The eff in ineffable • 3 April 2010

Already, the days in Ann Arbor are so long. That phase of yellow light just before dusk doesn’t hit until sometime in the eight o’clock hour. I have been taking my phone for walks up the hill, letting the cool air open up breathing channels clogged in Mysore street-soot, watching the sun radiate in the grass of the park. There are purple crocus buds pushing up in the tender spots and new highs this week in the 60s. What a weasel I am. (Edit: three days later the back yard is solid purple in crocus and the magnolia tree—all flowers, no leaves—is causing me to act out in ludicrous ways. Also, it's 80 degrees.)

Somebody told me Ann Arbor has more greenspace per capita than any other municipality. I’ve gone from one embarrassingly charming enclave to another. We know that I can make ecstatic community with leisure-freak ashtangi expats… so now I guess the thing is to make it with an out-of-control crowd of spring flowers. I just can’t get away from exhibitionists.

I’ve tried to talk about the ineffability of the three weeks of practice after I changed my ticket, but it comes out meaningless. Makes me sound as mystified as the seekers whose big question in life is “What is yoga?” (A question that reveals how little their asana practice has taught them about their own minds: the needling of Sharath for definitions of yoga reveals how few of us actually sit. People who access dharana, etc, don’t wonder what is yoga.)

But never mind all that… I actually am sort of mystified right now. I’ve been instructed that the mental states reached in asana practice are a shadow of what’s possible when you sit and take the body out of the field. And that’s been true so far. But I don’t know. There was some crazy collective effervescence those last three weeks. It would have been insane not to stop everything else to let that process reorganize my organism. I don't know if it'll effect me beyond what it was, but even if it doesn't, there's a different sense now of what is possible… a memory that thrills and leaves me a little bit achingly excited for the rest of my life from here.

Do peak experiences change you for the long term? What happens to people who spend accumulated hours of their existence really alive? These are dumb questions, but think of it. Eventually we’ll be able to get a handle on brain states in asana the same way we can check in to a workshop to refine the backbending. Biofeedback, yo. Just another tool. It won’t take the eff out of ineffable.

Anyway. Back walking the streets of utopia’s History Professor ghetto, a friend out in Portland has been talking to me about her new normal. A surgery every week, loss of most of a breast and some lymph nodes, bowing out of a triathlon season or two, an IV portal right in the middle of the chest, and the anemic, cowering wussiness of positive thinking books about cancer. Yeah. Decay, destruction and death. The bliss-monkey strategy is to not think about them, ignore those friends actually wrestling with them, and focus on what feels good. L, on the other hand, is fighting cancer with funny, with scalpels, and with toxic chemicals. It is so inspiring to be a little part of the support team on this one.

And about decay, ok. For these weeks of ineffability, my knees got hashed. The past days, as I became attentive to my body again (somewhat… solo practice is also weirdly wired, but maybe I'll shut up about that for a while), I realized that both joints were inflamed. The tibias were becoming immobile and the AC ligaments constantly shifting over the inside edge of the joint. So… if I want my knees to open up to a new level, they’re ready to go. A mentor told me to just keep practicing and not worry about it. But as long as my ACLs are still intact, I’m all for “attachments.” And for some clear negative thinking to pull back from that particular edge. So these days, lots of modification is there. Castor oil compresses. And, ok, some woo-woo talking nice to the knees and asking them to hold it together for the team.

Tomorrow, Easter, somewhat less decay will be on my mind. I’m thinking a short drive in to the city to practice at the stealth shala, followed by a gospel music gathering at the Detroit Opera House. In the afternoon when he’s done preaching, my dad will ring up and shout, He is risen! (I think this was some kind of Open Sesame code language in the hippie Christian underground at the dawn of the common era.)

For most of my life, Easter has been the zenith of my loathing for the whole religion, the day its rituals really made me shudder and gag. It was good to use that irritability to get distance, but this year the whole thing feels so obviously mystical. I mean, come on. Who pretends their god comes back to life at the same time the plants are exploding with the reproductive drama? Turns out the maharaja of Mysore had to die and get reborn every year too. And I figure northern people especially need some ritual around this stuff. For now I’m back to being of the north, so… fine Dad. I will open up the fortress this year. He is risen indeed.