Downshifting • 21 April 2008

Time stops in Ojai when the moon is full. I took my laptop and forgot to open it, my cell and was heedless of it. Early yesterday I looked at a clock and saw it was 3, shocked by the horrible existence of time, and reset my ticker to come home. Too relaxed to plan the coming day, or to regret the weekend’s complete unproductiveness. That depth of relaxation is amazing outside of time, and for now only available under that condition.

I’m reminded of a letter I wrote to my uncle and aunt when I was 19 and outside the US for the first significant duration. “The 18-year-old knots are falling out of my kidneys….” I’ve been embarrassed by that because it so exposes my motives for studying in Costa Rica: crass escapism. I projected all my fantasies about “freedom” and “finding myself” on to a country (of all things) because 876 miles away from my folks had not been enough to make them leave me alone. That is some serious imperialist escapism. But hey, I grew up a little that year, became somewhat less the ignorant and unconsciously superior American, and in the process realized that I had something like low back tension.

Anyway… why is it still true that I require a literal shift in time and place in order to relax fully? 

I’ve conditioned myself to downshift to a specific mental state for practice. So many resources for this—all the internal practices and external rituals which surround ashtanga and make it not only familiar but juicy. Plus, I tend to collect arbitrary environmental cues that remind me about my mind and slow it way down. This is all another conversation.

It is pretty great to be able to hypnotize yourself more or less automatically. But while getting in to surya state is relatively easy,  I'm less equipped for dialing down even deeper to let it all go. Lying there this morning I used an oblique strategy to relax the jaw: Body, I said, relax the teeth.

Brilliant. Who knew that tracing the boundary between the root of the eye teeth and the palate could knock you out? So here is one deep relaxation practice, ok. But I wonder if I could go there on another day, when time and the practicalities of productive life are closer at hand. And I'm not sure that I should, given I need and want to live intensely out here on the academic dancefloor and don't fool myself that this is possible in anything near delta state. Unless I can teach myself to shift in and out with a clean automaticity. Mmmm…