Friday, February 26, 2010

Contemplation and Repeating the Past

What an interesting evening. I have been meaning to get to the downtown San Diego studio and take a class with Jim or Emma Kallett, who were my teachers when I was 18. I finally got there tonight! I was a little nervous going in--new studio, new practitioners, but I hung onto a line from a Bob Dylan song: "You can’t repeat the past? What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.” 

Well, I'm not ready to say that Dylan's insights are ones you should hang your hat on all day, every day, but the class was great. I'm so glad I went. Jim remembered me and kindly talked to me a little bit, and Emma taught a wonderful class. She has this way of being very energetic and driven when we're in the postures, and then, when in savasana, her voice seems to come from deep within the speakers. You almost have to strain to hear her. It's like she's mirroring what happens in savasana--maximum exertion to maximum relaxation. No strain, no effort, just rest.

She also sprinkled her class with lots of insights about focus. "Always, throughout the day, we are distracted. We think about everything except the present," she said during standing series. "Yoga teaches you to be more in the moment, to concentrate, one thing." 

There was something very fresh about hearing her emphasize the "concentrate, meditate" instruction. Don't we just need to hear it over and over? It reminds me of this really bitchin' LA Times article by David Ulin. It's so good that I've bookmarked it and visit it over and over. Ulin talks about how he struggles against losing his ability to read for long periods of time, and chalks it up to an "over-networked culture." I've memorized my favorite line from the piece: "Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know."

That's a pretty loaded sentence. We need to contemplate just to figure it out! OK, so, according to Ulin, we as a society tend not to hold up concentration, meditation as something to aspire to. We'd rather be up on what our friends are doing via Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. It's like we want to be lightly connected, and in doing so, we avoid what's actually happening in the here and now. But hey, at least we know that Suzy had a burrito for breakfast!

I'm as guilty of this tendency as anyone. The internet alone keeps my mind hopping around like Bikram's monkey! And these phenomena--Facebook, Twitter, blogging, email, they're not bad. I love them, in fact. I love being connected to you yogis across the country. I draw inspiration and insight from your lovely posts. I also kinda like FB and Twitter and God knows my head would just explode without email. But sometimes (often? Always?)? Eeeeh, yeaaaah. I need a little more of that contemplation Emma was talking about.

I don't even need to mention that yoga can help get us there! Just getting ourselves into the room is probably more than we do all day.


Sisya said...

What a great essay. It's funny that you posted about this today, as I have just recently made a little commitment to reading actual books instead of messing around around on the internet all the time.
But aside from reading, yoga helps me face the present reality of my day to day life by somehow calming a lot of my anxieties. Just showing up to class makes my mind a little more settled and rational every day.

Yolk E said...

Thanks, Sisya! I'm always trying to get myself to read "real" books, but during the semester I read so many student papers it's difficult.

I hear you on the anxiety thing. I used to have anxiety pretty bad--someone even suggested meds! Yoga has taken it away, almost completely. Yay for rational minds!

bikramyogachick said...

I am with you on the facebook, twitter, email, blogs, etc. I like being able to connect with people I otherwise would never have run across. I certainly like being able to see my families updates who are across the country. But like you said, it's only being "lightly" connected. It sadly, becomes a substitute for real contact in my opinion. Some nights I stare at my computer and just don't want to open it up and get overloaded with all of the tweets, status updates and blog posts I'm behind on. Other days I can't wait to read them all. Like anything else, moderation is the key I suppose!

waylon said...

love that dylan song! 'summer days'. what a song. that's one you can dance to. thanks for the blog and the link to the lat article.

Yolk E said...

"a substitute for real contact"--you're probably right, M! I hate sounding like a stodgy old-timer, but I think there's a magical element to the connection between face-to-face people that can't be replicated. Still, online contact is pretty awesome!

I love that whole album, Waylon! I like Dylan's newer stuff a lot. Thanks for dropping by :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi There. Thanks for visiting my blog and I appreciate your insightful comment. Great write-up and I'm with you on the "social" networking ... I just need more more TIME to keep-up.

Lady J said...

Wonderful post Yolk. I sit in front of a computer all day at work and it is constant updates, emails, continuous electronic interactions. As much as I love the ability to stay in touch through facebook and email, I make it a point to always read a book before bed. I turn off all electronics and try to just have the peace of hearing the page turn. I need that moment, those 20 minutes to just exist without being connected.