WWND, Moon Play, Streams of Practice • 19 June 2008

What would Nietzsche do is a concentrated question. Use sparingly and apply only to the affected area. Yields extraordinary mental clarity! But may cause will-to-power-disease if taken incorrectly.

It was a WWND day.

First thing in the morning, I went out the Santa Monica pier and skated north to Malibu and back. A summer idyll—waves big, sun clear, light salty breeze. Me and the runners—tourists don’t show up until later. Listening to Tropicalia and, after that, David Byrne.

It’s indecent to have access to this picture any old day.

Afterwards, still hyper, wrote for a while. Then I hit the asana class NYT billed as “most advanced in LA,” to let the teacher know I still love her. Received some amazing personal instruction (very helpful), was told to take lotus in handstand (ok, interesting that’s possible), and might (as a result) have frightened one or two students. A surprisingly, sweetly internal class for that venue, opening and closing with instruction on pratyhara (which calmed me down the way a few sun salutations and standing postures cannot). This deviation from the tradition is “damaging yoga”? Really? Damaging the monopoly, yes. But a scene like this is so different from ashtanga that the two do not need to fear each other the way they do. I wish they would stop trashing each other. Soon, we need different words to refer to the two kinds of practice: they have little in common and neither is going away.

Anyway.The thing about the ashtanga teacher, the one who does primary before a moon, is that he doesn’t go in for arbitrary rules. He’s got too much positive instruction on tap to need to frame his room in negative instructions. It's different, but there are a lot of reasons one might specify first-only before a moon: my guess is that he knows he attracts physically intense students whose minds could use a super-internal practice at regular intervals on random days. No kidding: this guy is the best asana instructor I have ever encountered. This shocks and amuses me. He is gifted in physical intelligence and has made third easy yet particularly intense for me. And my back, which has been trippy for 16 months, has undergone some kind of healing this spring, in a way that I might try to explain later.

I am still not very “physical” about this stuff—thinking and talking about asana is unbearably tedious, especially where my own body is concerned. I’m interested in the head-trip, energy, culture, history, spirit, emotion—ANYTHING but mechanics. Which is why a very physical teacher, who has mastery in the area I avoid, is a great benefit.

This brings me to something Gregor and I put together in a thread the other day. I think he was drunk when he brought it up but the idea makes sense if you stay with it. Say there are different streams of mastery—physical, mental, spiritual, maybe another. If you’re going to practice something, you’ll probably be drawn to focus on the stream in which you feel most competent. Too, maybe you feel insecure in one of the other streams and try to avoid it. High school athletes (who might claim to be non-intellectual) find a physical practice; introverts (usual klutzes) turn to meditation; mental people (who say "quieting the mind" is a stupid idea) pursue intellectual athleticism.

Would it be possible for a single practice to work in all three streams simultaneously, and actually harmonize them over time? A practice in which you may get in for the appeal of, say, physical mastery, but soon find you have to work with equal intensity in other less familiar streams in order to pursue that supposed strength?

Ashtanga has the potential to be that. A kind of practice that balances the streams.