Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lingering Flavors of Memory

"In his Yoga Sutras Patanjali lists five classes of chitta vrtti (causes for the modification of the mind) which create pleasure and pain. The fifth one is:
Smrti (memory, the holding fast of the impressions of objects that one has experienced). There are people who live in their past experiences, even though the past is beyond recall. Their sad or happy memories keep them chained to the past and they cannot break their fetters."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 28th paragraph of the Introduction.

There are people who live in their past experiences, even though the past is beyond recall.

Wow. Let that sink in... Even though we might forget (either temporarily or permanently) specific events from the past, emotional resonances or semi-conscious impressions from the past can affect how we move through the world, presently. In a sense one could say that people might be living in an emotional soup created by the lingering flavors and afterimages of past experiences.

I have a sense that that the things that I avoid doing have a tinge of discomfort based on my past experience. I get hits of fear from some of the strangest things, and would probably make a really interesting patient for the right psychotherapist (or maybe I am just really interesting to me--which is okay. I am the only one who can do the work of healing for me.)

The observation that Mr. Iyengar explains rings true in my experience. I don't know why I was so afraid to kick up into handstand at the wall for so many years. There must have been a connection with my past here even though I can't pinpoint the exact origin. I really felt as though I was about to get lost in the abyss, so great and irrational seemed my fear about going up. And I don't know why that fear has, for the most part, dissipated, at least when I'm at the wall. There is a good morsel of fear I access when I find myself balancing for an instant when I kick up in the center of the room, though! So it remains as an exciting pose in my practice.

The turning point came just a couple months ago when a friend/ Yoga Teacher taught in a class I attended. As I watched her demonstration, my body seemed to agree. That's the best I can explain it. After that I put my hands down and went up easily. Since then there have been a couple times that my older fearful sense of the pose showed up, but I have been able to choose to shift my attention away from the inappropriate emotional excess and just swing the leg and bottom half of my torso up. People think I'm a pretty cool cucumber, but I'm just really good at hiding it. This little internal shift is huge--even if others who know me can't really appreciate it because they don't know me like I know myself. I know my emotional intensity and gentleness like nobody else can.

I'd like to learn from this example of moving through what seemed to be an impenetrable boundary in my yoga practice, and be able to swing into action where I choose to instead of getting sucked into emotional/physiological reactions stemming from fear. I am aiming to break my fetters.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The journey of handstand! So many people are playing with this pose in classes these days. There's something going on here -- Turning our world upside down is scary -- Downward Facing Tree. Lots of room for metaphor here.

I love it so much.