Starting the day inwards

After three weeks of getting up and going straight to work, I am welcoming the chance to have some space in the morning. Some space to stretch, some space to not immediately get busy, some space to relax and connect. To relax first thing in the morning… seems odd that I’d need to, having rested a whole night, but there it is: tension on waking. Sleep isn’t necessarily restful. So, instead of two hours of computers, video players, storage systems, this morning it’s been two hours of gentle stretches, sustained poses, relaxation and sitting quietly, gauging where I’m at today, the issues, short and long term, how I am feeling. Basically, being in touch and going in instead of out, to start the day.

Surely, love is not a thing of the mind; and because the things of the mind have filled our hearts, we have no love. The things of the mind are jealousy, envy, ambition, the desire to be somebody, to achieve success. These things of the mind fill your hearts, and then you say you love; but how can you love when you have all these confusing elements in you? When there is smoke, how can there be a pure flame?

– Krishnamurti, Book Of Life, 12 April

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Second Class

Yesterday evening I taught the second weekly class. It felt very different this time. Last time I didn’t really feel present and wasn’t really sure how the whole thing went. I was rushing through the poses and nervous. This time I was much more comfortable, steady, relaxed and paced the postures better. I felt the nerves and continued gently. I really enjoyed teaching. It is a very new experience for me. I’ve never really taught anything in my life, apart from helping individuals with computer issues. This is very good learning for me, to be in front of a group, to be using my voice, to be sharing. I relish the opportunity to teach in a non-commercial atmosphere at Brockwood Park, not having to be concerned with class sizes, paying for a studio and all that malarky. That may come but for now I’m keeping it simple.

So we come to that point when we know there is this extraordinary sense of self-isolation. We may have a very good job, work furiously, but inwardly there is this tremendous vacuum. We want to fill that and dependence is one of the ways. We use dependence, amusement, church work, religions, drink, women, a dozen things to fill it up, cover it up. If we see that it is absolutely futile to try to cover it up, completely futile – not verbally, not with conviction and therefore agreement and determination – but if we see the total absurdity of it … then we are faced with a fact.

– Krishnamurti, Book of Life, 10 March

March 8

The birds outside are now in time with the birds in the alarm clock
Six o’clock
They sound much the same
The mornings are getting lighter
Easier to get up
Beginning the day with a stretch
Breathe and relax
Breathe and relax
The sun is warming now, after a long winter

There is only attachment; there is no such thing as detachment. The mind invents detachment as a reaction to the pain of attachment. When you react to attachment by becoming “detached,” you are attached to something else. So that whole process is one of attachment. You are attached to your wife or your husband, to your children, to ideas, to tradition, to authority, and so on; and your reaction to that attachment is detachment.

– Krishnamurti

The Brown Celtic Warrior

I look at the keys. I don’t know what to write.
They are not keys. They are lights on a screen.
Early morning. I wanted to stay in bed.
After two snoozes, some yoga.
Why are snoozes always nine minutes?
It’s interesting to do some yoga despite the reluctance.
Mostly in yoga I have gone with the reluctance.
But yoga is long-term, requiring a little regularly.
Some pratapana, some standing poses.
Warrior.
I don’t feel like a warrior.
My name means ‘brown celtic warrior’.
That’s funny.

Why do we divide life into the thing called good and the thing called evil? Is there not actually only one thing, which is a mind that is inattentive? Surely, when there is complete attention, that is, when the mind is totally aware, alert, watchful, there is no such thing as evil or good; there is only an awakened state.

– Krishnamurti

Early Starts

A new experiment: getting up at 0545 to start work at six. That means I’m finished by lunchtime. (Yes, Sunday is the start of my working week, laughing at blasphemy) After a long post-lunch kip, I didn’t even know what day it was, and thought I had to work again. The rest of the day spent lounging around on the bed, which is in the living room right now, further causing disorientation. So, just a short sleep in the day. I liked the first hours at work, just me as the sun rose. By the time the work day had properly started, I was already three hours in. Standing in the bathroom at 0550 it was soooo tempting to go back to bed. The warm bed…

Started Om Yoga proper today – the start of my week. Today: Sun Salutations, the best known of all the vinyasa flows. Sun salutations in the afternoon? Yes, it was a disorientating day all right.

To escape from that fear- that fear of emptiness, that fear of loneliness, that fear of stagnation, of not arriving, not succeeding, not achieving, not being something, not becoming something – is surely one of the reasons, is it not, why we accept beliefs so eagerly and greedily? And, through acceptance of belief, do we understand ourselves? On the contrary. A belief, religious or political, obviously hinders the understanding of ourselves. It acts as a screen through which we look at ourselves. And can we look at ourselves without beliefs? If we remove these beliefs, the many beliefs that one has, is there anything left to look at? If we have no beliefs with which the mind has identified itself, then the mind, without identification, is capable of looking at itself as it is – and then, surely there is the beginning of the understanding of oneself.

– Krishnamurti

Om Yoga

Woo! A new yoga book Caroline bought me. I like yoga books; I have many. This one is nice and simple: Om Yoga by Cyndi Lee. It has crayon drawings by the author and sets out a daily practice for every day of the week, according to the tendency of that day. As Thursday is my Friday, I started with that day. A backbend-emphasis session. I like her straightforward style, with very clear diagrams. This book will be my guide for a while. Practicing along with someone – a teacher, a friend, a book, a DVD, an audio – always teaches me something fresh, a new approach. I also like chanting Om. It’s not a religious, or spiritual thing, it’s just an Om.

Cyndi Lee:

Relax your face and your opinions

Krishnamurti:

The stronger the beliefs, the stronger the dogmas. And when we examine these beliefs- the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist- we find that they divide people. Each dogma, each belief has a series of rituals, a series of compulsions which bind man and separate man. … We consider belief in God, the belief in something, as religion. We consider that to believe is to be religious.

The end, the beginning

And that’s it! Four weeks of early(ish) mornings, daily asana, continuing when in the past I have given it a miss. Previously, I could find any excuse not to do yoga. Any excuse will do. But for four weeks I have listened to the excuses, the reluctance and resistance and done it anyway. That’s not to say one should force oneself to do it if there is a real feeling that it’s not the right thing. But yoga can be incredibly gentle and done no matter how fragile or tired one is feeling. If I’d made an excuse and not been there on the mat, it could take days and sometimes weeks to get back to it, knowing I was missing something but not sure what. The feeling of yoga can’t really be remembered, but when it’s back, you know it. It’s like your life is happening again. The beauty of it is ‘doing it’ on the bad as well as the good days. I heard of ‘fair-weather meditators’, who only sit when they are feeling pretty good, and never have a hard sit. The real learning takes place being in touch, whatever one is feeling that day, that moment.

So, to continue a daily practice without the model of a 28-day plan… here we go! And why not?

So, for the last time, a quote from Hittleman’s Thoughts for the Day:

You will discover that your body will never allow you to go for more than a few days without performing the exercises, because it will know intuitively that this is what is required for you to feel you are functioning at your best.

The book is available here (US) or here (UK)

Krishnamurti, from Book of Life, January 28:

To observe and see the fact, the actual, the what is. If I approach it with an idea, with an opinion – such as “I must not,” or “I must,” which are the responses of memory, then the movement of what is is hindered, is blocked; and therefore, there is no learning.

Candle Gazing

Kind of like a birthday present, the 27th day of the course is relaxation, breath and candle gazing. I really like the candle gazing; I hadn’t done it for a long long time. Darken the room, look at the flame of a candle without moving the eyes or head for about two minutes. Extinguish the flame and close your eyes. You will see the image of the flame. Keep looking upon this image. It will fade every now and then but you will find it again. The colours are amazing, and the image will subtly change over the course of the watching. It seems like a universe away and it seems closer than anything you have ever seen. It’s to aid concentration, but I prefer it as an aid to let go of any concentrating and just see.

Hittleman:

The individual is freed from the terribly confining limitations of what she has heretofore conceived of as me or I and the necessity of protecting the phantom known as the ego.

Krishnamurti:

When we are aware of ourselves, is not the whole movement of living a way of uncovering the me, the ego, the self? The self is a very complex process which can be uncovered only in relationship, in our daily activities, in the way we talk, the way we judge, calculate, the way we condemn others and ourselves. All that reveals the conditioned state of our own thinking, and is it not important to be aware of this whole process?

The days are strange, the nights are weird.

Woke from dreams of military hardware, huge vehicles that could roll over anything, hundreds of them converging at Avebury to meet the media.

The days are strange, the nights are weird.

It’s day 26, of 28 – only a relaxation day and full review now left of the course. The daily asana will continue though. Today: ‘advanced’ positions.

Hittleman:

Every movement and aspect of yoga is completely natural, designed solely for development of human potential.

Krishnamurti:

Under the shelter of an authority, a guide, you may have temporarily a sense of security, a sense of well-being, but that is not the understanding of the total process of oneself. Authority in its very nature prevents the full awareness of oneself and therefore ultimately destroys freedom; in freedom alone can there be creativeness.

Walls, firewalls.

So, yeah, you’ll hit some walls, probably firewalls; you are going to get burned. That’s pretty tough and it’s the only way in this yoga thing. Or the only way I know. I am suspecting that the hard part, the burning, is my own resistance to what wants to be released. The holding on. When I stay with it and breath, or just take it easy and allow, the feeling fades in awareness. Or rather, the feeling is still there but my reaction to it entirely changes.

I rested the whole day yesterday, sleeping most of the morning, on and off, otherwise breathing, relaxing, then watching recorded TV and two movies in bed. Somewhere during Jules et Jim, evening time, the shift came and there was light once more, something like hope, a thrill in my heart for life. This morning I took the asana very gently, feeling a little weak and slightly dizzy at times. Why go through any of this? Because the alternative, staying safe, comfortable, keeping any real feelings at a distance, is a horror, is not living, is a life-half lived. I know this. I am interested in a whole life. That seems to involve some inner ‘work’. Which may not require any work at all – the hardest and the easiest thing.

Hittleman:

We derive the most benefit from our sleep when it is deep and restful. One hour of deep sleep is worth many hours of fitful tossing and turning. The bed should be as firm as the body will tolerate; the head raised only slightly to permit good circulation. The stomach should be empty, which means no eating for two hours before retiring; this includes hot milk, cocoa, tea. You cannot sleep restfully if the digestive system has to work.

Krishnamurti:

Without self-knowledge, experience breeds illusion; with self-knowledge, experience, which is the response to challenge, does not leave a cumulative residue as memory. Self-knowledge is the discovery from moment to moment of the ways of the self, its intentions and pursuit, its thoughts and appetites. There can never be “your experience” and “my experience”; the very term “my experience” indicates ignorance and the acceptance of illusion.

Dark Days

One problem with following a course in a book is the disproportionate time it takes for some classes. Today’s review took one and a half hours, including the sitting still. Some days take only 20 minutes. I’m feeling pretty exhausted and… unusual. Major yoga class at the school on Friday and today’s mega review. It’s not the asana itself which is tiring for me but what it can bring up. There will be some dark days, some detoxing, some build up before release is possible again. It goes in cycles.

Hittleman:

Select a day during which you can rest and relax. Eat nothing at all for that day, simply drink pure water whenever thirsty.

Krishnamurti:

If you want to know what you are, you cannot imagine or have belief in something which you are not. If I am greedy, envious, violent, merely having an ideal of non-violence, of non-greed, is of little value…. The understanding of what you are, whatever it be – ugly or beautiful, wicked or mischievous – the understanding of what you are, without distortion, is the beginning of virtue.

Torso > Limbs

Problem areas. One of mine is the hamstrings. If you have been practising yogasana for fifteen years you are supposed to be able to touch your toes, right? Right?? Well I can’t. And it doesn’t matter. Stretching, breathing into, relaxing the muscles is the important thing. Devarshi, the instructor on the Kripalu Teacher Training course has a good point. He said that the health of the body doesn’t come from the limbs but from the torso. This is because it holds all but one of the major organs, the nervous system, spine, and you know, all the main stuff (apart from the brain box). The impressive yoga postures do fancy things with the limbs. Everyone asks a yogi: Can you put your foot behind you head? Well, no I can’t, and I don’t really want to. You look daft doing that, and it doesn’t do you that much good. So on I go, gently manipulating the torso, the organs, the spine in different ways, getting healthier. And yes, the limbs get a nice stretch too.

Hittleman is talking about smoking today, but one can substitute any habit:

It is very difficult to overcome any habit through the application of will power. This approach is fraught with a continual inner conflict, and failure usually leaves a person feeling guilty and inadequate. The practice of yoga frequently decreases and eventually eliminates the desire for smoking. This occurs in a natural, subtle manner, often hardly noticed by the student. One day she discovers that, “I’ve lost the taste for it.”

Krishnamurti:

Self-knowledge is obviously a process, not an end in itself; and to know oneself, one must be aware of oneself in action, which is relationship. You discover yourself, not in isolation, not in withdrawal, but in relationship-in relationship to society, to your wife, your husband, your brother, to man; but to discover how you react, what your responses are, requires an extraordinary alertness of mind, a keenness of perception.

Yogasana

I am into the fourth week of the course, with only six days to go. On January 1st, it wasn’t so much a resolution to ‘do’ yoga every day because I find resolutions are made by one part of me and another part will sooner or later rebel, and the good intention will come crashing down. The good intention is often a bully in disguise, riddled with should. So, rather than a resolution it was something to play with, grounded in the knowing that it is a beneficial step to have a sustained daily practice.

I put ‘do’ yoga in quotes because yoga isn’t really an activity, at least for me. The way the word is used generally is describing an activity, like tennis is used to describe a sport. Rather, the word yoga is like a result, not something you can do yourself. It’s like the word tao. You don’t do tao, it happens. Yoga happens. Sometimes. And is encouraged by the physical yoga, the asana.

It’s term time at the school, meaning there is a weekly class for staff this evening. I plan to add to this with my own class, maybe on Sundays. Instead of ‘yoga’, I will advertise it as yogasana, the physical movements leading, possibly, to yoga. Except no one will really know what the poster is on about… But I like the term.

Hittleman:

The intelligence and wisdom that lie within will make you acutely aware of those things that are of benefit to your organism and those that are harmful.

Krishnamurti:

Even when I have rejected all the outward expressions of authority – books, teachers, priests, churches, beliefs – I still have the feeling that at least I can rely on my own judgment, on my own experiences, on my own analysis. But can I rely on my experience, on my judgment, on my analysis? My experience is the result of my conditioning, just as yours is the result of your conditioning, is it not? I may have been brought up as a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu, and my experience will depend on my cultural, economic, social, and religious background, just as yours will. And can I rely on that?

A potential contradiction between the quotes today. And yet Hittleman speaks of something beyond knowledge and authority. I.e. Intelligence and wisdom are not related to authority and accumulated knowledge.

Hallucinating while the owls hoot

I’m sure we are meant to sleep longer this time of year. In winter, I need way more than the eight hours I usually like and get. Today is one of those days when I know I won’t fully shake the dreams my brain was doing in the night. All kinds of craziness in there.

My brother posted a great cartoon yesterday from webcomic xkcd about how casually we take dreaming. A guy is about to take a nap:

“I’m gonna go comatose for a few hours, hallucinate vividly, then maybe suffer amnesia about the whole experience.”

How weird is that? Sometimes I want to sleep forever and let the whole shebang unwind to some kind of sanity.

So, I was half asleep through asana this morning, as the third week comes to an end. Pretty pleased: yoga every day for three weeks.

Hittleman:

Turn your attention inward, become sensitive to the true requirements of your organism and learn how to fulfil those needs.

Krishnamurti:

Authority of any kind is blinding, it breeds thoughtlessness; and as most of us find that to be thoughtful is to have pain, we give ourselves over to authority. Authority engenders power, and power always becomes centralized and therefore utterly corrupting; it corrupts not only the wielder of power, but also him who follows it.

Now I am going to snatch another hour’s hallucination before work…

Simple

This compulsion to keep moving. To keep moving within, if not without. What is driving it? What if it’s nothing very much? What if we were spooked once and from there fled? And have been fleeing ever since? Stopping outwardly, the movement inwardly becomes very clear. And then not moving towards the source of it, but not moving away from it. And no effort to stay in one place. Careful listening to what is going on. Simple. Kind. The simplest thing may be the most difficult. And yet it isn’t difficult, because it’s simple.

Massive review today of twenty postures – appropriate for the twentieth day of the course.

Hittleman:

Since no two people are alike (and it is important to understand this statement in its most profound sense), the necessity of learning to truly ‘Know Thyself’ can be appreciated. Knowing oneself entails turning away more and more from those outside sources that want to tell you what to do, and in place of these, undertaking a perceptive self-examination.

Krishnamurti, Book of Life, 20 Jan:

Why do we accept, why do we follow? We follow another’s authority, another’s experience and then doubt it; this search for authority and its sequel, disillusionment, is a painful process for most of us. We blame or criticise the once accepted authority, the leader, the teacher, but we do not examine our own craving for an authority who can direct our conduct. Once we understand this craving we shall comprehend the significance of doubt.

Nimble

Today was all about side bends: rotations from the waist, triangle, side bends with arms raised, side bends while sitting, leg lifts from lying on the side, and some twists.

It’s become automatic to do yoga every day, which is one of the reasons I am doing a course from a book rather than just what I feel like doing, or some existing routines. I have tended to stop after a few days before restarting. The course gives a little prompt at first, and now I wouldn’t want to start the day any other way. My body moves with more ease, my neck and shoulders are unwinding, I feel taller, stronger and more nimble. I like that word nimble.

The Hittleman book is largely aimed at the women’s health market, and discusses beauty quite a bit. It is also old fashioned in places, talking about the housewife at home, the husband in the office. Despite this, it is a great yoga book/course. From a page today on Beauty:

A beautiful woman radiates from within; her complexion glows and her eyes shine. Her movements are graceful, they flow with a natural rhythm. The entire body of a self-realised woman will be beautiful because she is deeply aware of her inner beauty, and this awareness is transferred to all who come into contact with her. The humility, compassion and love of a beautiful woman are genuine, and a mystical quality is present.

Krishnamurti:

We listenwith hope and fear; we seek the light of another but are not alertly passive to be able to understand. If the liberated seems to fulfill our desires we accept him; if not, we continue our search for the one who will. What most of us desire is gratification at different levels. What is important is not how to recognize one who is liberated but how to understand yourself. No authority here or hereafter can give you knowledge of yourself; without self-knowledge there is no liberation from ignorance, from sorrow.

Artificial stimulation

Back to work today after the on-off Christmas and New Year period, followed by our staff retreat. Waking up at 0630 with the daylight alarm. It’s less of a surprise that way, with the light slowly increasing for half an hour before the alarm itself.

This week sees the grouping of postures for different parts of the body. Yesterday the spine, today face and neck followed by balances. ‘For health, beauty, poise and balance’ as he puts it. One testing balance, holding one leg bent behind while the other arm stretches above while you look up. Like a vertical Dancer’s Posture. Confusingly, perhaps, a crouching sequence with palms together on the crown is called the Dancer in Hittleman’s book.

Hittleman:

Refined sugar products, coffee, alcoholic beverages and an over-abundance of high protein are to be considered as artificial stimulants and will, in the long view, deplete the life-force.

Krishnamurti:

If we can understand the compulsion behind our desire to dominate or to be dominated then perhaps we can be free from the crippling effects of authority.

In touch

The ugly, the sad, the joyous, the exhilarating, the dark, the funny, the weird, the enticing. All the thoughts and feelings are close by. Asana somehow raises the energy level allowing the experience of all of this, and much more. And a lot of the time I don’t want to feel them, I just want to carry on in a little bubble of okayness. And this is the work of yoga, the exposing, the releasing, the allowing and the observation, understanding, of all we are. It’s right there, and a yoga practice will put us in touch with it whether we like it or not. I suspect this is why people give yoga a try and then quit pretty soon. It can get tough, even in the gentleness. Breathing really helps. No matter what is happening, the breathing really helps. And there’s nothing to learn unless I am in touch.

Hittleman:

You can be assured that in stimulating the life-force you are increasing your organism’s healing power, and this is the esoteric explanation for the marked improvement in health that is so often experienced by yoga students.

Krishnamurti:

An idea is not a fact, it is a fiction. God is a fiction; you may believe in it but it is still a fiction. But to find God you must completely destroy the fiction because the old mind is the mind that is frightened, is ambitious, is fearful of death, of living, and of relationship; and it is always … seeking a permanency, security.

Full breathing

I chose to breathe fully throughout the whole practice, extending the inhalation to the maximum extent and then a long, smooth exhalation to the every end. All the air out. Before too long it wasn’t a choice but a natural, full breath. I didn’t feel any of the usual nervous energy around the solar plexus, nor in my mind. I felt energy move to where it was needed. I breathed into any tight muscles and noticed them releasing. The breaths got very long; in the pauses between postures maybe only two breaths per minute. There was no avoiding feeling whatever was going on.

Another review day. There are now too many postures to fit into one session; today’s took over one hour.

Hittleman:

The very patient and cautious self-manipulation of the joints, coupled with the elimination of foods that might be the cause of ‘deposits’ could greatly decrease arthritis symptoms and even approach a natural cure.

Krishnamurti:

Virtue has no authority. The social morality is no morality at all; it’s immoral because it admits competition, greed, ambition, and therefore society is encouraging immorality. Virtue is something which transcends morality.

Into the third week

Into the second half of the course. I decided again to practice in the afternoon, in the period after dialoge and before supper. But overall it seems more suitable for the morning, to start the day with something other than getting ready, so reverting to the earlier starts tomorrow. This is our last full day in the Lake District. Tomorrow, the 7 hour drive back to Hampshire.

Feeling a bit spaced out during the practice, and now. Not really thinking so much, not really present, a bit vague. But a good stretch regardless. I suspect the sugar in the egg mayo at lunch.

A good walk in the slushy snow around Tarn Hows this morning. Raining, sleeting. The thaw has begun after three weeks or more of freezing temperatures.

Hittleman:

You are now at a point where your sensitivity is heightened to all things that are occurring in your organism. You will become very aware that what you are eating has a pronounced effect on the way your feel and act. After some meals you will observe that you are alive and energised whereas others will leave you heavy, dull, lethargic in body and mind.

Krishnamurti, Book of Life, 15 January:

To destroy is to create. We must destroy … the psychological, the unconscious and the conscious defences, securities that one has built up rationally, individually, deeply and superficially. We must tear through all that to be utterly defenceless, because you must be defenceless to love and have affection.