 2 – 3 hours of physically demanding work (earthbag construction). I can go up to 4-5 hours of moderate physical work (workshop).
  • When I push the physical work too far it usually affects the next morning’s practice … causing some tiredness which requires some form of compensation in practice.
  • The Coronavirus has brought more people into online interaction and therefor “closer to me”. This has increased my exposure to online interaction … I generally limit this to one session a day, usually in the evening after work … and apply the same amoeba-mentality to them … nourishing stays and diminishing is reduced.

The days are getting longer and starting to feel too long … I am not finding the energy and vitality to fill them well … so still figuring that part out.

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