Never not here • 26 November 2011

Today I woke up when a wand dropped in to my hand. Yesterday, same thing. I flicked my wrist, heard the wand hit the floor 3 feet down, and returned to sleep. Alone and prone in the bed, insulated from the sun and cold by flannel sheets, Pendleton wool and feathers, plus a feather pillow on my head. Just arms exposed: palms up, and one shoulder for each cat to use as a pillow. Zelda goes right, Lynxx left.

If contentment can be ecstatic—santosha as samprajnata—it is in waking up naked, two cats burying noses in your neck, warming your shoulders with their feather-soft chests, and bubbling their bellies in your armpits. They migrate to my lymph nodes, which are hormone and sweat centers. But does the bliss body—the anandamaya— also leak from these recesses? Are they portals for nervous system entwinement?

Cats purr to create and express emotions, playing them out up and down nature’s most wonderful spines. Biologists can’t explain it. They debate whether purring is about safety, or happiness, or love, or joy. As if a mammal’s nervous-emotional system has only one channel. There are many different ways to experience yes.

I wonder how many cat-people wake naked amid cuddles and flash on Annie Liebowitz’s photograph of John and Yoko in bed. Seen from above, do we look something like that? Could our interspecies entwinement feed a peace movement like the bed-ins of ‘69?

Back to waking up. This morning, the wand I’d flicked to the floor came back to my hand. Zelda Pingala must have been pushing it in to my palm. I stayed still, covered in blankets, but curled fingers around the wand like a baby building out its nervous system. Zelda is training me to play her favorite game—feather-stick—at all hours.

But I needed to sleep. I’d spent the two previous nights doing foot patrol in dark, 33-degree rain, searching for her runaway sister Lynxx. Last week, Lynxx hid my eyeglasses while I was in the shower with suitcases for Canada at the back door. I had to drive to Niagara Falls with old lenses. I returned Saturday, and was re-packing the luggage on Monday. As I slipped outside to double-check the house-sitter’s keys, Lynxx made a break for freedom. I cornered her against the house and she went feral, doubling in size and flying past me, though a neighbor’s yard, and beyond. Two days and a missed flight later, a hunting dog found her under a deck. She ran out on bloody white paws, through freezing rain, into the arms of the neighborhood butcher. He’s the new hero on a street of relaxed vegetarians. I’m paying my respects in butter cookies.

Meanwhile, fabulous, softly lit, winter Los Angeles is going on without me. There were practice and tea and lunch and party plans, love-soaked anticipation, and an incoming hit of Vitamin D. Missing these, what’s the diff? Not much. Working with Shinzen shows me exactly how much equanimity I still don’t have on the micro levels of everyday mind, but some of the big cognitive structures have remade themselves since I left California kicking and screaming two years ago. I still often experience who I am as continuous with where I am. But the wheres are somewhat harder to pin down in time and space. Different places and times appear as adjacent nodes in a net of associations. LA and A2 are never not exploding in to each other. Just as Mysore is never not here; Montana is never not here.

For now, it feels I am losing my sense of time the way I once, for four months, lost my sense of the ground beneath me. Circa 2004, Intermediate Series + PhD Prelims blew the doors off my nervous system. It was painful, transcendent, lonely, delusional, inspiring, and changed everything. A total lack of context, spiritual community or support drove me to theorizing (somewhat wrongly) about yoga, but what it took to understand what had happened was a lot more practice. A whole lot more practice. Last week, Shinzen said these things—dark nights, spiritual emergencies, kundalini sickness—should be discussed. People need support. Hmm. That's true. Yet I’ve never said a word about what happened except to my teachers and two close friends.

One thing I found when I went looking to explain the CNS power surge was that it actually doesn’t happen to most ashtangis. SKPJ was a kind of mad scientist; and his method is the most genius and radical healing regime I have ever found. Read the old scriptures. Tristhana is a classical kundalini kickstart. Just as Gopi Krishna found ways to keep that process from happening too quickly, I wonder if most westerners intuitively slow down their own transformation by half-assing the concentration, relaxation, diet or drste. At first, some rajas or tamas intake (emotional, dietary, mental) may act as insulation. Well… ok. There is no virtue or romance in losing the ground under one’s feet.

Without insulation, people who get the doors blown of their nervous systems sometimes land in a psych ward (DSM diagnosis: “Chi Kung – related illness”), or in India (social diagnosis: hippie narcissist). As much as society ridicules both types, something real is going on with these people. The process may be turning them into self-absorbed jerks (as it did to me), but if they work it out they’re apt to evolve beautifully. I suppose I can agree with Shinzen that we can learn from what these people go through. In this sense, having teachers who know the energetic practice is important. But there is not a word written about the energetic practice in ashtanga books, nor here. The good stuff is nonverbal, exchanged person to person.

Anyway. To Zelda and her feather-wand. This morning, after she returned it to my hand and my fingers grasped it, the feathers on the end of the wand fluttered up. She pounced, landing on my leg, which was under three layers of bedding. The next second, Lynxx’s heavier body landed on the other leg. I could see nothing, and my sleeping body would only consent to move my wrist. So I flicked it again. The cats popped up in response, landing on my hips. Then they walked all over the lumps made by my body, flopped their little hindquarters up and down a bit, and purred vigorously. It felt so good! Zeldowlynxx was happy. Cats got attention and play; human got to be 99% passive and receive a massage. We went on that way for ten minutes.

I wonder how else we might enjoy the ways we’re intertwined.


  • Posted 26 November 2011 at 4:08 pm | #

    It becomes more and more difficult for me to post anything chewy here as your writing/life experience goes over there while mine continues to migrate that way. Anyway: yes. I live with two of those things as well, the Raku and the Ferox. And on energy, mhm. I’m finding this more in regular teaching than I am in irregular practice, but it’s there too.

  • Posted 26 November 2011 at 7:48 pm | #

    Yours is one of the few ashtanga blogs in my RSS feed… I will catch up on the last few months of posts from Mysore. Ashtanga blogosphere 2.0 was a great time. Such wonderful people who really loved practice and were interested in community. Two of them are part of my daily life now.

    The third wave of negative private blogs and gossip back-channels was strange. At times, I thought the whole scene was literally insane. There were two women who really lashed out and hurt “me” badly, too. I don’t know why we let our online world become so messed up in those days. My vague sense is that the fourth wave of ashtanga bloggers is way more modest… sincere, reflective people just living their lives and enjoying the practice a lot. So nice.

    Anyway. On my end, the subtext of our different trajectories is this: I quit my adjunct faculty position last month. The Editor will start a tenure track position next fall, and lots of my students are academics, so I have not really escaped the university. But I’ve gone from being an economic sociologists who critiques everything abut capitalism to a small business owner who, six months ago, did not know the meaning of the acronym LLC. Building something from nothing is exhilirating. There’s this funny combination of taking responsibility for EVERYTHING connected to the LLC, but at the same time letting the school itself sort of emerge on its own without my knowing how that will happen or what it’ll look like. Taking responsibility (the theme here circa 2007) meets (2009 theme) comfort with uncertainty? It is an interesting time.

  • Posted 26 November 2011 at 7:51 pm | #
  • Karen
    Posted 28 November 2011 at 1:47 am | #

    I love John and Yoko. That is the best entwined nervous system image ever.

  • katherine
    Posted 30 November 2011 at 12:17 am | #

    dude! kitty georgie’s favorite game is same same; only i refer to it as professor featherstick, who hangs over doors so g. does not drag it around (my partner’s tactic, he’s a superneatnik, everything has to have a homeplace now wandering feathersticks here!)

    well…all i can say is i ‘interiorized’ too much for too long…lots of reasons maybe? still have not come out about how to express my experiential workings, not sure what’s right for me as far as process—just don’t know!

    i can say that overall for me oftentimes this practice and its awakening has had a moving backwards quality about it, as i move from more solitary to more interconnected via communication & practice. i used to feel going to mysore was good for that push to interconnect and share, still do. i’ve chosen to live and remain in a town where i knew the spirit community-grounding of ashtanga practitioners left much to be desired as compared with other places. very very asana oriented, comparatively speaking.

    thus far…. i tend to feel off-balance energy when i don’t practice right or do find ways to wedge space between practicing and my being. i prefer a full-on effort of practice that leaves nothing else, it’s part of why ashtanga resonated so clearly (and strange of me to stay put in this town although it’s blooming sort of). i just figured-thought my tendency was towards renunciation and shuntya (emptiness), and that was fine. but when i started to pay attention to others, get closer and actually talk about practice, or community, i realized it’s the filling up to full feeling and sharing openly that is just plain hard! and now, i’m not sure, i’m really not sure, if i’ve been practicing non-attachment or detachment all along.

    sharing is critical for those who want or need to communicate and discuss their practice, for whatever reason. i think it also works as a practice to not share, but it’s far far more vulnerable, paradoxically. i feel this practice is best transmitted in relationship, often in relationships that seem to take on a family-style shape. in low moments, it feels like a yoga mafia!

    you are drawing me out of my shell, always have. thanks! when i see you remind me to tell you more about runaway pets as a metaphor for decision making and connecting the dots.
    peace out

  • Posted 2 December 2011 at 10:30 pm | #

    Re-reading this post (and it is so worth rereading) I do believe I fall in the self-absorbed jerk category and it has been worrying me. Your post gives me hope that evolving nicely is possible! Perhaps that I can begin to see the self-absorption is helpful? Who knows. Beautiful writing- your posts are a gift.

  • fatou2002
    Posted 6 December 2011 at 7:13 pm | #

    maybe if I were living in your vicinity, I could be your student 😉

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