“… a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet he makes it his business to try to change, even though he knows that he won’t be able to. That’s the only advantage a warrior has over the average man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change.”
Carlos Castaneda

The Second Ring of Power

Yoga On the Mat Practice: Summer-Fall 2013

n

During late spring and early summer months I was slowly trying to make my way onto the mat to find a regular practice. I was getting on occassionaly but not regularly. I was getting on the mat, but it wasn’t inviting. I was struggling to make a proper space for it … a daily routine that would incorporate a practice smoothly. The daily routine wasn’t settling (to say the least) and neither was my practice.

In late June I was speaking to my teacher who suggested that I was trapped in practicing irregularity. He took a piece of paper, wrote, scanned and sent me a practice sequence. Since then I’ve been practicing regularly. That is one of the valuable (and tricky) gifts my teacher has to offer me … an uplifting inspiration and motivation. There was no way I was going to let his attentions wash over me and leave me behind. Still I did not practice every day due to planned journeys and inevitable life-waves; I generally do not get on the mat to settle my life but settle my life to get on the mat.

Practice

This is the practice I was given. It is a cikitsa (recovery) practice:ronen-june-2013

Health Insurance

Though I’ve placed myself in a nourishing environment in terms of food, air, space, etc. the transition to it was (and sometimes the continued participation in it still is)  very demanding. I believe that my past investments in Yoga practice supported me in the transition yet the transition itself depleted me (in many ways). I used myself up and it was now up to me to pull myself back together.

I have no official (as in organized/regulated by society) health insurance (through a combination of choice and circumstance). Yet when I received this practice it dawned on me what amazing health insurance I do have. I recognized that my teacher handed me a prescription. Though unlike a typical prescription that you take to someone else to fill for you this is a prescription that I must be able to read, understand and put to action on my own.

I am able to read this prescription because of my extended training. To outsiders I am a trained Yoga teacher, though within my teacher’s circle I am first and foremost a yoga practitioner. I took up  “teachers training” for my own benefit, not for becoming a teacher. The prescription is filled with explicit but also implicit information. It takes a long, quality and established relationship – like that of a teacher and a student – to be able to have access to and benefit from such a gift.

I am able to to put it to use because of how my life is organized. The first two years at Bhudeva were extremely hectic and demanding. This year, with most of life foundations in place, I decided not to take on anything more than life would hand me. I focused on settling down, making space, nourishing myself and creating conditions for practice. I designated this year (though it is not limited to one calendar year) as a time of healing. That is also the scale of healing that I was taught. There is no take these pills or do this practice and tomorrow everything will be better. Health is a continuous effort and investment, healing even more so.

Lying Down First

The practice I prescribed to myself, before being given this practice by my teacher, was a basic SKLIBS (more like SL[B]S). Though I was doing it softly it was an incorrect practice for me. Standing postures drained me very quickly. Then lying down became a trap – I would be so tired that I would have a hard time continuing beyond lying down. I became wary of lying down and my “solution” was to avoid a stay in savasana and discipline myself to continue the practice sequence (a strategy that did not work many times).

When I was first given this practice I recognized that I had accumulated a subtle fear of lying down, fearing that would steal my strength and motivation to practice. Yet over these past months lying down at the beginning of the practice was an oh-so-welcome experience. I was starting from a place of rest, gently introducing breath and movement. Building up instead of wearing down.

Ironically, now that tiredness was not weighing down on me, staying in savasana became more difficult. Now I had a settled body but an unsettled mind to deal with. It is only in recent days (almost 5 months of practice) that I began to experience an inviting savasana. A peaceful steadiness that I could hold and could hold me. Not only that, but the savasana that invites me to stay is in the middle of the practice (step 7 in the sequence) and even though I do stay in it, it does not trap me. I am able to continue a quality, present practice after it.

Breath

The quality of breathing was the first thing to surface from my past. It was such a core and immersive part of the teachings and practices that it is a second nature to me. My breath quickly expanded in asana to a vicinity of an 8 second inhale with an equal or longer exhale. That may vary depending on the asana and my overall vitality – so the inhale can drop to 6 seconds and the exhale can extend to 10 seconds and beyond.

My body also has a very good memory of the subtelties of practice. The practice itself is accessible. So during uninterrupted stretches of practice the focus of most of my attention and most of the refinement came in the quality of my breathing.

In the beginning my breath was very demanding in the standing postures (regardless of how much space I gave the movement within the breath). Now my breathing is fairly steady and available throughout the practice. A very noticeable improvement.

Bahya Kumbhaka

The Bahya Kumbhaka (holding the breath after the exhale) had a very powerful impact on me. At first it caused quite a bit of resistance which I met with just enough discpline to visit the place, but not for a long stay.

It has now evolved to be a potentially very different experience. For the most part it is an inviting place that I can stay in without ripples of effort and stress emanating from it. It is overall a steady experience though ripples of tension from life off-the-mat can and do effect my ability to stay in it. This 2 or 3 second window is a direct and honest portrayal of where I am.

 Shoulders

When I started the practice my shoulders hurt. Especially in parivrti trikonasana (triangle pose – #6) where I had to use a variant that would not send shooting pains in my shoulder blades.

That has improved drastically. It took some patience in the beginning to work through it but there was a fairly quick improvement. Then something seemed to open up and I believe I now have access to this posture (shoulders included) that I’ve never had before.

When my continuous practice breaks this is one quality that seems to fade slightly. My shoulders and shoulder blades become tensed and heavy and it takes another stretch of patient and continuous practice for me to experience them opening up again.

Lying Twists

The range of exploration I’ve experienced in this sequence is hard to out in words. The work in the posture was a dance between rigidity in my hips and my shoulders. The first steps were about simply gaining access to the posture and most of the work went into the hips. Then when they opened up (to places I’d known before) the exploration extended into the shoulders and then the muscle-chains that connect the two areas.

I have an unusualy mixed relationship with this posture. On the one hand I feel that between the hips, shoulders and breath I could continue exploring and refining it forever. On the other hand I am beginning to feel that I have completed this posture and that there is an opportunity to move to wider variations.

Like my shoulders in parivrti trikonasana, here my hips aptly reflect life tensions. Also like the shoulders, a continuous and attentive practice brings back release and space … even quicker than it comes to the shoulders.

Stamina – Stretching Consciousness

My physical stamina is still very low (or at least thats how I perceive it). To me its not just about stamina … I think vitality is a better word … though in this context it is expressed as physical vitality.

I meet it most in the forward bends (standing and sitting). If I consciously meet these postures on a physical level (which is the default) I experience a heaviness and a resulting effort. When this happens I am fairly quickly able to make what is at first a physical shift: relating to them as stretches rather then lifts. The first impact this has on me is less physical effort by subtly working more / smaller / subtle muscles – a little movement in a lot of places rather thatn a lot of movement in a few places.

However that is old news for me. What has become an interesting experience is a subtle shift in consciousness. The shift in physical awareness seems to echo back into a more subtle aspect of my consciousness and generates there a sensation of expansion and lightness (the opposite of heaviness). It is as if the lifting is no longer just a physical act but an act of consciousness. I cannot at this point in time say more about it … just that it is there, it is very subtle and intriguing.

Unlike my physical stamina in which I experience (and have always experienced) limitations … this stretching of consciousness feels potentially endless.

Pranayama

Though it isn’t really a pranayama practice, the ujjayi breathing sequence has been a fairly steady experience from the beginning. My sequence is as follows:

4.0.4.0 x4
6.0.6.0 x4
8.0.8.0 x4
10.0.10.0 x4
10.0.12.0 x4
10.0.15.0 x4
free x4

The first  formula (4 seconds) I don’t do much anymore. It was very useful in the beginning. Though I felt I could skip it I felt that when I did there was a subtle ruggedness in the rest of the sequence.

I was able to go up to 10.0.12.0 fairly quickly and comfortably. The exhale expanded to 15 soon after. Though that too may not be available to me when there are life-tensions reverberating through me.

Sitting

A couple of months into the practice sitting became a welcome place for me. I found myself staying and present in a seated position. My focus has been “I am  sitting”. Recently I’ve refined that to touching my thumbs and first fingers together and placing my attention on those point of contact.

I find myself wanting a more specific focus for sitting.

Eyes

In the beginning my eyes would not stay steadily and softly closed, they displayed plent of agitation. That has improved greatly, though there is still room for improvement.

Summary

The practice has been very supportive and educative. I am a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to navigate myself into such a practice. I am more grateful that I have a teacher that could support me.

I’ve asked my teacher to change the practice into a raksana (sustenance) practice. That will happen next week … which is what prompted me to finally write this long overdue post.

As winter sets it practicing gets trickier. The floor is getting colder and colder. I now practice on two layers of rigid foam insulation, a blanket and a yoga mat. I tend to practice in the middle of the day afer the rocket stove (and hopefully the day) has warmed the room. Though, because hot air rises, lying down on the floor is still getting colder (and the change is radical when kneeling and standing which bring me closer to warmth). I still have layers of clothes available to use. I hope to be able to benefit from the rest-space of winter and to sustain a regular practice throughout.

winteryogamat

Posted in Expanding, inside, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Two Women

n

Posted in Enjoy, Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Udacity Succumbing

n

This article about Udacity and its founder Sebastian Thrun was a fascinating read. It is impressive to read about a business leader that is not blinded by the indicators of success but looks for a deeper truth and tried to address it. However unlike the person who brought it to my attention I do not view this change as a positive “pivot” but rather as succumbing. This is the part of the text where disappointment set in:

“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment”

This is an old truth that has been recognized and challenged for some years now. Udacity was born into a reality where this truth no longer holds true (or at least not as obviously as Thrun presents it, and surely not as a “revelation”). Ironically Thrun already knows better, a truth that surfaces when he speaks of his own 5 year old son:

“In my son’s kindergarten, they’re telling us how to get him into Stanford,” he says. “By their advice, I’m doing everything wrong, because I’m trying to make him happy rather than putting him through as many piano lessons as possible.”

So which is it happiness or employment? (If you want to argue that the two are synonymous then please don’t waste my time and do so somewhere else)

What if many of the people who do not complete the courses or pass the tests are there out of … oh … curiosity? a passion to learn? what it they are not doing it for a job?

What would happen if Udacity would continue to be available to people as they seek out education in their lives?

What if instead of suddenly large streams Udacity would become another channel of education, one that challenges the foundations of the crumbling paradigms of modern day societies?

What if Udacity was able to remain present those who wish to learn for the sake of learning and do for the sake of doing?

But more importantly what is causing Udacity to succumb to dominant paradigms? I would suggest that one substantial compromise in its foundations causes this … the venture capital that went into it. Udacity can no longer do for the sake of doing, that has been undermined with a need to do for the sake of making a profit. It is also I believe a key difference between it and the not-for-profit KhanAcademy (which apparently inspired Thrun to create Udacity in the first place) who have stayed true to their path with a simply stated, clear and humble purpose of free education for all.

The irony of it all is that Udacity doesn’t need to pivot. Maybe Udacity needs to re-evaluate its attitude towards and understanding of its “failing” majority?

Posted in AltEco, Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

EdgeRyders and Living on the Edge 3

n

I am back (already a week) from a 10 day journey to Matera in Italy where partook in the LOTE3 EdgeRyders gathering. I have been hesitant about putting my thoughts into writing but decided to do so for my own personal journal. What, if anything, this may contribute to EdgeRyders is not on my mind as I write these words.

Travel

It was a demanding and inefficient journey which had many parts which did not come together nicely. Europeans seem to be used to traveling and traveling is fairly inviting if you live in Europe – a 2 hour flight can land you in a new world. This is new to me. I haven’t traveled much in my life and most of that was from Israel so flights were longer and more of a grandiose event.

Yet, I am quite happy with my “performance”. Half a year ago I would come back from a day in the city with a headache. No headaches this time … and this was much more demanding than a day in the city. It did take me a week to arrive completely (to be able to get on and stay present on the mat for an entire practice sequence).

We flew to and from Rome and made the journey from and to Rome by bus (6.5 hours). The journey to Matera was in the night so there was nothing to see. The journey from Matera was in the morning so I could see the part of Italy that we drove through … and there was still nothing to see. Roads, concrete and plowed fields … a look that seems to be taking over the world … making it all look the same … left with me with a sense of emptiness and disinterest.

Diversity

I was amazed by the diversity of people in this gathering (I was also pretty amazed that I was part of it). The group is filled with gifted people. The dominant vibe of the event was not one that appealed to me but that just made the gifts even more precious. In every session I was present in, no matter how I felt about it, there was a constant presence of precious moments where light would come to the surface and fill the space …  someone would say or do something that was deeply refreshing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in the presence of a more diverse and rich group of people. That is the crown jewel of this event for me. It is a precious and demanding social achievement.

Intellect and Spirit

There is a dominant voice in the community that I would describe as intellectual. I experience it as limiting and aggressive. It seems to radiate strongest from the group at the core of the community. It had a defensive flavour.

However I also sensed that there were other voices … voices from the heart (and other parts of the body). I was not present at the previous two LOTE events … but I wondered if this wasn’t a growing voice.

I had this image in my mind of a maturing energy. An energy that started as an intellectual pursuit but has (inadvertently?) drawn to it a spiritual pursuit. And these two voices have not yet found a harmonious existence.

I believe that intellect needs direction from the heart otherwise it is likely to get lost (and still seem very smart).

“The intellect’s evolutionary purpose has never been to discover an ultimate meaning of the universe. That is a relatively recent fad. It’s historical purpose has been to help a society find food,detect danger, and defeat enemies. It can do this well or poorly, depending on the concepts it invents for this purpose … Knowledge has grown away from this historic purpose and become an end in itself, just as society has grown away from it’s original purpose of preserving physical human beings … and this growing away … towards greater Quality is a moral growth. But those original purposes are still there. And when things get lost … it is useful to remember that point of departure.”

Robert Pirsig

Community

When practicing a long sequence of yoga postures breathing can be a challenge. My teacher taught me to observe the breath before continuing from one pracice to the next … he spoke of “waiting for the breath to cease to be demanding and to become at your service”.

I believe the purpose of community is to be in service of its individuals. The EdgeRyders experience was, for me, more demanding than nourishing … but that may be due to my own capacities and limitations.

Presence

There was a phase in my career where I had days and weeks of back to back meetings. I was impressed myself at the time for being involved and contributing to so many things.

Then I met Shahar and through him encountered a discipline of arriving. Dancers would take at least 30 minutes, sometimes an hour of lying on the floor allowing themselves time to arrive … allowing their emotions, thoughts and energy to join the physical body in the space. Having learned this skill I looked back at my “efficient” career and realized that I didn’t really attend most meeting. I was there in body but my mind was filled with contents from previous and upcoming meetings.

In LOTE3 I found myself in a reality I had heard of but never witnessed first hand. A room where people are sitting together but many participants are actively using laptops or smartphones.  In LOTE3 this activity had a worthy purpose – to document what was happening for the sake of others who were not present with us. But to me what this meant was that we weren’t really together in the first place. Granted there were some people who seemed to be really good at this … the skill to send out live twitter updates is impressive … one I do not have (nor one I care to develop). I can at best take a few notes … and that too I do knowing it will, even if shortly, detach me from the space.

Yoga

I came to LOTE3 to contribute to the Burning Edge theme by offering Yoga in the mornings. I shared this wish with the community and the community replied with keen interest … so I decided to go. Very few people showed up. From what I can tell, this was mostly due to the early hour (7:30am) coupled with the fact that many people stayed out to socialize (and drink) late into the night.

That made my investment in the community inefficient … almost wasteful.

To bring a further sense of irony to this story … there was the session itself about the burning edge. I was silent because I had too much to say and could not find something clear enough to contribute to the space. But my main train of thought was – for starters how about eating and sleeping better? … oh yeah … and trying out this Yoga thing in the mornings …

This example is a very subjective one … but I had the impression that the community is lacking in its ability to back intentions and words with actions … coherently, clearly and efficiently.

Design

The design session was shot down. It was a painful experience.

I am trying to harness the intensity of the experience into a constructive effort on the platform.

Conclusion

From where I am right now I do not intend to participate in another LOTE.

I am happy that EdgeRyders has lost its sheen of importance … that was quick … a sign of progress for me personally.

I am still curious about its potential and my ability to contribute to it.

It is very difficult to participate in such an event and maintain a bubble of visual privacy … it took lots of conscious effort for me to mostly stay out of the way of all the cameras that were active.

I did have an opportunity to make a few personal connections for which I am grateful.

I may have planted some seeds that may flower in the future … thought their maturity is out of my hands.

There were surprises which made the entire excursion a precious experience for me.

I’m happy that I went. I am happier to be back in my retreat.

On with life :)

Following are a few images that made their way into my camera (which I didn’t use too much). This is a live collection of media from the event and this is a nice gallery of photos.

 

 

 

Posted in About, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment