Asana P0rn • 14 March 2011

Last one out

How far will humans go for a peak experience? Months of marathon training, the expense to get up Everest, the hassle of jumping from airplanes. Kensho or no, all that effort gives me awe.

Condition, condition, condition the organism. Then wait for conditions to be right. These thrills are not cheap.

Today, rolling out of another marathon savasana, I sprung a leak that spiraled back inside, into full sensory recall of my first peak experience. A rabbit hole straight from Mysore to Montana and back across twenty years, to a perfect powder day… skiing soft, fast 3-mile runs down Red Lodge Mountain. Middle of March it was, the year I was maybe 14. For a few minutes, that was more real than the cool marble against my left hip and right palm, where my body lay buzzing up in the damp, mosquitoey dawn of the ladies’.

Savasana play has been this trip’s central fascination. Watching the effects of stretching the nervous system, which Narasimhan says is the real paydirt of this asana stuff. I wonder if it takes tiiiime for the nervous system to open out like this. If I've been preparing for this for all along without knowing. If it works better because the energy is more complex here. (Yes, there is something I can't measure with any other tool but my body. And I can't point to it. And I'm claiming it is real and using a stupid word for it.)

Who knows what neuroscience will tell us eventually, but I suspect that a lot of my sitting practice is spent in delta state. Disembodied, entropic. And I suspect that the proprioception that goes inside/outside of physicality to the shudder and whorl of raw nerve impulse… I suspect this sort of consciousness is of a different frequency. Theta waves. If that’s the case, then maybe this winter I’ve been learning to light up the theta through these embodied meditations, just lying there observing (and sometimes manipulating) the nervous system. What else am I gonna do after practice? Rush the coconut stand?

This sort of subtle body meditation doesn’t feel like a boundless state—not like mahamudra or other primordial practices, nor like one of the absorption states. But it’s stil vast. Vaaaaaast. It is many dimensions more thrilling, I would submit, than anything I can do upright on a yoga mat. (Er… almost anything.)

But damn if the asana stuff isn’t intertwined. Sharath always says that asana is the foundation of the 8 limbs. I have many shapes of eyebrow twitches in response to this, but the thing is… well, wow. I’ve been a long way from the usual absorption states in the practice room this year. Instead, this year has been about feeling (celebrating, even) the density of my body and the desultory quality of others' movements in the room. If self-practice was unexpected bliss, this season has been back to the mundane. Or it was, until recent days. Then—woah—this crazy depth started sneaking up during asana practice. Enter the old bliss…

…in moments like today, catching vrischikasana and rising up inhaling as hands go straight to opposite shoulders. And on that same inhalation a second pair of hands, the most sensitive-deft-direct-clean hands in the world to my knowledge, arrive from nowhere. These other hands catch the migrating quicksand points that wander around my sacrum. Stabilized by hands at both the upper and lower axes (heart and mula), then, the whole body can snake back sort of weightless on the following exhale. The next three breaths each last a warp of time internally, even as my body uses those breaths to rise and fall a great distance. And then because conditions are right—we’re in a unearthly serendipity bubble now, and can play here—binding in an internally deeper way than ever. And we do this not to play the edge of asana achievement—from the outside, I imagine it looks the same as always—but rather in a way that opens up a jolt of spine-electricity so physical I have to open my mouth and rumble to release some of it on the last exhale. 

And he laughs. Rumble and laugh. Inhale up. Exhale ground. And catch the mundane with my toes. Feel the floor, fill my senses with the stimuli right here. Let the present content refill my space, so peaking out doesn’t leave me all spacey.

The drive from the ski area parking lot to the bottom of the mountain was the same duration as Inagodadavida, a song somehow not banned when the folks threw out my heathen rock music. On that first real powder day, it was just my dad and me skipping school. I told him that now I realized why we did this. The mucky cold, rock days and rainy days, drives in crazy weather, obsession and expense and risk and pain. Filled with Ah ha, I said: “This is the whole reason—THIS is what it’s all about!”

But my dad was and is a guy who goes up Red Lodge Mountain as many as a hundred days a year. And it’s not much of a mountain, unless you’re madly in love with it—like he is—and thus it’s the only mountain that fully exists for you. He laughed and said something like: Oh really? No, it’s all about what it’s all about. You might get two or these days a year. Or one every two years. The rain and rocks exist to make this possible, but also this is every bit a part of the days of rain and rocks.

I'm still figuring that one out.

But now it's time to scoot on to Jayashree. And for Narasimhan, whose dark eyes turn obsidian and spin out shards of samadhi when when you press the right buttons.

I guess heaven just keeps descending down on Mysore. SKPJ used to say First month paining, second month tired, third month flying. Now from Ides until "the end," fifteen days remain. I’ll try to keep my feet on earth for this perfect perfect brutal perfect perfect passage…. Or maybe we’ll just fly.