During our core session at yoga teaching training last night, we were working on alignment in standing poses. Given the way the schedule has fallen, I have also attended two other classes focusing on alignment and adjustments in - you guessed it, standing poses. So, I'm more aware of the differences between standing and sitting, for example, right now. There's nothing terribly profound about that, but it's still interesting.
As you may have noticed, I have had a lot of posts up over the last week, and many of them were dealing with heavy subject matter that brought up some reactions. Reactions from readers and reactions from myself. But what I noticed yesterday was the postures my body was taking, while writing, while considering what I was reading, while sitting on a crowded bus.
When I reading something I didn't agree with, or was confused by, there was a tension in my stomach and I was more hunched down towards the computer screen. When I was intent on making a point during a particular comment, I felt pressure in my fingers and neck, and leaned in even closer to the screen. While on the bus, I noticed a desire for more space competing with attempts to squeeze my body inward and become smaller. And after all of that, I arrived at yoga training, was asked to do Warrior pose, and the teacher noticed right away how tense my shoulders were.
The thing is, I wasn't really upset, anxious, sad, or angry while reading and writing online. And the bus ride wasn't that bad, but perhaps the combination of three or four hours of poor body posture and a dislike towards feeling "boxed in" led to the struggle between body and mind I was experiencing. However, what is true is that I wasn't paying very close attention to body posture, only glimpsing it now and then as I got lost in what was happening around me. While I might have been mindful about choosing my words, and interacting with others when there were others to interact - I was mostly mindless about the body, as if it wasn't even there.
The Kayagata-sati Sutta has this to say about mindfulness and the body:
"There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.
"Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.' And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.
"Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns, 'I am walking.' When standing, he discerns, 'I am standing.' When sitting, he discerns, 'I am sitting.' When lying down, he discerns, 'I am lying down.' Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.
When I am intensely interested in something intellectually. Or when I am really struggling to accept thoughts, emotions, or events in my life. It is at these times the most that I revert back to the old mind/body splitting that is common in our society. The years of Zen training and yoga practice have broken through a fair amount of this conditioning, but it's kind of like a dandelion - you can cut it back again and again, but just a little water will make those roots sprout right back up.
A few nights ago, I was waiting for a bus on the way home from another yoga training class. Under the street light, my eyes traced the cracks in the road, appreciating the texture, as well as the image as a whole. It was the kind of thing I curse at while biking sometimes, mostly out of worry about an impending flat tire. But at that moment, there was nothing but breathing in, breathing out, broken asphalt and smooth asphalt.
In a sense, everything else was abandoned as I stood there. And in that abandonment, all could be taken in fully.
This is what I think is missed when things get split off. When the mind cuts off the body. Or when you try to cut off the mind.
It's in the functioning all together, that an awakened life is lived.
* I took the photo recently in a cobblestone alley.