Inverted, Again • 21 November 2007

I returned from Denver two months ago now, the night of September 17 and the week of the equinox. The next day, after 22 months of 6 am beginnings, I spontaneously shifted to an evening practice. (I was needing a shake in more ways than this, as has been noticed and remedied)

The change from a 6 am to a 5 pm re-set time completely inspired and supported my life. Hello, inverted world.  

Just before I switched, this is what was going on. Practice had become zero-sum. I was pouring energy in to it and into the room, but not getting energy out. Finishing with a dull mind. For a long time, practice basically increased my life by greasing down my bones, making my muscles into useful little things, and smothering me in endorphins. But suddenly this fall everything was off.

When I switched to the evening, this is what it was like. I’d get up when a little light came in the windows, and milk the practice habits of focus and freedom from food-distraction for a solid three or four hours. Right there at home. Have a late breakfast, then do whatever researchy administrivia until driving to practice at 4:30. I sealed off my office at school (where the Kandinsky pages stayed stuck on September and my old plant kept the faith somehow), and didn’t put on real clothes all fall. Dissertators are known to be neurotic little moles, so nobody got too concerned.

All this time, evening practice was fucking gorgeous. Much stronger and more focused than my predictive stereotypes—that evenings are tired, hypermobile and littered with the day’s thought-refuse. And I’ve gotten this biofeedback thing going with my evening teacher: her eyes are so good, and her empathetic understanding of what I need to heal and strengthen the systems of the pelvis is so accurate. She sees the smallest movements in the hips and belly—movements my proprioception either doesn’t catch or gets wrong—and feeds it back. And somehow creates a space where I can calmly work my ass off. Her method is to heal her students by strengthening them.

I’ve laid down more muscle this fall than ever—partly because I was stalking kukkutasana but also (maybe) because I was eating closer to practice. I didn’t have to catabolize or simply draw energy from the breath to lift in to this or that, but could feed off whatever I’d eaten a mere 6 hours before.

The space has been dim and mahogany and radiantly warm, with me and some regulars whose energy I now know better than most any other co-practitioners ever. A couple are super-transparent and subtly perceptive at the same time, and we’ve played with each others’ energy in ways that generated all kinds of heat and some good jokes. This is what led me to ask if practicing together is intimate: hearing my friend across the aisle chuckle when I licked sweat off my nose in a transition—knowing we’re in this together even though I cannot really see him for lack of lenses. Knowing he’ll catch my risen amusement in some sound or movement that is both part of my practice and a response to him.

Over the months, my energy shifted. When the time change brought earlier sunrises, I slept through them. The morning energy spike got dull, because the truth is that I love asana more than research. No shit. Dissertations are hard, and you try to get through them by running away from them. It can seem like a good strategy.

So I practiced in the morning last week, not because I wanted change but I knew the visiting teacher would tweak my vinyasa up to the most recent specs. Ok ok, whatever; The method is only an end in itself insofar as you have no life. But what does this different practice do for my work?

Well… it does a lot. It’s like I flipped over the hourglass a second time and clicked right in to a new writing phase. A little bit of unfamiliarity with my life sharpens my mind. Just a little bit. Too much unfamiliarity would be distracting.

It’s wonderful. I feel so much more awake and I have renewed passion for the questions at hand. I have to say yes to this.

I am all for consistency in asana practice, but writing has to run the show right now. Between relationships, practice and work, it is of course the latter that is least personal and least easy. I want to be in love with the inquiry on an intellectual level—and it’s the deepest satisfaction when I can move from that feeling—but this work is so warped by strategy and professionalism that the questions sometimes feel arch or facetious. When I merely take the questions at face value for the sake of contributing to knowledge: this is where the bullshit lives. When don’t give this thing the best of my energy, my motives can become overly pragmatic and instrumental in a way that makes me despise the game for telling me how to be.

I can’t do work that is motivated by competition and getting ahead. I can’t. I won’t. I will attack such things from the inside: the pattern is all to clear and I can’t say it’s a bad one. Ironically, this comes from many years as a wage-worker (clerking, sales, waitressing) where I could sign over my body but keep my soul to myself. The inverted-world man on my shoulder would be disappointed at that subservience. Still, when I feel a deeper part of me is owned by mis-motivated work, I get rebellious.

For all the instrumentalism, there are heroes doing social science—amazing people who are in it just for the desire to find shit out and not for the prestige or the security. I work with a few of them, one of whom is just autistic enough to be perfect.

The thing is that I can always create a meta-critique. This is my mode of self-deception, and a way to keep from fulfilling the work into which I have written myself—the work I’ve spent six years creating myself to create. In every subtlety and back room of my subconscious, I’ll tend to devalue my work on the micro level. So insofar as tweaking the vinyasa (otherwise known as the “order of putting things together”) on the macro level keeps me conscious, I have to do that.

This inverting pattern, for now, is the best thing I can figure out. A method for making practice give energy to my life, to make life more full than it would be otherwise.

Maybe there’s a clue here about why they’re always tweaking the vinyasa at the AYRI.

Hey suckers—made you look.