WHEREAS I did not desire in childhood to be a part of this
I thought if I was diligent, consistent and hardworking enough I would be chosen. I thought if I was loyal and friendly, I would be included. I thought I could make myself worthy to those I esteemed. But I often heard from family and society “Who do you think you are, one of us? You are not, you do not fit in.” They didn’t want me to be a part of, leading me to self-doubt. Doubt, the third in the trifecta of grasping, fear and doubt.
I have known since I can remember I belong here, of this earth, of this forest, of this city. But relationships of family and society have been transactional. The earth, forest and city welcomed and held me without fail, without a price to pay, as I am, however I am.
Siddhartha resisted every temptation Mara could devise. The lord of desire had one final test. He demanded to know who would testify that Siddhartha was worthy of attaining ultimate wisdom. And his demon army rose up to support him. Siddhartha said nothing. He reached down and touched the ground, and the earth shuddered. Mara’s demons fled.
The cataclysmic realization of the past month- a month of loss and grief- was a deep understanding of belonging. I have never been able to earn belonging. Belonging means “to constitute a part of something; (also) to come from, originate in” (Oxford English Dictionary). Waking early one morning, brain again reflecting on the events of recent weeks, I may finally have gained the wisdom, the deep inner knowing that worthiness does not require the currency of proof.
Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
How did I know? Because I had been wanted- without reservation - by my dogs and my husband. Together, in each of those relations, I had been a part that made a whole. Within that whole I didn’t want to be wanted, didn’t cling to fear or doubt what or who I am. Over the past month I have felt the earth’s gravity claiming me its own. I have reached my hand to the floor of the practice room, touching the Vast One that she will again claim me her own. My husband, across from me as I sobbed, firmly telling me, “You are worthy”. This time, I didn’t ask him to prove it. I didn’t doubt him. I knew he spoke the truth.
You belong somewhere you feel free” – Tom Petty, Wildflowers
The Five Remembrances:
The Five Invitations:
1. Don’t wait.
2. Welcome everything, push away nothing.
3. Bring your whole self to the experience.
4. Find a place of rest in the middle of things.
5. Cultivate ‘don’t know’ mind.
Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations; Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
The teachings are for the purpose of giving us the right understanding. If we don’t understand rightly, then we can’t arrive at peace.
Waiting to return to the veterinary hospital, the only thing on my mind was an intense drive to pour through 17 years of photographs. Annie and her “brother” Max, John’s son, John and myself. All the adventures and non-adventures of daily life. Photographs triggering sensory impressions stored in my tissues of our lives’ story. Grounding my heart to the truth: I had worked hard to be the dog mom Annie deserved.
She became obsessed with eating, hunting for any bone in the bushes on our short walks around the neighborhood. I had been afraid for years she would eat something on a walk that either would poison her or asphyxiate her. In the end she died from eating a bone that became caught between her stomach and duodenum. I did my best to protect her all these years but could not prevent the last couple of days of her life in a kennel at the veterinary ICU.
Absolutely everything in this universe is subject to change. Coming home without Annie there, waking up without Annie there, I feel so much sorrow. It is a un-ignorable reminder the practice is to be intimate with the nature of the universe.
Practice is intimacy; life and death are intimate”
“When they actually DID their set, I noticed they never had the mind to muscle connection. They were simply going through the motions. Those guys seemed to NEVER gain an ounce of muscle OR strength. I quickly learned that the ticket to success was TWO key factors:
1) Experiencing Joy / Having Fun when you train. This can ONLY happen when you are passionate about the type of exercise you do.
2) Creating a DEEP connection between mind and body.
The Body Is Very Important, But The Mind Is MORE Important Than The Body...”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Mind Muscle Connection is your ability to contract or relax any muscle at will.” - Eric Weinbrenner
Those of you who have been in class the past few weeks have reaped the opportunity to learn with one of my new teaching tools- The Muscle in Motion app. This app gives us a better understanding of what we are doing in class (and hopefully in daily life) as we perform movement. We are visual creatures. An enormous number of sensory receptors are dedicated to our visual system. Seeing the muscle in action and in relationship to the other muscles on the animated human skeleton directs us like a road map through and unknown part of town.
I wrote in the 2019 June ACY Newsletter, “There’s a lot of ways to strengthen the lower traps. I’ve been doing most of the movements. BUT I’ve been doing those movements without activating the lower trapezius, never knowing.” A PhD and muscle geek named Bret Contreras showed with Electromyography (EMG) that it is entirely possible to direct activation in the front leg muscles without strengthening the butt during a squat.
Having been shown at the start of class the muscle and muscular action I am focusing on for the week, is it easier to focus on what’s going on inside the body? EMG experiments have shown that activating the muscles mentally plays a big role in activating the muscles physically. Watching many of you practice, from my perspective, it appears you are more focused and interoceptive.
“Form needs to be solid, but simply observing movement from the outside doesn't completely tell you what's going on under the hood. The underlying muscles also need to be firing in proper amounts and in proper combinations during movement for optimal performance.” Bret Contreras
Just to be clear, I am a wanna-be physiology geek. While I am evangelistic about the joy of moving with interoception, I am not pushing you to learn nomenclature.
Our brains are pattern seeking. We seek and reinforce patterns. This is great for re-learning to move. We don’t need to learn the names of the muscles, only visualize the patterns of them, the orientation of fibers running from one body part to another body part. What happens when you pull down on one end of a two-ended something? The other side goes up. Okay pull the muscle at the bottom tip of your right shoulder blade down to make the other end- your arm- go up. (Yes, I’m over-simplifying it, absolutely.) Map the route of the pattern in your mind, become familiar with the sensation of the action. After all, the wonderful and marvelous quality of full awareness is "knowingly arise perceptions, knowingly they continue and knowingly they cease". That's what makes it yoga.