Five for the Archive, Part IV • 21 June 2007


5. The future. What are your practice goals for the future?

Of course I want the present conditions to last, but I know that someday relatively soon practice will be often alone. Maybe that will be two years from now, and maybe ten: at the moment there sits before me a hilarious range of possibilities for where I’ll spend the coming decade, and under what conditions.

Therefore: part of what I’m learning here is both to set and to richly fertilize a me-sized piece of ground that’s fruitful under whatever conditions blow in. Every day. There will be easy years again, and harder ones after that. What I’m asking of practice is that it carry me through whatever, because I know that if nothing else I’ll live more deeply and richly and honestly for that continuity.

So it’s all about cultivating the height of energy and the depth of focus that render practice powerful—the relaxed intensity and no-bullshit grace (moral grace, aesthetic grace, spiritual grace) that I’ve only seen a few in the over-50 generation pull off. And they pull it off consistently, not just on particular days—because the kind of strength I’m talking about is more in the synapses, and wherever, than in the muscle fibers.

So I’d like to keep practicing until the end of me, sensitive enough to adjust the knobs to make it sustainable on a daily basis. This is about supporting life that it should be more abundant, not about taking life to support practice.

Also: discover what I have to give to the larger project and to individuals’ practices (support, energy, whatever), and give it. Maybe do some research in the more scholarly sense on yoga as a system of science-morality-spirituality-art for our own time.

And probe the edges: today, that’s the primal fear that comes up in pranayama, the apparent practical obstacles to a deeper sitting practice. In asana, continue with the back-injury puzzle as it gradually works its way back to center. And if this makes any sense at all, I’d say in general I’m working from the ligaments. Mine don’t need to lengthen any more, and especially in the pelvic girdle/ hips and (when inverted) the shoulder girdle/ thorax, my aim is to render the ligaments stable for the sake of postural integrity and long-term strength. For me these days, this is where I’ll find balance and sustainability. These details, and the kinds of shapes I happen to be making with my body, will change every year, but I hope my inner life and relationships with the world will become more and more stable over time.


  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 9:57 am | #

    Thanks, I’ve really enjoyed reading your thought provoking 5.

  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 10:31 am | #

    I’m curious about your “over-50” group: are they primarily yogi(ni)s? I’d like to know who thoee folks are, particularly if they are currently “public” (teaching, writing, etc.) —so I can keep an eye out for them.

  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 10:32 am | #

    thoee = these

    Need spellcheck technology…

  • R
    Posted 21 June 2007 at 10:51 am | #

    I have also liked very much the 5. Cats are climbing out of the bag left and right…

  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 4:22 pm | #

    This topic is probably worth a whole blog entry. And I’d love to know what other names it brings to mind in readers.

    The kind of energy I’m talking about is in people who are either (1) so engaged in the present that their intensity and intelligence crackle or (2) so refined that they bring an uncanny stillness to any room. Both kinds of energy, if embodied in someone who directs it specifically into teaching potentially can have these effects: the teacher totally owns the room, unselfishly; she seems to see through me; and she draws me into a stable state of receptivity and presence.

    Here are the names of some people who make me believe the effect is real—not only the substance of my attribution (thank you, Max Weber, you old genius), but also the product of the teacher’s own depth of practice. I actually can name more academics than yogateachers who do this to me (and so can the skeptical readers who would claim they believe “charismatic authority” is only a social construct—yeah, you). But to keep it to astanga yoga teachers (or those close to it): Richard, Dominic & Saisha, Rolf, Annie Carpenter (a flow teacher), Catherine Shaddix, Tim.

    With the caveats that (1) I haven’t been around this community much and so have missed many lights, and that (2) this kind of appreciation can accidentally map on to and reinforce tacit hierarchies in the community while glossing over teachers with less prestige and fame and (3) again, the most important element of this experience is in the perception of the student, as Hamish Hendry puts it in the Guru documentary (and blah caveat blah caveat blah…)… I’d like to know who moves you all in ways anything like what I describe—teachers of any kind.

  • R
    Posted 21 June 2007 at 5:13 pm | #

    …as if saying that something is socially constructed implies that it’s any less real. Yeah, me. And you forgot Charles Tilly

  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 5:29 pm | #

    You know the kind of stupid-sociology (the constructivism that reduces everything to social structure, and doesn’t believe consciousnesses exist let alone differ importantly) I was pre-empting, though.

    I’m happy Chas turns you on. He does me to. And it’s not his prestige, but the refinement of his practice:

  • Posted 21 June 2007 at 5:46 pm | #

    I don’t see how charisma could be a “social construct.” It’s people responding to people. That does make it social but the word ‘construct’ kind of implies it’s somehow arbitrary. Academics that view people in such a way are maybe a little too academic.

    There are definitely some teachers out there that have reaching ability. I would describe it as deep intuition applied to the teaching art; such teachers can spot the unique ‘engagement points’ within individual students and work specifically to those.

  • Posted 22 June 2007 at 12:19 pm | #

    Well, Max Weber’s stuff on charismatic authority as a social creation is brilliant. My interps of gifted teachers—not just their connection skills but the energy I claim they’ve cultivated in themselves—would be crippled without Herr Max.

  • Posted 25 June 2007 at 3:14 am | #

    Ok, let me get this straight, the little binary person here has become utterly lost in the conversation! You want to know which teachers move us?


    cj 🙂

  • Posted 25 June 2007 at 8:26 am | #

    cj: yes!

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