Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not Normal

Well, the thing I keep thinking about is that yoga is really not about being normal.

This idea has been in my head a lot over the last few weeks and after a weekend diving into the Hatha Yoga Pradipka with Carlos Pomeda, I am more convinced of it than ever. Yes, I know lots of normal people do yoga. In fact, I know plenty of people who work 9 to 5 jobs, go to church on Sunday, have families, pay their bills, drive mini vans, watch TV, go on vacations to places other than yoga retreat centers and conferences, eat fast food and also practice asana. I know that people of all walks of life, in fact, practice asana. Fancy people, plain people, rich people, not-so-rich people all practice asana these days.

But you know, I cannot shake the feeling that while some of the practices and principles of yoga may helps us cope better with conventional life- we will be more clear-headed, sharp-minded, fit-bodied and so on with regular practice and if we are lucky we will grow more patient, more centered, more focused and compassionate- I still maintain that yoga practice has probably never really been about conventional life. And just so we are clear, I am just kind of musing and thinking out loud tonight and so its not like I have a lot of facts in my back pocket to whip out and share with the group. I don't. It is not that kind of discussion.

And while two paragraphs ago, I gave a whole long list of exterior symptoms of "normal" the real not-normal part is internal, I suppose. Because even if the outside looks normal, the inside world of the yogi might be quite radical. And in spending some time with the Hatha Yoga Pradipka this weekend it was just so clear that this whole thing was a radical undertaking from the get-go. It was engaged by serious practitioners who were not dabbling in or exploring how they "might get a sense of inner peace" but who were focused entirely on the task of spiritual awakening and liberation. Those are our roots. It just blows me away.

In a good way. In an inspiring way. In a kind of sobering way. All at the same time. The thing is that these early texts are so not about "being happy" or "being successful" or even "being yourself" in the way we ften talk about it as modern practitioners. Originally hatha yoga was for one thing- raise kundalini for your awakening. So I suppose if you got happier along the way, great. But the point was awakening. Period.

Anyway, I have no real point to make other than there have been times over the years where I felt any likelihood of "normal" quite decidedly slipping away from me. Most days, I don't worry about that because I know that I am not- nor have I ever been- cut from the cloth labeled "normal". But sometimes I watch myself worry and I feel a sense of disconnect from some notion of "normal" and that disconnect can feel a bit unsettling to a part of me. But other times and maybe tonight is one of those times, it seems perfectly clear that some inner corner has been turned and there is no going back and that the inner not-normal is quite well established.

I mean I have tried to care about news, weather, sports and what college people went to and which model of BMW is most desirable. I have. But I don't. And while I suppose I could try again, I doubt I will more successful in the future. But what I do love and care about is a weekend of being reminded that this yoga we do is really about Consciousness. It is about our deepest potential awakening within us. It is about a radical notion that we might align in a profound and Real way with the force of Life itself and be consumed. And that this process is ultimately worthwhile.

Yep. Not normal. But worthwhile.


Dale said...

Q: What is the path to God?
A: You cannot walk to the sky.

Afton said...

I have never cared about things that people my age have. I have always thought more like a 50 year old woman (in some cases). What is normal anyway?

Barefootlotuss said...

Normal is having the space and time to sit and thoughtfully digest what you just wrote.

Jeremiah Wallace said...

I find this pretty interesting as I have recently been thinking a lot about normality and actually how yoga seems to be pulling me MORE into a path of normality. I personally have known from the get-go that I was not normal. That seemed to be pretty apparent to me since I was probably 2 years old. And one of the things that I actually have been finding quite upsetting is that I feel that I'm becoming more normal through the path of yoga (not talking about the asana or philosophy schools, just the process of this). And to me, that's much more scary. Coming to a point where I have may have to actually choose, do I want to shift to normality as this process seems to be taking me there, or do I want to hold on to my otherness? That, of course, brings up a whole aspect of aparigraha for later, but either way- the kinda sucky thing is... either way you have to live with your choices. Good and bad consequences come with them, and you have to live with them. You have to choose. So how do you choose which one is right for you? Especially since either one would work, they're simply different...

I found it also interesting that you said "the real not-normal part is internal, I suppose." Your sister recently sent me a quote that I liked and definitely continued to provoke my thought on the subject:

"There are some of us who have to pay for our faith every step of the way and who have to work out dramatically what it would be like without it and if being without it would ultimately be possible or not." Flannery O'Connor.

For me, it almost always goes that everything radically happening on the inside manifests strongly on the outside as well. In my actions, my words, my expressions, and everything I create, no matter the form. My "internal not-normal" is just as external. As I have written before "No escondo. No me escondo, no me escondo de otros, y no me escondo de las tormentas que vienen." Or "I don't hide. I don't hide from myself, I don't hide from others, and I don't hide from the storms that come."

So this is probably something I should have just posted on my own blog, but oh well. Here you have it, typical of me, I'm putting it all out there where it very well may not belong.

Anne-Marie Bowery said...

Well, at least you have plenty of company on the not normal path to awakening.

Socrates says the unexamined life is not worth living, that sounds normal enough, but most people don't examine... but beyond that he's also continually described of, both by himself and by others as "strange." Atopos.
literally without a place, alien in the world around him. For him, philosophy was the path of strangeness or embracing the strange to find where and with what we most deeply abide. more on that on the philosophy blog.

Dale said...

Hey J -
Normal is only a word, and often not a very useful one, because it tends to bind the thinking. Try this, if you get bored: Think about your quandary without using the word Normal, & see what you come up with - how do you describe the two states or paradigms that you are juggling? Then eliminate those words from your thinking. Use the technique to really drill down on what you are thinking & feeling, without borrowing other's thinking by using their words.

And then consider, do you have to choose in the same terms that you were thinking before, or in the course of you analysis, did you perhaps move toward a synthesis?

Marcia Tullous said...

Hi Christina,

Sounds like a powerful experience all around. Thank you for this entry and this perspective. I guess it's about taking an honest look at all sides: inside, outside, upside and downside, in order to fully come alive. It's not just about purpose and happiness. It's also about courage and commitment in the midst of it all.

If I don't get to see you before you go, safe travels. I will look forward to seeing you again soon.


mark said...

you are definitely not normal. :-)

Leanne said...

Normal is overated. Normal means you don't push the boundaries and you don't ask "why?". Normal means that you let the flow push you rather than actively swimming in it and looking around to admire the view as you go. Normal is a veiled life.....

Leanne said...

Love the new picture btw....:>)

Eco Yogini said...

this was an interesting post. I think that often we get caught up in the everyday, and yoga helps bring us back on the path of just that- connected consciousness.

thank you for the reminder :)