Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Showing Up

"Showing up is the most crucial piece. But just because you have the most crucial piece doesn't mean that you don't try to understand deeper. For instance, in asana, you use movement but what you want to understand is what propels the movement. You have to get specific because you want the access that specificity affords."
- Manorama
So continuing on in my effort to debrief some of the nuggets of wisdom that Manorama shared with us over the weekend. Early into her talk on Friday night she said this thing about showing up which I thought was really great. The thing is we do have to show up. We cannot win if we do not play. We won't get the benefits of practice if, well, we do not practice. Like that. I believe 100% in the power of showing up and, as Manorama pointed out, its the most important thing.

I also think we need to show up repeatedly until we are no longer in question about whether or not we are going to show up. In the sutras Patanjali refers to this as "being established in practice." (The firm ground is tended to over a long period of time with consistency and reverence.) So going to class only when the time is convenient is not being established, rolling our our mats on the days it is easy and we want to is not being established, and we know we are not established in practice if we find that every personal upset, disappointment and stress knocks us out of our life of practice. (I am not only talking about asana practice here. Carlos Pomeda said it this way: "Real Practice is an internal outlook that you maintain." So like that. )

But what I love about this teaching is the Manorama didn't stop with "just showing up" or let anyone rest in a state of complacency that just because they had "shown up" that meant their work was done for the night. That is the thing with the yoga path. There is always more required. There is always deeper to penetrate. And what allows us to do that is specificity.

For instance, approaching asana in a general way affords the general practitioner one level of access- a general level. And the cool thing is that if general satisfies you, then stay on that level. It is perfectly fine.

My opinion and experience is that approaching asana in a specific way affords us a deeper level of access- one that is nuanced, mature, and mindful and so that is the thing with alignment- it affords access. So often I cringe when I hear new Anusara Yoga teachers teach alignment from a "Right and wrong" approach. ("chautaranga is wrong if you let your arm bones drop forward") or from a fear-based approach ("you will injure yourself if you do not do it the way I am telling you") And these levels of inspiration really are just fine and we all use them some.

But I remember "back in the day" (Love saying that!) John more often than not, taught us alignment from the point of view of access. Get the shoulder principles, your cobra is deeper with no pain, access that and see what happens to up dog, let that access take you to raja kapotasana, to drop backs and and then look where you are for scorpion pose. Like that. True alignment never denies access to a pose.

And that is just the physical access. The heart based themes are all about gaining access to the Heart and the emotional body so the physical movement is fueled with the Highest meaning.

So Manorama was quite insistent that we use movement to get under the movement to stillness and in Sanskrit we use the sound to get after the deeper levels of quiet. And just like alignment in asana changes the pose, so too, in Sanskrit, does the alignment of our mouth affects the sounds we make and then in turn affects the way those sounds work on our consciousness.

So, what we are actually after as yogis- stillness through movement, quiet through sound. And while it is fine to approach things in a general way, there is an access that can only be found in specificity. The real question becomes do we want "in" to that level of access and will we pay the price required?


Marcia Tullous said...

Great post! Thank you for sharing.


Josie said...

Thank you thank you for the teaching alignment from access. I do admit using the fear-based and right and wrong approach before, and this gives me a focus on intention behind casual language. The more I can discuss the UPA'S in encouraging terms, the more I find that initial softening can occur. This post really hits home, thank you!