I think the important takeaway from classes this week is to learn to begin the process of clearing away distractions so one can focus the energy of the body and the mind without it being dispersed into unnecessary diversions.
Firstly, the mind. I’ve been thinking about Facebook as my working image this week. Take for example, this chestnut from my Facebook feed:
It brings me a fair amount of amusement and I can get caught up in it, share, comment. Similar with any sort of numerous updates that appear regarding the marriages, babies, home improvements, and ailments of people I haven’t spoken to since a single meeting 8 years ago. But really, this is just mental clutter.
When I try to sit quietly or meditate, similar versions of these unnecessary feeds and updates will appear. So, I UNSUBSCRIBE. Feed by feed, window by window, I close until I make my way to the essential, or in moments of deep practice, just a brilliant white computer screen, uninterrupted by a stranger’s grandmother’s birthday celebration. There are times for these amusements – but keep them in their appropriate time, not as a constant distraction. Refocus the energy of the mind to the present, to the sense of a greater self that is open to experience and creativity.
Secondly, the body. It can become a bad habit in one’s practice to over isolate areas of the body for stretch and sensation. We get caught up in heart-opening, or the wonderful release of a side stretch. Isolated stretch and sensation have their moments in practice, but usually just in a warm up. When we get into the bulk of our practice, in down dog, standing poses and whatnot, we should work to find an integrated experience. For example, in dog I could max out the stretch in my arm pits, sending my chest forward and feel an amazing release through the front of the chest. My mind gets fixated on the joy of that release and the thought that I’m counteracting some desk posture and opening up my heart to divine grace or whatever. But also, I’m neglecting my back, I’m compressing my lumbar spine, and I’m constricting the breath. Within your dog, back off a little bit, return to the back body. Let weight and force settle through both sides of the torso. Think of an outward expansion and swell of breath into the back lungs as well as the forward thrust. to release the shoulders and the constricted front body. Focus the energy so it flows freely through the entire body, not just a few isolated areas that feel good.
When we focus the body and the mind into the present moment and a clear, uncluttered state of being, we open to all sorts of possibility.
As Sunday in the Park with George concludes:
White, a blank page or canvas, his favorite, so many possibilities.