Do You See What I See?

lotusI see yet another subject icon!  I realized that I also write about my journey toward instructor certification and what’s happening in my Saturday classes.  With that in mind, do to some very unforeseen expenses that reared their ugly heads last week, I had to drain my instructor fund.  Oddly enough, the money is still unspent but it’s basically waiting for the other shoe to drop as it were.  I’m not giving up, although this will set me back about a year.

Continuing the instructor theme, the classes the last two Saturdays have been great even with the low attendance.  Two weeks ago J came and this week she brought E along for the ride.  My wife is still the only one to brave the 7AM session.  I’ll admit it though, I enjoy the time with my wife but I’m not so sure how much she gets from it . . . my voice tends to put her to sleep.  She’s always claimed that she falls asleep because my voice is so soothing—I often wonder if that doesn’t really just mean that she’s bored to tears.

I often find that one of my most powerful attachments is routine.  My oldest boy has autism and while he is not absolutely bound to routines and schedules, unexpected disruptions of either causes him emotional distress.  I am much the same, working a 4/10 schedule I prefer to have Friday off rather than Monday because part of my Sunday routine is to mentally prepare for work the next day.  Switching that routine causes me no end of grief.  I also am much more comfortable with symmetry.  When I practice at home, my mat is evenly centered on my practice floor.  When I teach each Saturday, we’re in a room with hardwood floors; more often than not, my mat is lined up with the slats in the floor and centered on the midpoint of the wall behind me.  To try and change that somewhat, two weeks ago I set my mat in the center of the room so I was facing the wall instead of having my back to it.  Still, I was nicely centered where I was.  This past Saturday, I thought I had done a marvelous job breaking from my routine by placing my mat diagonally toward a corner of the room.  I even went so far as to point this out to the second hour class.  It was then that I realized that my mat was perfectly aligned on the diagonal of the room.

OMWhy worry about routine?  Why worry about how my mat is aligned with the room?  Because it is important that we not become routine, especially in our practice of Yoga.  Routine blinds us to the different possibilities that surround us.  Instead we should both embrace the familiar and try to see it through new eyes.  How many times have you come into tadasana during your practices?  When was the last time you thought about your toes, your shoulders or gluteus maximus during this pose?  I am constantly finding that all three areas are tensed, even though they don’t need to be.  If I simply come into tadasana and don’t make a conscious effort to think about these areas, then I suddenly realize that they are all tight as a bow string.  Even subtler, what about the alignment of your head, neck and back?

There are, of course, great benefits to routine.  If I practice the same poses in the same sequence every single day then I will quickly reach a point where I no longer have to think about what pose is next and my asana practice flows along almost dance-like.  Such a practice could easily become meditation in motion.  Just like walking the same path day after day, however, such a routine will limit one’s ability to see new vistas and may even dull the senses to the point that sublte changes in the path walked go unnoticed.  Routines give us stability at the price of being blinded to new things.  Change and variety give grand new panoramas at the expense comfort and security.  Both are invaluable.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi