Thursday, October 24, 2013

Would you like to make me a little less lonely?

Earlier today, I was at Starbucks, reading Nietzsche and preparing for my class tomorrow morning. Yes, this is the first time I am officially teaching Nietzsche in my Intro to Ethics class, and I am quite excited about it. Oh, and by the way, I got my class to watch two episodes of Battlestar Galactica earlier this week (those two episodes which involved Starbuck crashing on that moon, and the crew of the Galactica mounting a search-and-rescue mission for her). I'm happy to report that most people seemed to really enjoy it.

But back to what happened earlier today. After reading Nietzsche for about an hour, I decided to take a little break. So I got out of Starbucks, and went for a little walk in the strip mall where the Starbucks was located. Probably because of the demanding nature of my second series practice earlier this morning, and probably also because of the fact that I was wearing some rather heavy walking shoes, I found myself unconsciously walking in a rather slow and deliberate manner in order to conserve energy. I also found myself walking up and down that same strip mall for 15 minutes, because there really wasn't anywhere else to go.

To a bystander, I probably looked rather preoccupied, maybe even a bit sad and lonely, because this middle-aged woman suddenly came up to me out of the middle of nowhere (or so it seemed to me), and remarked, "You look so lonely and sad. It must be hard to be so far from home. Unlike me: All of America is my backyard! Anyway, I've always wanted to go to Hong Kong... great banking industry!"

And then she walked away as suddenly as she had appeared. Hmm... Hong Kong? Banking? I'm guessing she must be referring to HSBC. Which is probably all that some Idaho hill-billy would know about Hong Kong, come to think of it...

What's even more interesting was my reaction to what she said. When I first heard what she said, my very first instinct was to go on the defensive ("How the hell do you know I'm from Hong Kong or from Timbuktu, you $%^#@?"). But I stopped myself from going there, because in some corner of my mind, I was entertaining the possibility that she might be some kind of psychic, or even a holy woman dressed as an Idaho hill-billy who has somehow decided to appear here in Pocatello, Idaho, to test my faith and to possibly magically grant me some siddhi. Best not to offend her, in case she is really a holy woman, I thought to myself.

My second instinct was to say something naughty, like "Well, would you like to make me a little less lonely...?" But, being the sort of person who is generally not quick on the uptake, she was already gone by the time I had come up with this reply in my mind. Come to think of it, if she really was a holy woman, it probably was a good thing that I did not say this, anyway. Being naughty with holy women is generally not a good way to go.

Then again, come to think of it, perhaps I really did look sad and lonely: Reading Nietzsche does that to you. And I think all the backbending I do also puts me in a rather pensive, somewhat sad state of mind at least some of the time. Not sad in a crying-your-eyes-out kind of way. But there's just this sense of accessing and coming into touch with certain feelings and emotions that you did not even know were there, and feeling them.

Anyway, what do you do?... Just another day, I guess...          

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Practice report, what gives?

Haven't been able to get myself to post here at all the last few weeks (wonder why?). It's only now, when I am procrastinating about doing something unpleasant (hint: what do college teachers do a lot of during midterm?), that I finally decided that writing a blog post is probably a little bit less unpleasant than having to do what I am procrastinating about doing.

Since this is supposed to be an Ashtanga blog, I suppose I'll start by saying a few things about my practice. Over the last couple of weeks, I have increased the number of second series postures in my practice while scaling back on primary. Here's the story: After coming back from Lino's Montana workshop last month, I incorporated half tick-tocks into my practice (see previous posts for more details on this). After a few days of doing this, it occurred to me that if I am strong enough to do half tick-tocks, I am probably strong enough to re-incorporate a whole bunch of second series postures back into my practice. Well, here's a little background story: when I moved to Idaho earlier this year, I scaled my practice all the way back to primary only in order to avoid injury. Since then, I have added back a few second series postures, but only up to Ardha Matsyendrasana.

But anyway, after I "received" the half tick-tocks from Lino last month, I started feeling like I might be up to doing more second series postures. I emailed Kino to ask for her opinion on this. She said that if I was feeling energetic after doing whatever I was doing at that point in my practice (which I was), that meant that I was ready to add on more postures. She suggested adding up to Pincha Mayurasana while at the same time scaling back to doing only half-primary in order to focus more on second series. 

So for the last two weeks, I have been following her suggestion, and doing half-primary followed by second up to Pincha. The first few days of this new practice were very interesting (well, actually, it still is, but that's another story). The first couple of days, I had to relearn how to balance in Pincha after not having done it for a year: The first day, for instance, I only managed to find my balance in Pincha on the fourth try.

But the biggest challenge thus far is probably Tittibhasana B. The first couple of days, I found that I couldn't bind in this pose. I consulted Kino about this, and wondered if this was due to added adipose tissue (as Gregor Maehle would put it). But somehow I didn't think that weight/girth was the issue: I can bind both sides in Mari D and Pasasana. Kino suggested that I work on lengthening across the shoulder girdle in the Marichyasanas: She thought it possible that a whole year of doing mainly primary series may have strengthened my rotator cuffs (which is great) at the expense of shoulder flexibility (which may be not so great). So I did accordingly, and tried to visualize my shoulder girdle lengthening across my leg when binding in the Marichyasanas.

The results have been mixed thus far. On "good" days like this morning, I can bind in Tittbhasana B (only at the fingers, wrist-clasping no coming yet...). On not-so-good days, I simply resign/accept the fact that the bind is not going to happen, and I walk up and down five times, looking very silly and foolish while doing so. Well, I suppose this means you won't get to see a video of me in Tittibhasana B anytime soon. But no worries. As some famous Cylon once said, "Do your practice, and all is coming."

"Do your practice, and all is coming." 


So I hear that in the last couple of weeks, there was a pretty big debate in some corners of the Ashtanga social-mediasphere/blogosphere around the question of whether unauthorized teachers should be "allowed" to teach Ashtanga, and whether authorized teachers who have supposedly signed some agreement at the time of their authorization not to teach TTs/workshops are breaking their contracts by teaching TTs/workshops.

I was going to write a long-ass post about this, because PJ Heffernan, one of the participants in this dialogue, is a teacher whom I have studied with and whom I greatly respect. But then I decided against it, since I am neither an authorized teacher nor an unauthorized teacher who is trying to teach Ashtanga. I decided that there is just too little skin in the game for me to justify getting myself involved in this debate, which may or may not be about anything important in the end. And it probably isn't, judging from the way things seem to have blown over... I mean, in the end, it's just about a few people blowing off some steam. When the steam/smoke clears, what do we get? The people who believe one thing will continue to believe and do their thing, and the people who believe the opposite will continue to believe and do the opposite. So what gives?

And moreover, the whole "burnt seeds" post that started off the whole thing (I'm too lazy to link to it here, but you can find the post on David Garrigues's blog) just has this annoyingly grating whiney tone to it ("Although I have not been to Mysore and am not authorized, I have studied with a whole bunch of burnt seeds who have. So I should be written into the lineage, and am worth something. If you don't recognize me to be part of the lineage and don't write me into it, you are being elitist/unfair/whatever. Yadayadayada..."). 

Gosh, who the hell is it that writes people into lineages, anyway?... Is it just me, or do we Ashtangis have this tendency to want, dare I say crave, recognition of our worth from others? Why do any of this matter, anyway? I mean, whatever you choose to recognize me as (or not recognize me as), nothing is going to stop me from stepping on my mat every morning and chanting the opening invocation and doing the practice. So again, what gives? Or maybe Ashtangis in the west are all products of the self-esteem movement ("If you don't recognize me to be part of the lineage, my self-esteem will suffer, and if my self-esteem suffers, I won't be able to practice properly, and you are to blame for it..."), and this whole burnt seeds thing is just an extension of the need for self-worth/self-esteem...

Ah well, what do I know? I said I wasn't going to write a long-ass post about this whole thing, but as it turns out, this is becoming long-ass-ish. But I should stop procrastinating and get to doing some real work, the sort of work where I really have some skin in the game. More later--whenever later might be these days.