Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh Yoga Books, You are so Timely/Prescient

It frequently happens that something I have buh-logged about is immediately addressed by part of a yoga/meditation book I am reading.

So this time yoga is speaking about my trip to Chile I wrote about (a few posts ago). In The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar I am in the section about the search for clarity and the concepts of duhkha and sukha. Duhkha being, generally speaking, a place of constriction or limitation or choking, in which we do not feel free. This can come up when we want something but can't seem to get it, for example. And sukha is a feeling of freedom, a place of light.

Desikachar notes that "it is precisely those who are searching for clarity who often experience duhkha most strongly." He goes on to reference some commentary on the Yoga Sutra that says "dust that lands on the skin is harmless, but if only a tiny particle gets into the eye, it is very painful," because "someone who is searching for clarity becomes sensitive because the eyes must be open, even if what they see is sometimes very unpleasant."

This was sort of my experience in Chile. Of course when you are looking for freedom you become more aware of your cage, of course this is true. Of course looking for clarity makes you see all the layers obscuring your vision. I don't tend to articulate it this way to myself though. This helps me sort of rewrite my version of my time in Chile - I tend to think of it as a huge failure of will, of weakness and lack of discipline. But another way to view it is that the hyper-sensitizing of my awareness of myself, especially when all I wanted was to find sanctuary within myself (with very little guidance), showed me everything I had to cut through on my way to a more peaceful and accepting state of mind, and it was totally overwhelming. No wonder people always have intense experiences on retreats and stuff. If you want to clear the garbage from your mind, you kind of have to wade through the refuse, and pick it all up piece by piece with your hands. No wonder paths to clarity are so hard, and it feels easier to just immerse in distractions instead of renewing the confrontation day after day after day.

I wish we could get to clarity but skip the clean-up process. Anyway I feel more charitable towards myself when I think of my trip to Chile, and that's a nice thing.

School School School

Man I love learning stuff. I love waiting for the click in my brain when I'm reading something I don't quite get. When you push a little bit and then figure something out you get to have that little burst popcorn kernel all to yourself forever, a little flower of comprehension to snuggle up to. Mmm mmm love it.

I frequently put down my learning, however, after the initial bloom of comprehension. Sort of goes along with my being pretty-good-at-a-whole-bunch-of-stuff-but-not-meaningfully-proficient-at-anything-at-all.

Why is this? I mean I do believe that depth actually is breadth and through the former you can achieve the latter, and following the thread of god through any discipline or body of knowledge takes you through the source of all. Iyengar says this about love - that dedicating our love to someone is our entry to universal, divine, unlimited love. Yep yep yep sure totally on board.

Ah but putting this into practice means choosing something to follow all the way down its rabbit hole, and I don't feel I've done a ton of that in this lifetime. I think I tend to figure out the baseline rules or concepts so that I know just enough of what is happening to see where something is going, and then I sort of get off the bus. So now I'm 32 and I have a bunch of things that I can do pretty okay and enjoy pretty okay but nothing that I feel I've followed so far afield that it's brought me back home. I'd like to buckle down a little but it's hard to choose what (to my three readers: I've written about this before so if there is a repetitive blogging apology to be made consider it made).

There is toughing it out involved. When the learning curve is super high in the early stages of learning about something, it's pretty thrilling to start to see the pieces put themselves together into the whole. But then there's the plateau. Sigh, the inevitable plateau when you know what's going on but don't know what to do next to make it feel like you're still on the ride. After that the feeling of progress is infinitesimal and at the same time the jump to the next plateau is further away. This is the point in learning that I usually move on.

Well no more! Kind of. We'll see. I think I have three things about myself that I really feel like I want to follow all the way down - under "meaningful work" in my criteria for happiness. My music-playing, yoga stuff, and a bit of philosophy reading that I want to know more about. Feels manageable. Whoops I'm totally forgetting my other little projects like brushing up on my Latin and working on my collages. But this is the problem - the desire to do so many things (breadth) just makes doing anything (depth) impossible. This is the problem with constantly trying on new selves. It never goes anywhere anyway, you are always just you afterward.

And the vanity issue is troubling, too. Experts are so intimidating and special and magical. It would be neat to be seen as an expert on anything. And my own sense of pride and credibility and self-worth is tied into how hard I work on any one thing (which is usually not that hard). So I'm looking for that feeling as well. Not too bodhichitta of me. Mergh, bleh.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I went to Chile by myself for about 4 weeks in February of 2005. I have always had a vague sort of Latin-America-is-neat type of thing, and my college Spanish was pretty okay, and I had some money saved up and I wasn't getting any older etc etc.

I came home about a week early. I was supposed to stay a full month but I didn't make it. I was starting to feel insane and lonely and trapped in my head. In some way this was what I wanted - I wanted to be alone and feel like I knew myself and affirm some kind of self-sufficiency or independence of mind. But what I found, confronted with myself, by myself save for the hotel owners and waitresses, was not familiarity or a return to being, liberated from obligation, uninterrupted by context, but instead, a daily, lonely terror of boredom and self-loathing. Somewhere inside, I thought, I could reconnect to some nascent version of my identity that gazes contentedly out windows, feels no more severely than curious and happy wandering through new scenery, and has no worry about the future and no regret about the past. But being alone with my thoughts was too hard. Every single petty horror of my life up to that point chased me all day long, replaying over and over, sometimes with new clever ways I should have behaved thrown in for a bit of memory theater. My mind was swimming and churning so much that after a while, I couldn't even make sense of what I wanted to do with my day besides find breakfast and go to sleep. Did I feel like walking? Did I want to go to the museum in this town? Did I want to read a book, and could I find one in English ('cause screw practicing my Spanish, btw)? How about a movie? Which place for dinner? How do I even "know" how I "feel" or what I "want" to do? What is my compass? Who am I besides every stupid and horrible thing I've ever done? Every single inclination I might have had just felt so stupid, just some attempt to sustain the desperate, infinite distraction from myself. I couldn't wait to get back to my life and all the convenient distractions of it; the kitchen and cooking, my friends, some job to take up the hours of the day, anything but the endless walking in loops in my toxic brain.

So this is habit of mind for which I seek relief. This is what I want yoga or Buddhism to cure me of. And I believe that I can escape the prison of memory, and I can re-train myself to ruminate positive things, and learn to contribute only positive, helpful things to me and my loved ones and the world, AND ALL THAT STUFF. And while I am further along in my sense of confidence and worth and stuff than I was in 2005, what still troubles me most is the sustained effort of training my mind. It's so difficult. There is this pacing that I do that doesn't help me, and I know that working on my concentration, which would eventually result in meditation, is so clearly right in my reach, and I just have to sit down and dedicate a little sincere time and effort to it, and I will build up new habits of mind that will free me from myself, but it's hard. I get fatigued by trying to live purposefully, and sometimes all it feels like is the "righteous" version of traveling in Chile - instead of figuring out whether I want to go to the museum, I'm choosing books to read or yoga classes to attend, like the low-fat edition of everything else I've ever done. When does the distraction end and existence begin? When I've absorbed enough tools of positive action to put them to work? When I am more disciplined? When? How? I hope I am getting closer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Divinity Fantasy Waning; Yoga Trainging Weekend; Follow up on DIY Spirituality

Still thinking about how to follow a path or philosophy or religion without having to adhere to it on the absolute face of its doctrine. Clearly there are shades of gray in every interpretation of a path. I mean, every one of the gajillions of sects, tributaries, and off-shoots of Xtianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and whatever, each represent its own independent shade of gray of its parent religion.

And yoga is the same way. Right now I am using two of Iyengar's books, Light on Yoga, and Light on Life, as foundation-providing texts. They are in the required materials of my course and he's a main guy of stuff and if I get something from him he is basically recognized as an authority and I can defend my position very well behind his textual shield. And then this other required book by Desikachar has a very different take on things that makes me reevaluate Iyengar's books. And even Iyengar, apparently, has changed his approach to things over the years - the source text for yoga asana, Light on Yoga, was written quite a while ago, and things just change. Perspective on yoga and how to do it changes. It is, to borrow from either Iyengar or Desikachar (I can't remember who said it), to live in a state of "sustained transformation." Evolution revolution, man.

So different branches of faiths have their own interpretations of a path, and then even further, each person filters a particular doctrine through his or her own experiences and understanding. Our language itself doesn't even permit any real confidence that what someone means to say is what the hearer understands. Even two people who agree about something in any given moment could have different concepts of what is happening. We just can't know. It's all shades of gray.

Living with shades of gray is actually a more complete way to experience life. This language vagueness I just mentioned reminds me of a grammar tussle I got into once. I was taking a class to become a tutor for adult literacy, and some retired school teacher corrected me when I said "different than" - she said "no no, different FROM." Lady, f*** you it's "different from." First of all, there can be, for the deliberate speaker, shades of difference between the two. Troy is a different city FROM Albany, but my time living in Troy was different THAN my time living in Albany. But besides this, even if I wasn't speaking deliberately, did she know what I meant? Yes she did. The function of grammar isn't to create a set of rules that people have to adhere to - and then provide a means by which small minded retirees can feel superior to others. Correct grammar is an important social anchor for personal and professional credibility, but that's where strict adherence should remain - somewhere with rules of etiquette - it's really only there to rely on when you don't already know your audience or situation. Communicating effectively requires flexibility - your language choice must accommodate your audience, adjust in order to express the tone you wish to impart; you must call upon all the innumerable shades of subtle gray available to you in order to be clear and precise. And in fact, it is the flexibility of language that I find so wonderful about it; I think that beauty is lost when people insist that English has to exist according to rigid rules. These are people who are, as Ms. Gertrude Block put it (in the June 2010 edition of the NYSBA Journal), "America['s] . . . huge middle class of 'rules-followers'" who use strict grammatical adherence as a way to "distinguish[] the educated from the uneducated." It's absurd. It's like using "they" as a gender neutral pronoun instead of having to say "he or she." Let it go, people, it might be in the dictionary eventually, and if it happens, that will be okay, stop freaking out about it. Use it if you want to, don't if you don't. Language IS ALL ABOUT flexibility - "meaning is use." (This is attributed to the linguist Ludwig Wittgenstein, and I only know the quote and his generic history - reading more about this is on my self-improvement list under "language arts education.") So let's add to the pile that strict rule-adherence is actually a pretty small-minded way to live. Stay gray or stay home.

Okay so let's accept shades of gray as a given - even as a requirement for broad-mindedness. What is the limit of personal interpretation within which you can still claim to be an adherent of a particular faith? Short of absolute contradiction or incoherence, you're in the game. That's it. These are parameters I can work with. I think I can feel comfortable calling myself a devotee of anything (even grammar) as long as I don't completely contradict its holdings, or twist it into something incoherently unrecognizable to its source.

So I guess I'm really going to have to be comfortable with uncertainty, with ambiguity, with interpretation and personalization. And how does this affect a yoga teacher's credibility? How do students feel when they hear conflicting messages from their teachers? I guess you just have to present information in guideline form. It's scarier in that it requires a student to ask more of him- or herself, and the student must be more sensitive to his or her own experience, and be critical of information as it is presented, and combine one's intuition and experience with ancient teachings and foundation texts. In this way living without absolutes requires a greater depth of understanding; and this, in turn, is actually more precise than something that is supposedly black and white.

Phew. On a side note, the divinity school fantasy is waning, as I knew it would, and gets to be back burned along with all the other things I get carried away with. One thing at a time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Questions Answered Courtesy of Iyengar

Well as usual somebody (Iyengar, in Light on Life) has definitely thought of everything I have thought of already, phrased it better, and provided a rational and practical reassurance for the challenge of living comfortably with uncertainty. Oh spiritual stuff, you are so old and well-churned.

First, re: my concerns on art existing as a function of our self-destruction, and losing all that precious gut-wrenching beauty etc etc to the humanity-neutralizing bliss of enlightenment:

"According to Indian philosophy, art is of two types. One is called bhogakala, the art of appeasing the pleasure of the body and mind. The other is yogakala, the art of auspicious performance to please the spiritual heart of the soul."

Okay, so this is about intent, sure. I hope it doesn't mean all art becomes recordings of birds flapping and stuff like that. But I can see where this goes. Maybe there will be more on this eventually. Next!

Re: merging with the Universal (bliss = samadhi) sounds boring and impractical:

"Samadhi is an experience, which . . . is worth struggling to reach. It is transformative and utterly purifying. But what then? Samadhi is a state of being in which you cannot do. You cannot catch a bus when in samadhi. In a state of oneness, how would you be able to discriminate which one to get on? Samadhi leaves the practitioner changed forever, but he still has to get dressed in the morning, eat breakfast, and answer his correspondence. Nature does not simply disappear once and for all. It is simply that the realized yogi is never again unaware of the true relationship between Nature and Cosmic Soul."

Okay good! There's another quote about "ego" - which, even though it is undesirable and we want to get rid of it - as a necessary alias for helping us function in the world, but I can't find it right now. Yoga, she is so reasonable.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Freakin' Thing at a Time

I was discussing yesterday with Friend the issue of submitting to an entire religion or philosophy whole heartedly, believing (and presumably also adhering to) every aspect of it, as opposed to taking what you want and not worrying too much about the rest. Friend suggested that maybe this was a Western thing, this feeling that participating in something that you only kind of mostly believe is insincere, or deceptive, or at least an incomplete experience. A spiritual path would be diluted if it were only guidelines, left to each semi-adherent to adjust it as s/he sees fit, no? What are you looking for if you want to keep your own ideas whole and just sort of be affected or moved by something - you're certainly not looking for change or for god, right?

Well, I don't know. I love that I can enjoy Buddhism without having to worry too much about samsara and karma. I love this so much that - bear with me here - I got myself all excited about going to divinity school. Really. I mean hell, why not? I'd love to study the Bible for reals, and if I can enjoy it for what it offers and shed the rest, well, that would be great! Actual Xtians already do this - it's not like all those Xtians wear strictly single-fiber clothes as the Bible commands, etc etc all that other crap that nobody pays attention to. As the secular world so frequently likes to point out to crazy bigoted fundamentalists, there's an awful lot of cherry picking of the Bible that goes on. And sometimes it's evil and used to justify meanness, but sometimes it's great - HERE is an awesome radio story about an evangelical preacher who decides that there is no hell. And his revelation is really persuasive and moving and makes me like Jesus so much more, and makes the crucifixion make so much sense that it goes beyond sensible and back to magical. But anyway thinking about the take-it-or-leave-it part of religion and philosophy made me excited about being able to actually enjoy Xtianity stuff (because whoa nelly believe you me normally I wouldn't really want to be associated with all the stuff that goes on under that umbrella), especially if I can just make it my own.

So yeah back to this - right now in my fantasy life if I could go to divinity school and become a pastor-type thing that would be awesome. Which at last brings me to my actual point: one freakin' thing at a time, pal. This is a kind of curse of the contemporary purposeless human (which is me, so maybe it's just me), this feeling that there is something really huge and complete that you can/should be working toward, and that whatever you're doing at the moment isn't really what you should be working on unless it's part of this bigger thing, and you should maybe hurry up and figure out what your bigger thing is so you can feel peacefully ready to die someday, and death, by the way, will happen before you know it. School is so handy for that feeling. You get to have the manageable task thing from semester to semester, and it's all part of Your Important Degree, and everyone agrees in our cultural that Education is Really Important, and it's just a highly credible long-term thing to be doing.

But right so with this potential new permissive kind of belief I started letting all these things about myself take form in a litte spirituality orb, adding pieces of my philosophical self (law degree! totally read part of a book by Aristotle that one time! I have completely heard of Plato and the Situationists!); my spiritual self (read most of a book by a real live Buddhist! totally learning about yoga! meditate sort of!); my other hobbies (playing music! and I took some Latin in college, those are totally religious things!); and my personality (kind of a talkative know-it-all, enjoy writing a blog, so perfect for a preacher-type!), and made a little fantasy about becoming a woman of the cloth and quoting Joseph Campbell and just digging life and having something really big to be working on, and feeling finally like all the freakin' hats I've tried on in the last 32 years will actually make one cohesive outfit. Of hats. Whatever.

Okay, slow down. Not even one third of the way through my yoga training. That half of that Aristotle book was kind of boring. Still have to finish the Buddha book anyway. Need to get a job. I sometimes can get myself worked up about a big purpose to the point that I can't even actually take the steps required to finish one tiny component part of the fantasy. It's like this: "I can't read this book on yoga, I'm too busy becoming a yogi." Anyone picking up what I'm putting down, here? So my mission for the foreseeable future is to do one thing at a time and actually enjoy it and not worry that too much time is passing without me making important strides toward my Real Big Purpose in life, and that I'm not losing time or progress or anything if I don't start on a Bible-reading regimen or start a philosophy book club or brush up on my Latin all by next month. Chillax. One freakin' thing at a time. My actual life in this actual moment is really nice and has the benefit of leading me toward something big, yoga teaching! That's big enough. Hell being happy is big enough. That's what I'm going to work on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RTFM (read the f***ing manual)

So I undertook to systematize my learning a little bit for the last few days. I have some flashcards now with things on them that I'd like to have in the front of my mind. I'd like to say that I am choosing to memorize the things that are most important and feel as though they are useful for integrating my mind into a yogic state, but really I am choosing things that I think would be impressive or make me sound credible to know off the top of my head. That's embarrassing to say. Tryin' to be brutal.

Actually though deliberate memorization gets a bad rap. I think this is a modern education debate thing - like we should "learn how to learn" instead of by rote. I agree somewhat, but I have a lot of faith in the nature of the mind to make connections based on the information it has stored away and ready to recite. I can't make connections to things I've decided I can just "look up whenever I need them" - understanding is more than knowing you could know if you wanted to. Making information take shape in your mind requires a little repetition and memorizing, a little deliberate connection-making to become solid and useful. I heart memorizing. Also I am pretty good at it and enjoy it. But my memorizing endeavor isn't totally vanity-based really. It really helps me "see" things better.

And I've taken on another little self-directed project to give more shape to my yoga learning, and I'm really glad about it since I realized it combines some things I've been thinking about: injuries, pain, and yoga beginners. Since I've hurt my back my asana has been pretty scaled back - I did none for about five days, really. So as I continue to repair, I'm thinking about how to ease myself in to some yoga without provoking the same injury over and over again. At the same time I've been ruminating the issue of the yoga beginner. Specifically, I have a really willing friend, a Yoga Beginner, available to me to let me practice my new yoga knowledge on, and I want very badly to make yoga interesting and appealing and satisfying and transforming and to make this Beginner love yoga as much as I do. I am treating this as a test, actually. Because the other part is that the Beginner is not really interested in yoga but is just being extremely nice to me, so now basically It's On, Big Time. And on top of this, Beginner has some limitations that make a lot of stuff that I would offer impossible due to the pain the asanas provoke in said Beginner. So here I am, in my own bit of physical pain, dealing with a pretty significant limitation (ever pull your back? suxxxx big time, you use it for every single thing you do, including brush your teeth and sit still), and wondering how to make yoga appealing for someone with limitations. What to do?

Initially when I was thinking about how to entice Beginner into loving yoga, I thought, "Oh laboratory of the self, reveal to me the keys of challenging and excellent as well as accessible yoga," and I practiced on myself and it didn't really work that well. And I watched some beginner yoga recording on youtube, which was pretty useful actually, but kind of boring. So then yesterday I was looking in Light on Yoga, and remembered that there is a big long list of yoga series in the back which Iyengar created as a week-by-week program (in the course of over 180 weeks, damn!) for mastering asana systematically. Buh, duh, meh, blergh, RTFM, genius! So now that's my new plan. I'm trying out the Iyengar weekly systematized yoga prescription, and that's going to be my guide for teaching Yoga Beginner as well. I'm not going to limit myself in my own practice to the guide, since I'll go to class and do other stuff, but I think recreating Iyengar's recommended process for learning asana will be really useful. I started today and it's really illuminating already - Iyengar doesn't offer downward dog (a serious central staple of yoga class which Beginner happens to have trouble with) until somewhere around the 18th to 20th weeks! It makes so much sense given how tough downward dog is on the wrists. You can't just jump into that (ha ha accidental dorky yoga joke if you know what I'm talking about - hint: you can "jump" into downward dog). Anyway yay! I'm excited by my little project. Combine that with some good old fashioned memorization, and you've got a yoga journey on your hands, daaaaaamn.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Yoga Time Weekend: Breathing

So this past weekend the yoga teacher training was focused on breathing, or pranayama. This is one of the eight petals of yoga. Iygengar says it's pretty dangerous to practice deliberate, harnessed breathing without guidance, and that the potential for depression is high if practiced incorrectly. Man oh man. Well, I already know that the potential for pulling one's back like an over-eager jackass is also pretty high in yoga (oh ye physical discipline of healing), so I can roll with there being dangers in breathing. Oh and here's a youtube of Iyengar taking an inhale and an exhale which is certainly persuasive of the potential for meaningful control of one's breath, regardless of to what extent one credits the effects of such control.

But I do credit the effects - meditation is a breathing exercise, that's the whole thing. And it is profound to feel the unstoppable effort of our diaphragm rising and falling with the inhale and exhale, completely without our effort, like the heartbeat. Really I think the breathing part of yoga is super awesome. This weekend I learned that can isolate my breathing to expand my ribcage solely in the right side of my body. This is rad to me.

But somehow I was drifting a little bit into "yeah okay whatever"-ville during the weekend. Why? We had a guest speaker who studied with T.K.V. Desikachar in India, so that's neat. I should have been more interested in it than I was. For some reason I was very scattered of mind. I was sort of hungry the whole time, which doesn't help my concentration - I was traveling all weekend so my usual persnickety micro-organizing of my physical state was a little bit shambled. What was happening though that I wasn't really super focused on it? Boredom? Nah, I'm a little old for that, I can get what I want out of things without it being slick and ultra-compelling.

Maybe it was the cursory nature? Six hours of talking about and practicing different breathing techniques seems like a lot but it's not. I guess I still want a teacher that I can call my teacher. I remember once the Buddha guy relating a story about his teacher, and he said, "this was before he was my teacher, this was when he was just the guy teaching the class." So I know that having a "teacher" is much more than attending classes with people. I still feel a little bit adrift in my learning process. I can probably bump it up a little by doing all those handy learning things that I know how to do: systematize and break down chunks of information for handy memorizing. That's time consuming and creates a feeling of progress. Maybe I was just a little annoyed that my back was limiting my participation. Maybe I'm lazy.

There was a lot of great and interesting stuff that I got out of it, though. I am going to practice one of the breathing things every day for a few weeks and see how I feel (not that I live any kind of controlled variable way, but we'll see what I notice). And the personal stuff was interesting, too - the guest speaker started out talking about his own journey into yoga practice, and a lot of it rang true to me, and was exciting to hear about. He talked about the process of learning to see himself and how he grieved the loss of his former self even as he was happy to be newly revealed. He talked about finding his ability to concentrate, how he had felt cut adrift in his mind for years, and yoga helped him return to a more focused state of mind. I am really tempted by the focus thing - wouldn't we all like to feel like we can actually do things we are trying to do?

But maybe that's the other problem - I don't feel any particular longing toward some thing that I just wish wish wish I could be doing. Maybe because I'm already doing the yoga and stuff so I don't have to be sitting at my desk wishing I could be doing yoga. But it's still so directionless, all this yoga doing and meditating and reading. It's great, but so what? I would really like to feel some kind of drive toward something specific; but of course maybe that's a hang up and I just need to shed that expectation for myself. I might actually want to be a yoga teacher, a good one, not just a student - that would be a great thing to be working on. I'm not sure yet, though. There's so much to do still, and so much to learn about, and so much practicing to do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pulled Back, Lame-O

Stupid doin' stuff made me all busted. Pulled my back a little bit. I ran into a yoga teacher this morning and mentioned it, and she is also a masseuse, and in about two seconds she had her thumb on the exact spot and was all "yep I feel it right there" and gave me some yoga suggestions for it. I think that's so rad when people know stuff like that.

Anyway so I'm not doing much asana (physical yoga) for a few days. Boo. But that's okay, Iyengar's Light on Life is into the mental stuff pretty fierce right now, so I can think about that instead.

Iyengar gets into all the things that I was wondering about as far as "who am I if not what I think and feel and do" questions. Well, this sense of identity that I describe is the "mind" and although it masquerades as the Soul, it is not who I am. We will mistake the mind for the Soul unless we discriminate more closely among the functions of our consciousness. Just for starters, we have our mind (manas), our ego or I-shape (ahamkara), and our intelligence (buddhi). I have to read it again, it's dense.

But there's still a little bit of doubt in me about how this works, because Iyengar says that "[f]rom our ignorant identification with our ego and its mortality arises man's creativity and his destructiveness, the glory of culture, the horror of his history." And although I agree with Iyengar that yes, "[it] is a forlorn hope" to "embark on great and wonderful projects to affirm that the egoistic self will not die," and that it is "an ineffective and temporary balm against mortality," I DON'T agree (yet, I guess) that we should all want to abandon our obsession with our identity and mortality if it also means the loss of so many beautiful human gestures. I mean, can we all agree that piano playing and music writing and great books are worthy, beautiful, important expressions of humanity? Even if it is motivated by our fearful, self-obsessive impulses? What happens to the "glory of culture" when we all reach our higher selves? I am imagining a futuristic world of enlightened beings and I'm pretty sure we are totally obsessed with the destructive and impassioned past, and have posters of James Dean and Terry Fox hanging in our rooms.

Anyway, I'm still convinced that higher self and enlightenment is pretty rad and all, but I'm troubled by the loss of what I see as my humanity. Still a long way to go yet, I guess.

Yeah, no worries about achieving enlightenment any time soon. But maybe I'm making some in-roads into myself - in that I actually feel more attuned to how ridiculous I am than I can remember feeling. Lordy I'm ridiculous. I rehearse the past in my mind, re-doing and improving my behavior so that I perform better; I keep memories of regrettable behavior in the forefront of my mind, keeping my fear of making the same mistake always at the surface so that I will never do it again; I have pre-conditioned feelings about people and situations and places that I lean on and revert to which preclude me from actually seeing what is happening in the moment; I repeat to myself my negative feelings about things as though it helps me know who and how I never want to be in some imagined future version of my life - except really it's just poison for me and keeps my life and sense of self perpetually in a state of delay ("I will never be like that, in the future"). But I guess it's good that I am very aware of this lately. I'm excited for the next step when I can have a little bit of self-control over these habits of the mind. I think that might be years away, though.