I was able to take almost my entire practice, with the exception of dhurvasana and drop backs, this past weekend when my teacher, David Garrigues, was here for an intensive. Woah! So awesome! Now I am not saying it was pretty. Let’s face it, there is much work to be done. None of the series of Ashtanga are remotely easy by any means (they are all uniquely difficult in their own ways), but third series Ain’t No Joke.
Here is the “wow moment” though….At the end of the day, all that matters is that I tried. It doesn’t even matter that for the first time in months, I was somewhat successful. I’ll repeat. NONE OF THAT MATTERS.
Those of you who know me well, know that for me to say (and actually believe) those last statements is HUGE. In fact, I can see you shaking your heads now, wondering where is the real Jennifer Smith and who is this crazy lady? You know I am not remotely patient by nature (and I am a perfectionist who is her own biggest critic- deadly combo). But, fortunately, the past year has forced me to become much more patient. It might seem odd for me to state that to be in a lot of pain is fortunate, but I actually do believe that it was fortunate. To have disc issues was and is an enormous teacher on so many levels. So, I have come quite far in my ability to restrain and to consciously be patient. But alas, even now, there is much work to be done.
There was evidence of this in David’s statements to me on both Friday and Saturday during Mysore. During Friday’spractice, David suggested, “Jennifer, take it down a notch.” Then on Sunday, I got the even more telling directive of him saying “take it a notch down on the agro-meter.” Here I am thinking I am so patient and moving with such ease, and still… work to be done.
HA! That is the way I roll! I attack everything head on and quite often that is not the most effective way to handle things; sometimes slow and steady wins the race. What.a.massive.lesson.for.a.type-A.chick.
I am almost certain that the discovery of the fused discs, etc. last year is the universe’s way of forcing this issue with me. I can no longer attack first, second or third series head on. It does not make sense. I could do permanent damage to my spine and for what? So that I can say I can still stand up with my foot behind my head? Seriously, that is ludicrous, but the younger, more impatient me would have forced that issue. I know I am maturing because by Sunday’s Mysore practice, I realized that my back had had enough. I gave third a shot, but quickly realized it was time for primary series, and a slow and steady one at that. The old me would have pushed through. The new me listened, took it down a notch on the agro-meter, and feels fantastic mentally and physically as a result. In fact, I took full practice today with NO BACK PAIN. For those of you that know my struggle over the last year, you know how unbelievable that is!
And so I think of samskara- those patterns that we are all trying to thoughtfully change through conscious practice. For me, it has taken years of practice to change that one pattern- the go out and attack full force, much like a wrecking ball demolishing an old building. The wrecking ball is no longer working for me. I need something more subtle- more like sea glass in the ocean. It starts with sharp edges, clean lines, clear glass… but through years of constant friction, the edges smooth out and the surface is more opaque.
That is the way this practice works. It is not the one day that matters. It is not even the one year that matters. It is the constant, consistent, conscious practice over many, many years (lifetime) that matters. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and it has to be approached as such. The attack head on is fine for a sprinter, but taking that same approach for a long distance race would spell disaster on every level.
Ok, universe, I think I get it now. It only took 14 years. What lessons do the next 14 hold?