Monday, November 21, 2011

Reading Dick, time, practice

I spent a big part of the weekend reading Time Out of Joint, a science-fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. I've never read anything by him before (I was going to write "I've never read any Dick before", but I thought that would have been in very bad taste... but hey, I've written it anyway, albeit parenthetically. Sigh...).

In any case, this is the first book I've read by him. I've heard lots of good things about him; apparently, a number of movies (Total Recall, Minority Report, Adjustment Bureau) were adapted from his novels. I'm not going to spoil the story for you by telling you what the book is about. But let me just say this: If Time Out of Joint is any indication, it seems that Dick's novels are not very fast-paced; the screen-writers who adapted his novels probably took a lot of liberties with the story, and spiced up the plot with lots of action scenes so that people like Tom Cruise and Matt Damon would look good in them. But if you can get past, say, the first fifty pages, the plot thickens, and you get so sucked into the story that you can't do anything else. Including blog; which explains my blog-silence over the weekend :-)

How can you possibly have time to get lost in a sci-fi novel when you have, like, a million other things to do? You may ask. Well, the same question can be posed about blogging as well: How can I possibly have time to blog when there are a million more, uh, "productive" things I could be doing? What about yoga? How can I possibly have time to spend a couple of hours each morning doing this thing called Ashtanga when I could be using that time to, say, write a book that will blow somebody's mind, or at least get more sleep?

The list of such "How can you possibly have time..." questions goes on and on indefinitely. The correct answer is probably "No, I don't have the time for any of this, objectively speaking. But I choose to do these things anyway. Why? I don't know... because I can't imagine not doing them?"  Or maybe it's because I instinctively know that a life spent not doing these things, while possibly more "efficient", would probably not be as fulfilling as this life. 


Practice this morning was quite good. Here are a few highlights and thoughts:

(1) In the Suryas, especially Surya B, I think I am increasingly getting the hang of floating back and forward into Uttanasana. For a while, I have been able to lift up into trini and kind of plop back into chatvari. It's only in the last couple of days that I started to figure out how to do the reverse (floating forward into Uttanasana). I think the trick is to pretend that I am jumping through, but lower my feet at the last moment, so that I end up landing in Uttanasana instead of jumping all the way through. The trick, I guess, is to pretend to such a degree that your body actually believes that it is going to jump through, and then trick your body, and lower your legs to the ground at the last moment. I'm still unable to hover above the ground just before I land, the way people like Kino and David Robson are able to, but not to worry; do my practice, and all is coming... :-)

(2) I think I am making progress in locating the spot in my mid-back that is not open in backbends (at his Minneapolis workshop back in July, Matthew Sweeney told me that my mid-back needs opening; see this post). I'm not exactly sure how and exactly when this happened, but something last week, while going into Kapotasana, it suddenly occurred to me that my mid-back is really lower down my back than where I previously thought it was. Pretty funny when I put it into words, don't you think? That I shouldn't know where my mid-back is, when it has been on my body my entire life! But I think this is what makes yoga practice so intriguing; it's one thing to be able to locate the mid-back on an anatomical diagram, or even to touch your own mid-back in an everyday setting. But to be able to bring forth the prioproceptive awareness to actually know where it is and get it to open up during a backbend... now that is an entirely different ballgame.

In any case, as I was saying, sometime last week, I suddenly had this awareness in kapo that my mid-back is actually lower down my body than where I thought it was; with this awareness came the realization that I had been spending too much energy trying to open that which does not need to be opened further (my upper back), neglecting that which needed to be opened more. Over the last week or so, I have been working on bringing more awareness to this new-found place. I think it's causing my kapotasana to open a bit more easily.

(3) My left knee is not 100 hundred percent recovered, but it's better.     

(4) Lately, I've begun to wonder if breakthroughs in practice can sometimes be a double-edged sword. For instance, I discover a new way to open up something in my body, which leads to a breakthrough in one area (say, floating in the Suryas or landing Karandavasana). But unbeknownst to me, the breakthrough causes me to use certain muscles or to move my body in a certain way, creating imbalances in some other part of the body. Which might then lead to injury. Which then requires scaling back the practice to heal the injury and hopefully, going back to the same place in the practice at a later point in time with a wiser and more balanced mind-body. If this is correct, then it seems that "progress" in practice might often be a 2-steps-forward, 1-step-back kind of process. Do any of you out there have this feeling?


  1. Philip K. Dick. What a wonderful discovery. Congratulations! And yes, as our dear friend Kinogate always says, 5 steps forward, 4 and a half steps back. A real champ celebrates the remaining half step forward. And then once you`re really a champ, you`re perhaps beyond celebrating. =) Always a pleasure to read your posts, Nobel. Take care of that knee!

  2. OH I was a big science fiction fan at one time but I've never read him, thanks for the recommendation. Love the book recommendations! Good luck with the knee- mine is slightly better but I was waiting for the ardha baddha paddmottanasana bind to report success.
    I hadn't thought of an opening in one place leading to an imbalance or perhaps revealing an imbalance somewhere else, but that makes so much sense. No seriously, that's a huge realization. Thank you.
    Spelling geek says proprioceptive. Sorry.

  3. Thanks Erica. 5 steps forward, 4 and a half steps back... I'll remember that :-)

    Glad to know your knee is better, DeborahS. Thanks for the spell-check too :-)

  4. you MUST read Dick's The Man in the High Castle. I LOVE IT. :) Do read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Blew my mind away.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations, yoginicory. I've heard about The Man in the High Castle. Will check it out soon. I'll also check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.