Addiction machine • 1 August 2009

I flatlined on about eight dimensions Friday after practice. What would the medics see? Blood sugar in the red, muscle responsiveness withered, concentration out of service, analytical clarity nil. But from the subjective side of things, it felt great.

I stumbled in the door and let my body arrange itself in to a little pile on the floor. The Editor offered to get me some coffee or other stimulants and, deliriously declining, I said “So THIS is why people get addicted to triathlon…”

Getting back in to teaching after two months off, and doing it on top of everything else, is a lot. Wednesday and Thursday, I got through the arm balances not on passion but by giving up on all fronts of opposition. The traps, jaw and especially mind—had to be undemocratically denied the vote. It felt like too much exertion so far as simply working out goes—why work this hard and get this sweaty and set myself up for soreness tomorrow? Unlike most ashtangis, I find extreme sports mystifying and have little taste for awesome feats or conquering inanimate foes like mountains or race tracks. Lucky that. Probably the reason I was a poor athlete—that and I didn’t understand the particular peace that passeth understanding which arrives with sheer exhaustion like I tasted this morning.

The doorbell rang a few minutes later, when my 9:30 appointment arrived a half hour early. Somehow I got my shit back together and kept it together for three more hours, after which sleeping and eating seemed a little incidental. The marathoner’s second wind, or something like it. I was tempted not to break my nearly daylong fast when I finally had the chance. I was on the edge of some kind of farther-out zone and of course was tempted to get that much closer to whatever it was that Jesus saw in the desert or the mystics see in their caves or the Everest-climbers describe.

But also, there was kale in the fridge. Almonds, apples, quinoa, red cabbage, olive oil, cinnamon, ginger. And kombucha. I feasted, and then walked to the store for a chocolate bar. I should keep kale at the ready to combat future urges to take a spontaneous spirit quest.

Speaking of states the nervous system trips on and then demands on repeat—the really addictive patterns—anger. I on-loaded a strong hit of it mid-week—my own and others’. And being back in the classroom softens my mental and emotional boundaries right up. This is not something we discuss in yoga, but even the least woo woo bodyworkers take it for granted. Bodyworkers get superstitious and fearful about “bad energy” (I just discovered a whole literature on it), but then, bodyworkers don’t usually have nadi shodana. Is anger always bad energy? Unconscious anger—likely. Addictive anger—for sure. Harmful intentions—super yes. But with the nadi shodana a little strong, maybe you can begin to see through the content of anger and work its energy. (Again, this means bracketing “issues,” looking at thoughts as energy vectors rather than meaning vehicles.)

Unlike my inner life from ages 5-25, I don’t get a lot of raw anger now. So I enjoyed it this week and actually felt that, through it, others were giving me their energy rather than taking mine. When it got harsh, I’d stop everything and watch. Here’s what I found out.

At first, it was this rush of sensation in the chest and belly. Strong. If you really want to know, there would be a not unorgasmic spike from the belly a straight up to the brain stem. It vibrated strongly, lighting up the pleasure center… like a freaky nadi massage. Lasting maybe 3 or 5 seconds—a long time in terms of brain activity.

After that first flash of climax, the anger would settle back in the chest. In a few seconds, the chest would go back to normal as the intensity wore off. And that is when the images would start. I was not even conscious until this month of the fairly autonomous image stream that I am constantly generating in and around my head, so now when I remember to look clearly at what’s happening there, it still tends to trip me out.

In the case of this anger, first what would arrive were images of physical violence inflicted to my chest. My mind would see that punches or knife stabs were landing down on my body, in my heart. It would see this in order to try to keep the anger alive, because it felt so good in the body. But after another few seconds, the climax would really be passing away, and that is when another kind of image would start. Not just random, video game violence, but meaningful violence.

My guess is that my organism was realizing that just straight violence imagery wasn’t sufficient to sustain the high, so it went in to the psyche to mine for past trauma. Or maybe it was innocent, the nervous system saying “Wait, we know this song! Here’s an old version that used to be popular back in 1983!” And then, roll tape, I’m back in the schoolyard in first grade, and Renae the tomboy with two big brothers is wailing on me while several little farm boys in overalls look on. What is this world of my inner child—some dystopian version of the Apple Dumpling Gang?

Slapstick samskaras… got to keep them in syndication somehow.