|The devil's in the details
In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defines alone as “in bad company.” If we consider the mind our only companion, he would indeed be right.
Like a pauper collecting pieces of string, the mind hoards every occurrence, no matter how arbitrary or incidental, in order to craft an individual me with a definite past and a limited notion of the future. As the architect of the narrative self, the mind tends to believe it’s the whole enchilada.
Christian mystics say that whatever separates us from God is the devil. Images of fire and brimstone aside, reflect for a moment on what the mind accomplishes in its tireless fortification of our ego: separation. When we identify with the details, thoughts and feelings associated with our particular story the result is loneliness. While we don’t consciously think, I grew up in Leipzig playing the harpsichord, I can’t understand someone raised in Sub-Saharan Africa, our minds encourage such distinction.
The process goes like this: First, the mind cannot perceive anything beyond itself (avidya). It alleges therefore that it is all there is (asmita). With nothing else to consider as true, particular experiences become paramount and our likes and dislikes (raga/dvesa) turn into unshakeable truths. These “truths” then determine our behavior and outlook on life, leading to separation, loneliness and a fear of death (abhinivesa).
In order to assert its dominion over experience, the mind employs a variety of strategies. For instance, a habitual distortion of the body. Left to its own devices, our body has the ability to balance the mind’s monomania by experiencing any given moment as it is—apart from personality, opinion or long-standing beliefs. The mind knows this and consequently makes the body bend to its diabolic will.
The possessed body falls into three categories:
We can see each of these manifested in yoga poses. Let’s take Tadasana as an example. The body may aggressively thrust forward in the thighs, abdomen, chest or head. The abdomen could be compressed and shortened, giving the body the look of being held down, or repressed. Or, the entire body may be collapsed in lethargy, where gravity feels like an inexorable pull to the grave rather than a force from which you joyfully rebound.
Asana can be an opportunity to inquire in what way these three distortions appear in our bodies. Practitioners are often dismayed to discover the deeper levels of yoga described as “aloneness.” But aloneness is not lonely. It is consciousness that has been freed from the limitation of separation. When we silence the mind, that devil inside, we see that we are more than our structure and greater than a single story.
April 17: Expanding the Breath: Pranayama Workshop
Yoga House, Pasadena
May 20-22: Yoga Intensive
Yoga Source, Santa Fe, New Mexico
June 12: Iyengar Intensive
Yoga Works, Montana Ave.
July 4: Ojai Retreat
See details below!
October: Brazil retreat
Details coming soon!
July 1-4: Ojai Retreat at Casa Barranca
I meant to do this one over Memorial Day, but a last minute workshop in Santa Fe threw a wrench in the works.
It's better this way. Casa Barranca is a stunning Craftsman estate propped high on a ridge overlooking Ojai Valley. There's a koi pond, orchard, organic vineyard and dhyana platform.
It'll be an amazing weekend, filled with yoga, organic vegetarian food, guided architecture walks, croquet matches and maybe a firework or two.
Even the inspriation has trouble sometimes. Watch it.
Whether you live on the east side or hang by the ocean, I've got a class for you. Check out my schedule.
"Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."—A Christmas Carol
“Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung.”—Moby Dick