my lack of precision and beginner’s mind

question: what is a precision jump without precision?

answer: just a jump.

[cue harmonica] woe is me, i’m a beginner: jumping, jumping, jumping. a poor sad beginner who can’t do everything perfectly the first time. i’m feeling soooooo sorry for myself. I have bruises on my feet. i cry myself to sleep. boo hoo.

when I started PK training, I thought I had beginner’s mind. i’m starting to have a lot more sympathy for yoga students everywhere.

‘the tongue has no bone, yet it crushes.’ – Arab proverb

one of the most powerful words in the english language is ‘no’, and it is crushing to the will, especially when you’re saying it to yourself. i found myself saying ‘no’ a lot last night and i’m frustrated and confused as to why. i’m not a ‘no’ kind of girl! i didn’t say ‘no’ to anything last week. what changed (besides my pain tolerance threshold)?

related to my newfound ‘no’ habit is my sneaking suspicion that my mind is a big fat liar-head and is also very, very lazy. staring at the distance i was trying to precision jump last night, it made me ill. i shifted, avoided, danced around, looked away, there was no convincing myself to just do it (jump!) and frustration ensued. and i couldn’t find a parallel experience in yoga to help me to get over it, rationalize it, understand it. my mind was making a chasm out of a gap- this distance was less than it was last week! what was creating this powerful aversion? my lazy ass? or my lazy-ass mind?

ok…maybe there is a yoga example. every primary series practice ends with this posture, it’s called setu bandhasana (bridge-lock posture) and I HATE IT!

C Klebl in setu bandhasana

Setu Bandhasana

Note: i did a workshop in Nairobi with Caroline Klebl (pictured above) in 2007 when i was just starting ashtanga. she was awe-inspiring to me as a beginner to this practice. she did this posture, on a hardwood floor, just because a student said it was ‘impossible’. my jaw dropped, I started taking my practice seriously, and i’ve never looked back.

i’ve done this posture, literally, hundreds of times and i do it well. i demonstrate (usually cold) and teach this posture all the time, but i hate it. when i lie down to prepare, i sigh, i wiggle, i adjust my hair, and take a few extra breaths, look up at the ceiling and whisper ‘f@ck, f@ck, F@@@@CK!’ before i do it. why? because it frikkin’ hurts that’s why, and it’s HARD! i mean look at the picture! does that position look normal to you? on a side note, which i’ll elaborate on in a later blog, it causes a specific callus that identifies ashtangis to one another. holding this posture for 5 breaths is excruciating. holding it for 5 Mysore breaths is my definition of hell.

i listened to Pema Chodron’s Don’t Bite the Hook last night on the way home from training. she says sometimes we need to sit in the uncomfortably hot fire of those things that annoy us. and rather than get upset about it, we need to just acknowledge we’re in a very unpleasant situation and that we don’t like being there. as we sit, we gain perspective on the situation and we realize it is not permanent and we shouldn’t identify too closely with it- it is only a temporary moment of unpleasantness. it’s only 5 breaths. it’s only one more jump.

so for now i’m going to cry myself to sleep awaiting the day when my mind allows the chasm to shrink back to a gap, my legs answer the command jump! with how high? and the bruises on my feet go away and allow me to not fear the landing. i’m going to acknowledge that I am a beginner for a while longer, however annoying that might be.

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