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.


  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 6:47 am | #

    sending you a big hug

  • susananda
    Posted 1 August 2009 at 9:19 am | #

    Ah, I love it. The silly people who find you obscure are really missing out, but then, they are only in it for the workout 🙂

    Dealing with a lot of anger here too, and in a remarkably similar way.

    Feelings of anger are preferable to feelings of powerlessness, I find, BY FAR. And once we rise out of the powerless state, we can continue the ascent.

    And yes, thank goodness for the students, who soften everything up, even when I don’t want it.

    Missed you, by the way, but I’m back!

  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 1:40 pm | #

    One of the best descriptions of anger I’ve ever read. So spot-on. And I’m so impressed that you were able to sit back and take mental notes while experiencing it. I think that is what they call yoga. Thank you!

  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 1:55 pm | #

    Just weighing in on the extreme sports thing (I can’t resist!): there is nothing like the feeling at the end of a multipitch climb. Feet touch the ground at the end of the day, the physical system is spent, and endorphines go wild because: I’M (STILL) ALIVE!

  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 5:56 pm | #

    i felt the {{{love}}} and i kind of walked away….observation is everything as you demonstrate (like vipassana)

  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 7:27 pm | #

    Yeah, this was super cool. I may have to write a tangent over at my place about anger, which feels JUST LIKE THAT, but which is (and always has been) extroverted, so that the image stream is one that goes OUT, not one that comes IN.

    I had to, in 2002/03’s absolutely RIDICULOUS minings into rage, actually make it introverted. I had to BEND it in a different direction.

    Hey Karen, admittedly from indoors and only 34 feet per, HECK YEAH!

  • Posted 1 August 2009 at 7:53 pm | #

    Vipassana: turn your negative emotions in to something interesting, and learn to generate positive emotions on demand.

    Ok, that’s a bait-and-switch. But not inaccurate.

    Here is Ayya Khema, the absorption teacher I wrote about a few weeks ago. Not saying anything revolutionary, but look at how she says it. Something going on there. Link.

  • Posted 2 August 2009 at 12:46 am | #

    The link is not working.

  • Posted 2 August 2009 at 1:04 am | #

    Oops. Here are a couple of clips.

    On listening with emotion.

    On method.

  • Fatou
    Posted 2 August 2009 at 6:25 am | #

    /Veoh is no longer available in SLOVENIA. If you are not in SLOVENIA or think you have received this message in error, please go to and report the issue./
    Do you have another link for these two? Since I am, as suggested, in SLOVENIA.

  • YC
    Posted 2 August 2009 at 1:46 pm | #

    I didnt find that obscure at all, Susananda. It was really brave, Owl, and an apt description. Plus, I am glad, although totally surprised, that could give you an orgasm!

  • Posted 2 August 2009 at 5:04 pm | #

    YC, I need an official cooling off period.

    At this point, it puts me on the defensive to see you here. To stay healthy, I need to be free of that feeling in my own home.

    If you put yourself at my keyboard, you will understand everything.

    Good bye and best of luck.

  • boodiba
    Posted 2 August 2009 at 6:16 pm | #

    I think we are all learning something! Could it be possibly to actively work as a group on the collective unconscious? Maybe!

  • YogaPickie
    Posted 2 August 2009 at 7:56 pm | #

    Or maybe just tidy our apartments.

    I’m just saying…

  • Posted 2 August 2009 at 8:14 pm | #

    Oh admit it, my dear, something is going on lately. Just about everyone feels it, or am I mistaken?

    The past two years I’ve gone from eschewing collective unconscious as an empty, woo-woo abstraction to being more interested in it than most anything. Meanwhile, my kitchen cupboards are still a mess…

    OK time to go swimming…

  • susananda
    Posted 2 August 2009 at 9:05 pm | #

    Sorry : )

  • Posted 3 August 2009 at 2:53 am | #
  • Posted 3 August 2009 at 10:44 pm | #

    Kinky stuff, this. Everybody get together, orgasmically blow a few gaskets and then powwow about it afterward to find resolution or closure or whatever. It must have been done before, but it seems novel to me.

  • Posted 4 August 2009 at 7:52 pm | #

    Birds don’t behave this way?

  • joy
    Posted 5 August 2009 at 12:37 pm | #

    The Apple Dumpling Gang squinched my heart!

  • Posted 5 August 2009 at 11:33 pm | #

    Several problems to deal with here. Do birds experience orgasms? How would we find out? Do birds experience anger? Some people describe various bird behaviors as ‘angry,’ and it may be true that they are, but I suspect they don’t experience it in an individuated form. But if birds do experience anger, would highly social species gather together for an angry purpose, or would they disperse?

    I believe crows powwow, though.

  • V
    Posted 6 August 2009 at 9:10 am | #

    Uuuuh…someone was trying to do something nasty to Owlpage.

  • Posted 6 August 2009 at 1:23 pm | #

    Woah! Was a bot.

    Thanks V. Fixed it.

  • Posted 6 August 2009 at 6:03 pm | #

    Also, do birds have chakras?

  • Posted 6 August 2009 at 6:58 pm | #

    The last thing we need is a bunch of magpies chattering about chakras.

  • Posted 6 August 2009 at 7:12 pm | #

    True. Their vata is already way out of balance.

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