Thursday, May 30, 2013

heat, or, too much sacrifice makes a stone of the heart

Last week my acupuncturist told me I have an excess of heat in my body.  Well there's a fucking news flash.  I'm sure many an acupuncturist has given this diagnosis to many an ashtangi.  For those less hip to the ways of non-Western medicine, rest assured: her diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean I have a fever, which could be treated with some aspirin, or ibuprofen, or in dire cases an ice bath.  No, this heat is more of the metaphysical variety, and it is caused by an imbalance of some sort.  My tone here may sound a little dubious bordering on contemptuous, but let me assure you that is not so.  I think Dr. Liang is great. Here's the thing: we (my lovely wife Nubia and I) have been seeing her so as to help along the baby-making process, and fertility treatment is her specialty.  She has helped a number of members of our Miami Life Center family.  So, at this point I'll just come out and say that according to Dr. Liang my excess heat may be interfering with my ability to produce viable sperm.  I'm on a regimen of herbs and acupuncture now, and am trying all the more earnestly to wean myself off of caffeine, or at least reduce my intake dramatically.

This is all well and good, but there's an elephant in the room here.  The asana practice I do, which is the foundation of my religious duty, my career, my life's work, really, is designed to create heat.  I've said this before in lectures and written it in other blogs, but it bears repeating: in Indian (for sure) and Chinese (I'm pretty sure) conceptions of the body and the universe certain conceptual things can be discreet, superimposed, or interchangeable.  This applies to the purifying heat generated in asana practice.  One heats up the actual, physical body from the exertion.  This makes the body stronger and lighter while toxins are sweated out.  At the same time the metaphysical heat renders infertile the seeds of karma.  With any luck, you won't have to keep repeating yourself over and over and over in this life and into the next.  Unfortunately, though, this heat is also interfering in other aspects of my physical body in this life now.  What to do?

Enter Tim Miller.  He came into to town this weekend and although I wasn't able to get to all of his workshops, the ones I did get to really counted.  This was a classic case of hearing the right message at the right time.  In Saturday's workshop Tim discussed, among other cool things, how Ayurveda relates to asana practice.  Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India and it works on very similar principles to Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  According to Ayurveda,  all people comprise three basic qualities, known as doshas, which are represented by three of the elements: earth (kapha), wind (vatta), and fire (pitta) (which I'm pretty sure is where the magnificent soul band got its name).   Bad health and disease is caused by imbalance of the doshas.  Therefore, good health is maintained proactively by monitoring and regulating the balance of one's constitution.  Now, here's where it relates to my problem:  the three doshas each have a more subtle counterpart, and they are known as the vital essences. In reverse order they are tejas (light/heat) which goes with pitta, prana (breath/life force) which goes with vatta, and ojas (water) which goes with kapha.  In hatha yoga practice tejas is associated with asana, prana is associated with pranayama, and ojas is associated with devotional practice.  If you only ever practice asana and pranayama then you are just adding oxygen to fire, basically.  You will only burn hotter and hotter and eventually be reduced to a dried up smoldering husk.  Or a lump of coal, perhaps.  Too much sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.  Tim exhorted us to take a more balanced approach to yoga practice and to begin, perhaps, to look beyond and within and cultivate spiritual practice.  He also made sure to drive home Patanjali's notion of Ishta Devata, which is, like in twelve step programs, the higher power of your choosing or which resonates best with you.  Nobody says you have to go bang a tambourine and chant Hare Krishna and spin yourself dizzy.  Nor do you have to be dunked in a freezing river and handle rattlesnakes and speak in tongues.  But you should cultivate devotion to something outside of yourself and greater than yourself.  If there's ritual involved, so much the better.  Otherwise you run the risk of getting burned.

I went to mass with Nubia right after Tim's workshop and it felt good.  I will continue to cultivate more Ojas.  As to the other stuff, I will trust and let the cards fall where they may.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

a new venture

For some time now my mother, whom I adore and venerate, has been busting my balls to come up with some way of making extra money.  "You should make a DVD or a book or some kind of gadget," she'll say.  "This running around teaching isn't sustainable, you're gonna kill yourself.  You need some kind of passive income generation."  She typically finishes with the sine qua non of maternal ballbusting: "I just worry about you."  Who could get annoyed with such well-meaning concern?  Me, apparently.  The bad son.  "Sorry I let you down, Ma.  Wish I coulda done (or been) better."  There's the sine qua non of filial ballbusting and we're back to even.

In all seriousness, though, Mother's right, of course.  I mean she may not be hip to the absurd proliferation of yoga-related books, DVD's, and gadgets and how glutted the market for said items is, but the teaching alone isn't quite cutting it for the life I envision for myself.  To be clear, the life I envision for myself is almost exactly like the one I have now.  I'm not trying to be Tom Vu, he of the yachts and the bikini-clad bimbos, or some other late-night infomercial huckster.  I'm pretty unattached to material things. What bugs me is owing money.  I want to pay off my student loans, my home loan, and have some set aside to educate any as of yet unborn children.  It will take a long time to make that happen with things as they are now.

I have a seed planted now which hopefully at some point will bring in supplemental income while I do what I really love, i.e., practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga. Nestled in with the optimism is a seed of doubt.  Goals can be Hydra-headed: to attain one can mean two more grow back.  This can be good, it is good to keep moving.  If it works out, though, I earnestly hope I don't become materialistic, graspy, a hungry ghost.  I will tread lightly, and keep family and teaching at the center, always.