Occult, optics, oy • 24 May 2009

New moon. I thought I’d go do some vinyasa flow with a minor celebrity later today, then drink tea out on Montana avenue while the locals lilt by with their poodles and chihuahas. I do love poodles.

Yesterday after brunch with a suddenly right-wing friend who ranted for an hour about how it’s great that Cali’s bankrupt so we’ll stop—you know—educating our citizens, I saw Angels & Demons. It was bad, of course, but also thoroughly enjoyable. The parts filmed outside my office were barely featured; and I was miffed that Royce Hall was standing in not for St. Peter’s but Harvard. They always do that—try to pass my quad off as Harvard. There were three distinct test-marketed endings shown back to back in the final half hour—and that was horrible, especially because the plot concludes nicely after ending #1. And Tom Hanks is pasty and one-dimensional as ever—what would the film be with a hero who at least had a dark side and something going on behind his eyes (and better shoulders)? Wistful sigh for Johnny Depp in The Ninth Gate. I just hope this hasn’t killed off the important genre of the professor-templar thriller.

What else? The university health center's been on quasi-lockdown since influenza porchina, but I did finally get in for the contact lenses. Brilliant! They scheduled two hours for the appointment; and the assistant sighed deeply when she sat me down in front of the mirror to learn to use them. What would Johnny Depp do? Er… what would Rolf Naujokat do?

Inhaaaaale touch your eyeball; exhale blink.

So the assistant got a two hour break. Really not necessary to schedule that much training time for the yoga practitioners.

Anyway, the lenses are wonderful. There’s a little itch against the eyelid that reminds me I’m wearing a device and the head itself is a kind of body part that gets cramps of its own. And I suddenly have 20/20 peripheral vision! And I appreciate the removal of the metal barrier between my eyes and the world. It’s disconcerting and a little intimate, and in the context of mysore teaching just a relief not to have a pair of foggy blinders mashing up between me and every body I squash.

So this is it. Living as if I’m naturally 20/20. A couple of centuries ago, those with bad eyes just got to sit around having less of a world. It makes me imagine technologies that might make my body operate as if it were medium-sized. I’ve been a little down on myself about yoga teaching in this body—turning five feet in to a tool that can lift karandavas and balanace prasaritas is not easy. I always like steep learning curves, handicapping myself by playing a little out of my league. But this is different. In everyday life I am able to disguise myself as medium-sized by the way I move, but in this context I feel the truth.  

Anyway. I wrote something about how beautiful everything was in ashtangaland in the hours and days after SKPJ–after Guruji–passed. The 3 am phone calls, spontaneous ceremonies, the planetary letting go that I feel could set the tone for this whole global thing we're doing. The histories borne out in twitter tags and facebook feeds, the many kinds of gratitude, the realization of the life's work of the tricksy old guru who knew how to receive love as much as he knew how to holler. 

I was struck by the diversity in cosmologies: for those who wished he'd "rest in peace," to those who wished him well on "his next adventure," to those who fevervently prayed that his individual soul would snuff out once and  for all. Whatever forms the well-wishes took, the simple feeling of love seems to have grown very much during the week. I hear classes across the world have been packed like never before in recent days and wonder: Are we going to make it last?

For now, looking at the lingering of the mourning, I feel also that, well…. tributes also have a short shelf life. For me, the ritual mourning has begun to go brittle and dry by now. It's also just liable to become politics–a display of piety, an in-group signal. Riiiiight.

What's more lame than the political side of an inherently personal practice? It has to exist because we are human and have institutions to run, but there’s little reward in it. And in another sense, there are no insiders in this practice. We're all geeks anyway, all doing the exact same thing. Unless you think tokens and titles get you in to some weird heaven, there's no house banker who will cash out those piety chips at the end of the night.


  • Posted 24 May 2009 at 5:19 pm | #

    Well said.

    So much time is spent thinking and talking about poses and progress, culture and lineage (all of which is fun) that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that SKPJ created an approach to yoga that helps householders stay connected to the 8 limbs. It’s really a remarkable achievement. I think his passing made it clear to me that this man that I never knew gave me a self-practice that I can take with me everywhere for the rest of my life.

  • V
    Posted 24 May 2009 at 5:50 pm | #

    Contact lenses: good. Lasik surgery: even better (but this is coming from someone that abused contacts for 20 years and couldn’t tolerate them anymore).

    Have you read the original La Novena Puerta? Highly recommended. I refused to see the film when I learnt they cast Ms Seigner as The Girl. Not even Depp could make me watch that.

  • V
    Posted 24 May 2009 at 5:52 pm | #

    Actually, the title didn’t ring true so I double checked: “El Club Dumas”. Must get my mom to send me a copy.

  • jeff
    Posted 24 May 2009 at 6:23 pm | #

    You got 20/20 with contacts? I’m jealous. I tried contact lenses a few years ago and it wasn’t worth the fuss and the image quality wasn’t great: I have enough astigmatism such that I can’t get a correction with spherical lenses, but not enough to get torics. I asked the eye doctor about this—she said that I could go with hard lenses. Sigh… So I have spectacles. (No, I don’t want surgery.)

  • supern(ovo)
    Posted 24 May 2009 at 8:21 pm | #

    Although 200 years ago you would not have wrecked your eyes with all that reading. You would have been otherwise occupied with chores and breeding obligations.

  • Posted 24 May 2009 at 9:01 pm | #

    Hm. I guess all the reading is why I’m nearsighted. Jeff, the contacts aren’t perfect—things get fuzzy at very close range—but I still love them. And eventually Lasik will be one self-enhancement surgery that does excite me.

    Over brunch in the yoga scene today I learned among many other things that a yoga-teacher acqaintance just received new boobs as a gifts from a client. DDs. Kind of amazing. Wow is yoga politics a distracting, trivial world.

    So the original is a good book? I first saw The Ninth Gate in Peru… it was called La Ultima Puerta. It’s hilariously bad. In a good way.

  • Wombat
    Posted 24 May 2009 at 9:03 pm | #

    I usually wear my contacts when I practice, but I find that it’s a bit easier to keep that soft-focus drishti when I practice without them. I’m a little less likely to notice other things/people in the studio (well, I can’t see them, after all!). I’ll be interested to hear if you notice any difference.

  • Posted 24 May 2009 at 11:26 pm | #

    nice post… so full of interesting things. Congrats on the new seeing!

    “I hear classes across the world have been packed like never before in recent days and wonder: Are we going to make it last?”… I wonder about that too. Something will last, and as in many things, perhaps come full circle (did you or Cody write that? I remember agreeing).

    wow. DD. Those suckers would definitely suck when binding (and think of Mayurasana!).

    Ninth Gate… Johnny Depp… mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm.

  • Posted 24 May 2009 at 11:34 pm | #

    Oh, look at this. The occult meets theravada.

  • jeff
    Posted 25 May 2009 at 1:37 am | #

    Wow a teacher got a pair of double D’s as a gift. That’s expensive (according to the great google, it’s a 4k-10k procedure). Hope they at least look natural rather than bolted on.

    (0V0), the contacts don’t have the same accommodation range as your glasses? Why were you wearing your glasses during yoga practice? I usually take them off and put them in a case in my bag. But then again, my prescription is -2.75 (or -2.5) and I can wander around most rooms w/o glasses.

  • Posted 25 May 2009 at 2:19 am | #

    Oh, I only wear them when I’m teaching, not practicing. But I’ll try them out in practice some time this week.

    New Shinzen. Six traps. Many more posted this week.

  • Posted 25 May 2009 at 12:05 pm | #

    Oh, the 6 Traps vid! Wonderful. I had never seen Shinzen on video. He’s a pleasure to watch. I wonder what the Dharma Overground folks might feel about this vid… They are very big on maps and big, dramatic changes.

  • k(ovo)lumpen
    Posted 25 May 2009 at 7:53 pm | #

    Trap 7: the traps trap.

  • Posted 26 May 2009 at 12:15 am | #

    Map trap?

  • jeff
    Posted 26 May 2009 at 12:41 pm | #

    So what’s wrong if you get trapped in some of the traps? Ignorance is bliss, right?

  • pr(ovo)dentialsnares
    Posted 26 May 2009 at 1:19 pm | #

    The happy clap trap…

  • Posted 26 May 2009 at 5:04 pm | #

    I will never ever ever ever understand why someone with ‘normal’ (I know, loaded word) boobs would actually get double-D’s on purpose. I understand wanting enhancement, but DD is a LOT to deal with. I wish I could donate mine, like I do with my hair. Only I wouldn’t want them to grow back.

    I’m glad you’re coming to grips with being petite… 🙂 Can you help me come to grips with being the Jolly Red-headed Giant?????

  • Posted 26 May 2009 at 6:31 pm | #

    all doing the exact same thing

    But why does it feel so different for me from how it looks for everybody else?

    Regarding the vision: Perhaps leave the car behind and go on walkabout now and then? Driving, reading and computing all lead to degraded vision; among the three activities, driving is relatively easier to abandon from time to time.

  • Posted 26 May 2009 at 7:31 pm | #

    Because you are the center of your universe, Carl? And I am the center of mine. Different physics on different planets. Still… students’ desire to see themselves as “special cases” never convinces me.

    I do think I need to take more breaks from the screen and books. The last few days I realized by evening that my eyes were SO tired. Not sure how I have managed to be insensitive to my eyes and their functionality til now.

    Sonya… Not sure about the jollyness or red-headedness (which are awesome), but… maybe do some powerful physical stuff? Construction? Farming? House-moving? Sometimes I feel kind of ridiculous when it comes to moving furniture or even carrying groceries.

    So unfathomable to me what the world would be like from inside a body that was taller than others…

  • Posted 26 May 2009 at 8:26 pm | #

    It makes it easier to keep track of friends in crowded places.

  • Posted 27 May 2009 at 7:32 pm | #
  • Posted 29 May 2009 at 8:34 am | #

    hi (0v0)
    beautiful descriptions regarding honoring Guruji
    hugs, A

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