More Pieces • 15 October 2008

The beach at dawn is full of bums wrapped in Army/Navy surplus. I drove right past the shala and out to the pier this morning, under a huge harvest moon made orange not from the dust of tilled-under cornstalks but the ash burning luxury homes. There are fires in the hills and it’s just as well—gives local news something to distract the masses from calling their brokers. (That's what you get when you let riffraff like me invest.)

I walked a few miles on the beach, toward Malibu, which was all pink with a glowing haze like in soap operas, thanks to the fire ash. As the sun came up the oversize bum-caterpillars spread across the beach started moving, packing up, trudging in across the sand.

Great place to be homeless, in some ways. I wonder how many people will slip out of the middle class this year. I wonder if I will get a snot-nose job and slip in to it.

I was shocked to hear Dr. Doom on the morning news. Usually the financial media pretend he doesn’t exist—how odd it would be if this wing of the journalism profession practiced the compulsively “balanced,” phony two-sided reporting of the "objective" politics reporters. Roubini, because he sees an end to this, actually makes me feel better, given that the credit markets are still locked up and the DOW is full of puckey. Amazing to watch it oscillate.

To hedge that possibility—of slipping from the bliss-following margins and in to the middle class—and because I just about outed myself today (and in so doing got a large insulin spike—sad to see I still need subselves hermetically sealed off from professional life), I’m anonymizing this owl. If you’re here already, eh, you know me and I love your being around. But I’m not all that excited about new lurkers and am short-circuiting some of the routes to my house. More self-expression, less identity-construction. That’s the idea.

They say the moon is the time to observe the attachments and ridigity we form around practice (and also around compulsive non-practice—ever notice that there’s as much authoritarianism and superstition about You Shall not Practice on Moon Days as about You Shall Practice Correct Vinyasa?) To that end, I want to say that I’ve been disillusioned by rigid ashtangi refusals to think critically. Is it refusal, though… or inability? I never know whether some people shallow for life or if it's fair to say shallow a choice. But… it does seem to be shallowness that enables us to believe that subservient, unreflective expressions of this practice are deep. Ommmm….

It is wonderful to work within and negotiate a tradition, but this week I've been aware of ashtanga's fear-laced gullibility and ways in which it is not about going into our own immediate experience. The specific ways we use ashtanga to avoid our inner experiences.

Sonya of Long Island sometimes moves me very much, when she hits me with unadorned honesty that is not even looking for approval or agreement, when she shows her ability to just sit in the flames of her own experience and wonder what the hell it is about. By contrast, it seems much of what we do is approval-seeking, or neurotic self-control, or just using the body as a driste-suck on others.

I was stunned, in retrospect, that it took until the fifty-fourth comment (blisterkist) in the AshtangaNews thread for someone finally to call out the superficiality and self-fleeing nature of this ashtanga fantasy of having a so-called guru (the guru tradition is something so different from this beguiling culture clash), together with our failure of critical thought when it comes to the life-or-death matter of our own practice. Sometimes I give tradition itself too much weight and respect—trying to act compassionately but perhaps just avoiding disagrements. My wish is that we masses could have both beds in which to lay down our heads and brains to occupy those heads. This world is too beautiful to inhabit halfway outside of what's real to us, drifting between other people's mumbo jumbo and their competing assertions of rightness. Wide-eyed redulity is for summer blockbusters, but it just takes the edge off self-inquiry.

I worry this practice will dull itself with its fearful authority-worship and its repetition of arbitrary rules as if they were magic. If that is all there is, then of course we will turn outward, to performance and recognition, for rewards. I'm starting to wonder if any aspects of practice that take us out of our experience are a waste of energy.