So I’m cornered.
If practice in recent years has been a drilling down through a little sandstone, oil shale, hitting an aquifer or natural gas cave here and there…, well, this week I hit a vein of something black and opaque. Something that bites back.
I finish as usual and find, re-engaging, that I am destroyed. Just after practice, for a while, and again at night. It’s some kind of desolation, some colorless dark. It’s not emotional but it is. And, too, it’s an intuition of all the stuff we don’t, mistakenly, want to happen. And it’s thoughts of dark. Shiva calling on all levels, and not in a joking mood.
It’s impossible not to notice, because this condition is so different from the one in which I awake. It’s also dramatically different from my idea of my internal experience. And… it’s too large and immobile to dismiss. So these days I’m getting on the mat understanding there may be aftermath.
A weird thing is that others don’t see it. Usually I have a transparency problem: could not fake you out if I wanted to. But somehow, with this, I have to volunteer the information for people to know it. At least this inscrutable demon-dark is pretty well-bounded, whatever it is. It’s not something good to put on anyone, so I won't dwell too much.
It’s not a practical problem—I have certain habits built up and can cruise on them while being sort of ok with what’s going on emotionally. My idea is: do not allow the emotion part of this to take control by generating its own (1) self-pity forcefield or (2) “I’m not feeling well” excuse for behaving creepishly. And yes, as I was advised: don’t give this thing any weapons.
A month of vacationing with ashtangis highlighted how analytical we all can get about this practice. I gained 5 pounds because of X. I lost my Mari D because of Y. The teacher scratched his nose while looking at me because of Z. Therefore I need to do A, stop doing B, chant to Ganesh for 40 days, and see my astrologer, and do a cleanse. Practice becomes a project of problem-finding and problem-solving.
Because I’m such a sucker for causal analysis, I’m tempted to disallow it altogether right now. Most if it is the mind grasping for something to explain, or trying to get out of what’s actually the case in the present moment by turning what’s right here now it in to a problem. Making experience a problem and explaining it away.
Still, ok, I do see that the dark is in the jaw, the neck, the occipital region. I’ve been dwelling here so much lately, letting go of this old, hard anger that lives there. If I were dreaming and you asked me, “Owl, what is your jaw made of?” I might say obsidian.
Or mercury. It does feel like the old morphing mercury bead I’ve been consolidating from all over the body and tilting to the back corner of my consciousness is trapped now. I finally am at a point of either stopping because it’s terrible or going on because that’s what I do. This is not the same as a severe back injury or chronic SI inflammation. It’s more scary and ugly but also more interesting than that.
And ok, it might be relevant that I’ve been working the ganda bherunda in a new way, relaxing the jaw there (relaxing most everything, actually), allowing the atlas to move back far on the atlas in a way that feels like it’s healing a neck that I didn’t know was unwell. The posture is, finally, a hideous pride-killing tongue stretch, one that leaves that hidden deep muscle relaxed and long enough to snake up and rest on the soft palate without even working to stay there.
It’s not about working chest now so much as it’s about smashing the jaw into the earth until it gives up. I don’t get to grit my teeth and press on. I get to discard that reflex at the moment I want to rely on it. Or not. I could always go back to 2S, recognize that this is all pointless suffering.