Sunday, December 11, 2011

Singing in the Dead of Night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life, you were only for this moment to be free. Lennon-McCartney.

People have problems. We grant ourselves a certain majesty by allowing ourselves to simply see, and be a witness to our own circumstance, even before trying to change them. Just be there. I suppose this being where we are is what we practice when we do yoga poses.

The Sanskrit word for yoga posture is Asana. It’s sometimes translated as your seat. In yoga, like in life, it sometimes feels like you’re in the hot seat. Sometimes it feels like you’re sitting in the epitome of bliss. And sometimes it feels like you’re sitting behind the wheel of a 1960 Ford Falcon with whitewall tires, red leather interior, and a tired song on the am radio as you travel down some unknown dark road (random, I know but work with me). It’s hard to imagine that even in the darkest of nights, in the deep, cold winter when it feels as if the world will never warm again, that something miraculous can happen. But just like flashes of brilliant or subtle insight can come during a difficult asana, the light can shine in our dark moments of life and something inside us will illuminate. Maybe it’s because in these difficult places there’s no other choice. From the bottom and the dark there is only up and there is only light. Learn to fly with your broken wings because we’re all broken and maybe that’s the only way to fly. Everybody’s going through their own stuff and that’s why it’s wonderful to practice with other people, because comfort knowing that we are all working our stuff out together. And despite how destitute your situation may seem, this is the moment for you to learn to fly. Now, because there is only now. There is only the present. This is what we are practicing in yoga.

Let’s take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were waiting for this moment to arise.

See you in class.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yoga Under a Microscope

Yoga is a lot of things. It’s an art, it’s a philosophy, it’s therapy. Perhaps more than any of these yoga is a science. Science is often misunderstood as a bundle of facts—information that has been proven and is now called Truth. But science isn’t that at all. Science is only one thing: a method of inquiry. It’s a system of asking questions from which comes insight and clarity. So is yoga.

The scientific method is to start with a question: how can I better understand myself or my environment? Is there a better, less harmful, more efficient way to be in the world? How could I help alleviate the suffering around me with a cure for diseases? The question leads to a theory, the theory to experiments. Then comes the most profound part, the observation. Watching. Once the scientist sees, once the mystery is revealed through data, that data organized, translated, and applied, that information qualifies the observer for more refined questions, more refined data, and closer observation. This is the process of unraveling the mystery.

As any good scientist will tell you, the job of the scientist during an experiment is to watch and allow the subject to do whatever it’s going to do. Check your ego at the door. It’s not like the scientist is passionless about what they are studying. The reason they are watching, collecting data, working so hard, is because they feel they might be able to see something which hasn’t been seen before, to learn something new about the world, to understand something more profoundly. The process requires that the scientist simply be an observer and not to mess with the subject. Let it be. But then skillfully apply that information to the betterment or understanding of the world.

And I guess what yoga and scientific have in common is that they both lead toward understanding and they both center in observation. Maybe it’s the intention to understand and heal our bodies or to relieve tension. Maybe it’s the desire to heal a bruised heart or to find some mental quietness. Now we experiment using that which is most practical, basic and real—our bodies and breath. As we observe, we gather specialized information and start to see the nature or our being, pain or disquietude. This insight then invites us to ask even deeper, more refined questions and the process of inquiry continues.

Remember, it is all just a practice. It’s about asking the question even more than finding the answers. So, I invite you to come to yoga ready to observe and let’s practice without expectation.