I had a lovely time this morning with Focus on Form. It was nice to have so many folks in class. We worked a lot with getting the back leg to go back in all of the standing poses and keeping it back while we outer spiralled the front leg. (yes, I verbed that noun. But do you know that anyone who gets upset that people are verbbing nouns is doing just that! Think about it. Okay, I digress.) Also we worked a lot with stabilizing the back calf (shin loop) in order to gain access to the top of the thigh (thigh loop). Lots of technical work- but well, it is a class called Focus On Form after all! Anyway, we took all that work into various lateral angle poses like parsvakonasana, trikonasana, ardha chandrasana, parsva utthita hasta padangusthasana and then culminated that work with a foray into bird of paradise which was fun. Good times.
As far as a theme, I worked with one of my favorite considerations from Douglas Brooks' teachings. I remember years ago that he said, "Yoga is not a path of freedom. It is a path of exquisite bondage." It made a huge impression on me, this teaching. His point was that the path is about binding ourselves to those beliefs, actions and choices that align us with what matters the most to us. In some ways, I think he was encouraging us to do that consciously, because really we are always doing that on some level, whether we know it or not. (Like one time I was listening to a talk about value clarifications and the speaker said, "if you do not know what you value, open your check book and see what you spend your money on. That will give you a very clear picture of what you value." Me,based on that evaluation tool, I value Kelly's education, Whole Foods, yoga, my dogs and clothes. Very simple. With an occasional mani/pedi and massage.)
So I am not saying that the check book register is a fool proof system of self-awareness in this domain but still it can be quite illuminating! So the point of that little digressing was simply to say we are binding ourselves in our actions all the time. (like Krishna in the Gita- Never am I without action...) The question is- are we doing it consciously and in accordance with our deeper urges and longings as opposed to the surface whims, fancies and addictions?
And again, just so we are clear, I do not believe in some kind of sermonizing about this. The point is that if we bind ourselves to our own Heart, to what matters most to us, then discipline becomes a very different kind of thing than some outside list of do's and don't and endless admonitions on the topic of how to be better and so on. Discipline becomes those actions we take that bind us to our own hearts, that align us with our own values and help bring our deepest aspirations to life.
And, of course, the problem arises when we have competing aspirations at the different levels of who we are. One of the most useful teaching I think from the Fourth Way School is a teaching from G.I. Gurdjeiff who said "Man is Legion." He was talking about how each of us have a legion of people inside of us. He called it having multiple "I's." He suggested that, for instance, while we do have a "Yogi I" who is really on board for the holistic program and is geared up to go the distance, we may also have a "party girl I" who is not so interested in the early morning Mysore practice. We have the "open minded I" who can see any situation from many sides and she is often in a battle with the "rigid I" who says only one thing can be true at one time. And so on.
So when we talk about consciously binding ourselves to our Hearts, its not to say that its always some easy, gentle, open-hearted kind of thing. Just so we are clear, those different "I's" can put up quite a fight when they start to feel threatened that they are losing their dominion over our choices! And it can take a long time to sort out which voice inside us is the best one to listen to. A lot of us ardent types have a pretty critical "I" in there who poses as a sincere yogi and who is always convincing us that we need to be more pure, more disciplined, less relaxed, and so on. And some folks have a "slacker I" in there posing for a "chilled-out yogi"!
Anyway, what we can do is keep practicing and we can bind ourselves to the game of staying in place, of staying established in practice. And we can keep asserting the wisdom of our own hearts with the full knowledge we are going to miss the mark repeatedly and sometimes in big, messy, embarrassing and humbling ways. It's pretty much a guarantee, the way I see it.