Last week I listened to a podcast by my favorite blogger, Katy Bowman, regarding changing habits. She explained to REALLY master a new concept, you need to study 10,000 hours. Which sounds like a lot. Because it is. But wait, she parcels it out and if you study or practice 8 hours a day, that mastery will take about three years. Which still sounds hard, but doable. It takes 4 years to earn a college degree (or if you’re like me and don’t, umm, actually study 8 hours a day, it might take several years longer). Katy was talking about exercise, which I love to do for 8 hours a day. I am in total agreement with her that a body needs to be active most of the day to achieve optimum health. When you like something, and especially when you are already good at it, spending 3 years mastering it seems perfectly reasonable.
My new goal is to explore deeper awareness. Meditation has never been my forte. I like to walk and there is such a thing as moving meditation, but I want to learn more disciplined meditation. Which, from what I understand, means not moving and not thinking. First off, I like to move, so the sitting in stillness part is hard for me. And then there is my mind. Occasionally I feel moments where something “deeper” is happening while I sit and quiet my mind and body. Soon however, I am thinking–about my last Facebook post and how many responses it got and whether I should be wittier or wondering what is for dinner and reminding myself to remember my mother’s birthday. Oh, and then there was the time two weeks ago when I absolutely could not exhale. What. was. that? I’m pretty sure that although moving and thinking are out, breathing is good for meditation.
Yesterday I read in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika these words: “the yogi who meditates on the self, takes moderate and pure food and practices siddhasana (a yoga posture) for twelve years, attains siddhi (mastery).” TWELVE YEARS??? Of sitting? And thinking pure thoughts? AND eating well? It seemed extreme–even longer than getting a degree! But I am not doing this for hours every day. 10,000 hours divided by 30 minutes and minus some days is probably more like a gazillion years until mastery. Using all caps and expressing impatience when writing about *enlightenment* is probably a sign that I need a few thousand extra hours as well.
My last post made meditation seem easy. And really–certain aspects of living a meditative life is pretty straight forward. Breathe and think, right? Take action from a place of awareness and intention. And that is exactly right. And generally easy to do unless you live with a three-year old. But what about that enlightenment thingy? Is there a deeper dimension to be-ing?
More from Swami Muktibodhananda in the HYP: “Within us are planes of existence, areas of consciousness, which are in absolute darkness. These planes are much more beautiful and creative than the ones we live on now. However, how are we going to penetrate and illuminate them?”
Which is exactly what I was teaching last week in my yoga classes–but I was referring to the physical body rather than pure consciousness.We attempted to enliven our physical awareness–by engaging certain muscles and coming fully into poses, by breath work, by coordination, and by releasing energy and learning how to relax certain muscles. All of which helps us to become more embodied–more alive in the present moment. For anyone that has a reason NOT to illuminate all the darker areas of the body, this is difficult to achieve. After active asanas, there is a brief meditation done in savasana. That pose is generally not translated, because literally it is “corpse pose.” There is a certain yuckiness to doing corpse pose, but everybody loves *savasana*!
I like to think that by embracing our death, we become more alive and that savasana illuminates that darker dimension to our bodily presence. That it makes each moment more meaningful. But to really go there, to really embrace our full human essence, we must accept that we are not ultimately in control. That loss happens–and really, really, it will.
That is a really big, dark, and scary shadow across those other “beautiful and creative” planes of existence. And our beautiful, creative, and rational minds believe that it might be better to think about something else. Anything else. I don’t really have a problem achieving the fullness of embodiment, but appreciating the fullness of dis-embodiment sucks. And yet, there are those gurus and swamis and enlightened ones that make it sound worth the effort…
So it will take time. Practice. Patience. Probably at least 12 years. But I do hope that I can illuminate all the planes of existence during my lifetime. I am pretty pleased to be here. I hope to be here a long time. And I would like to see all the beauty on every dimension possible. Because, beauty, is well, a beautiful thing. Pretty enlightening, huh?