July '08 Practice Notes

Where do I go from here?
by Brian Chase

One day last fall, as I walked home from class, I had an epiphany. At that moment I came to a personal understanding of what for me was the nature of yoga. The class was sweaty and I remember my practice felt easy. The sun was shining and the day was warm. I walked for maybe five minutes when it suddenly revealed itself, the reason for my practicing yoga became very clear.

Yoga seemed like a joke. A practical joke. A game really. A game in which I'm searching/hunting/scavanging, where I must find whatever it is I'm looking for, where I want the prize that comes at the end. The twist to the game, what makes it a practical joke, is that I already have what I'm looking for; I already have IT; I have had IT all along. Me and the prize are the same thing. I spend time/energy/effort looking for something I already have. The great Yogis of the past sit back and laugh as I sweat in vain. 

I practice. And I practice. It doesn't seem to end does it? Where do I go from here? Do I keep walking when I know I will never reach my destination? There are many milestones along the way, but do I stop there? I used to not be able to put my legs into a lotus position, now I can jump back into chaturanga from utplutihi, but I can't stand up from urdvha danurasana or do a handstand or... Does it matter? No. It doesn't matter because there's nothing there. Once I dig and breakthrough I realize that there's nothing there and that the search continues; it keeps going. I keep striving for IT though I know I will never come to a point when the search is over. Ashtanga poses itself as a teleological system; a highly organized and sequential set of processes and schemes that seem to eventually lead to the fulfillment of an ultimate goal. But the goal (the realization of the Inner Self as written in Yoga Mala?) seems less to be of an attainment than more of a revealing. I am already me and I already AM and the practice is just there to reveal/expose what is already there rather than to give me something I didn't already have. But it doesn't really end does it? And, if it never ends, then I can't really measure fulfillment by the end of the journey. It must be in the middle, maybe in the process that leads to the end. In my epiphany, that seemed more to be the point. The 'yoga' is irrelevant. 

The first part of the epiphany: I already have IT.
The second part of the epiphany: even though I already have IT, it is necessary to keep searching for IT in order to reveal IT. 

From an Ashtanga perspective, searching for IT seems to be a bit like clearing a path. The path is overgrown and needs to be cleared of obstacles and debris. The less obstacles and debris that obscure my vision and hinder my progress the easier it is to walk in the path that leads to IT. The path never ends though (well, maybe for some people) and needs constant upkeep. I need to keep coming back for IT in order to find my way. 

The purpose of the search seems to be purification, cleansing, opening; a removal of all physical, emotional, and psychological impediments; a burning away or washing over or acceptance of any obstructions that get in the way of the full realization of IT. Opening: for me to stretch and lengthen I need to open, and be open, and allow myself first to be open and then to open. To be open I have to let go. I find my limit, my confrontation, my wall and at that moment I need to let go of whatever is holding me back. I know I have IT in there and I want to be in IT. And, once I've felt IT in an asana (an expression of me in the asana), I don't want to loose it in the vinyasa to the next one; I must be strong and face the challenge that will get me from here to there. 

I breathe in Paschimottanasana, my breath doesn't care how far I go. I can pull myself further with my arms because my head [chitta-vritti, chatter] is telling me I could and should. But I don't want to pull and have my shoulders tensed all the way up my neck. My gut, heart, soul and breath don't care how far I go. If I breathe in the pose with bandhas engaged and a focused dristi I will go as far as I need to and often times further than I expect. Breath gives my expression of the pose validity - a reason for existence; bandha gives my expression of the pose intention - a determination and will; dristi gives my expression of the pose focus - a removal of distractions. These are my tools that help me in the search. Honesty, Intention, and Focus are more important than 'yoga' (even the sacrifices made for 'yoga.') 

The second part of the epiphany: it is necessary to keep searching for IT.
The third part of the epiphany: celebrate IT.

You already have IT, You already are IT, and there's nothing left to do but celebrate IT. The process of searching for IT is not one of defeat but one of continual success. It's not, "I didn't accomplish this so I failed," but instead, "I did my best with the best intention and therefore succeeded, and because of that I was able to Celebrate IT. That is why I feel so good, enlightened and wiser and happier." Everyone has IT. When I let go of me and my attachments I reveal what is already there. Maybe the fourth part of the epiphany: Everyone shares IT, I dissolves into WE. 

Brian Chase is a drummer and composer living in Brooklyn, New York. He performs and records regularly with many projescts including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Seconds, Sway Machinery, and in various experimental ensembles which have included, among others, Matthew Welch, Mary Halvorson, and Seth Misterka, as well as his own solo percussion music called "drums and drones." Currently, his favorite pose is Padmasana.


Anonymous said...

i love your thoughts on the subject of practice. i have been listening to some audio talks by Richard Freeman, he talks about the myth of technique. The reason i suppose we play the game of practice is to understand and connect to that which we already are. Ironic yet the path and the destination are sort of one and the same thing. Inspiring read, cool insights. It's wonderful to be able to practice Yoga isn't it :)?

Chase said...

i like your thoughts on the subject of practice.
Ive been Practicing myself.
It was a tad hard and to understand at first but now i understand everything.
It's awsome to be able to do yoga.

Anonymous said...

Brian! If this isn't too late, please bring the yeah yeah yeahs back together!