So I am back on the pranayama. I let it go exactly a year ago because I had enough else to do. I initiated a 200-hour teacher training and, the same day, began practicing with a teacher who would bring a subtle deep attention, and another shade of tapas entirely, to the ashtanga.
I figured I had all the practice I could do without draining too much energy off the research project. Also: pranayama is scary. Good thing to avoid.
I only practice the first, second and last of the sixfold ashtanga sequence. The other three are beyond my security clearance, thankfully. Returning to my notes on ratios and reps over the lunch hour, I ran across this passage from Laura Huxley in an old notebook. I’ve been thinking of her the past two weeks since she died. Sounds like she was bright and wonderful, like she is below, all century long.
The passage is a little demented/fermented—one of the chewy fragments which Journey of Awakening, Ram Dass’ initial book on meditation, comprises. And it is accordingly sweet.
Voyage in peace, old girl.
It is easier for me to tell you about non-meditation than about meditation. I sit or walk looking at myself non-meditating—absorbed in dramas and melodramas, heart-gripping tragedies, loneliness, shabbiness, delights. As from another planet I look at them, through a telescope. Then there is a little space between me and my all-pervasive feelings. Nevertheless, I still feel I am my feelings, as well as whatever it is that elicits them, plus a third entity looking at the drama of separation between subject and object. Is that the Eternal Triangle? After a short while of looking at the show I take off to a more distant planet and with a more power telescope I look at myself diligently looking at myself. Surely this self-fascination is not meditation. I get up and do something pleasant, useful or beautiful.
Then once again the voyeuse, I go back to peering at my consciousness. It is garbage! Garbage!? The word inspires me because I use my kitchen garbage aesthetically and usefully… (to make compost). What about applying the same principle to the content of my consciousness? I decide to recycle every bit of it into a thought of goodwill for anyone or anything which presents itself.
It becomes a fun game to look at a thought-feeling and convert it into a blessing for the subject of the thought-feeling. Even science agrees now that “thoughts are things.” Surely if random thoughts are consciously converted into a message of goodwill, only something worthwhile can result….
I understand that meditation is to be undertaken in purity of intention and not for results. If viewed as a utilitarian project like the one I propose, then meditation becomes but another, although higher, achievement of that ego about which so many seem to be worried. The garbage recycling game, then, is not meditation because it is ambitious and it has goals and results: the improvement of relationships, ambience, digestion, wrinkles, etc. It is not meditation but by playing it lightly and constantly, and if “as luck would have it that God is on our side,” it could happen (why not?) that one day garbage, recycling, thought, thinker, devils, blessings—all of it becomes one, all separation vanishing in a moment.