Friday, November 29, 2013

The non-being of coming-back-up-in-Karandavasana

"The world does not disclose its non-beings to one who has not first posited them as possibilities."

Jean-Paul Sartre

I haven't been posting very much lately, probably not because there is nothing to blog about. The truth is, I can probably find something blog-worthy every single day if I want to. But between teaching classes and reading and thinking and doing a whole bunch of other things, I just haven't been able to find the extra desire to set down on this space whatever fleeting observations about my inner and outer life that occur to me from time to time.

Or, to look at things from a different angle, we could say that, from the point of view of a regular visitor to this blog, somebody who "comes" here regularly in the expectation of finding a new blog post, the absence of a new blog post fixes this blog in its evanescence. This absence haunts this blog, so that the visitor, on scanning the blog and finding no new posts, finds at the same time that the rest of the blog (the older posts, for instance) disappears and decomposes successively into the background. And it is against this ground-- this "soil", if you will--of the decomposition of the rest of the blog that the absence of a new blog post raises itself as an absence, as a nothingness, as a non-being.

But I am definitely being very grandiose and self-important here. For one thing, I am presupposing the non-non-being of regular visitors/readers of this blog who actually come here regularly expecting to find new posts. And it is only in the worlds of these visitors--if any such exist--that the non-being of a new blog post is disclosed as something in the world. Or, as Sartre would put it, the world only discloses the non-being of a new blog post to those who have first posited such non-being as a possibility.


I suppose I should switch gears now, and try to move away from my existentialist musings, and talk about something else. Although, come to think of it, to talk about something else is to not talk about some other thing which could otherwise have been talked about. Thus, nothingness pervades and is the necessary condition for any kind of choice; in this case, the choice of choosing to talk about one particular thing rather than another.

Hmm. So we see that existentialism isn't a mood that one can just snap out of. Ah well. So be it. But let me just say a few things about the state of my Ashtanga practice the last couple of days. Yesterday being Thanksgiving, I decided to, in the spirit of the holidays, gift myself the gift of a new posture--Karandavasana. Well, actually, Karandavasana isn't exactly a new posture for me. But I haven't being practicing this posture for about a year now, ever since I moved here to Idaho and decided to rebuild/reset my practice in a new place. But yesterday morning, as I was getting into Pincha Mayurasana, this thought suddenly hit me, "Hey, you haven't tried Karandavasana for quite a while now. Why don't you give it a shot, and see if you are still impotent?"

I listened to that thought, and gave Karandavasana a shot for the first time in a long time. Well, it turns out that I am still impotent; still can't get it back up: I could get into Pincha and get my legs into lotus while in Pincha. And then when I tried to lower down, I kind of wobbled a little, and had to bring the crown of my head onto the mat to prevent myself from falling over, before slowly (or not-so-slowly) lowering my lotus to my forearms. I held the lotus there on my arms for five breaths, but coming back up was, well, not coming.

I tried the pose again this morning, with the same outcome. Coming back up, still not coming.

I haven't been thinking too much about this whole thing--well, then again, maybe I have, if this is the first thing I am actually blogging about after not having blogged for, like, forever. But I was reading Sartre last night (yes, I know, I spent Thanksgiving reading Being and Nothingness...) when it suddenly occurred to me that the world would not have disclosed the non-being of coming-back-up-in-Karandavasana to me if I had not first posited such a (non)being as a possibility. I mean, think about it: Millions of people in this world who cannot do Karandavasana (and to whom it would probably never occur to even attempt to put their bodies into such a funny position) wake up every morning, and do whatever it is that they do in the morning, and then get through the rest of their day, all without the possibility of the non-being of Karandavasana ever being disclosed in their worlds. Why is this so? Well, because it has never occurred to them to question, "Can my body do Karandavasana?"

All of which proves the truth of the age-old adage, "What answers you get depends on what questions you ask the universe." Gosh, am I sounding wise, or what? Well, good people, I think I'll sign off here for now. Happy Black Friday. May your Friday be as black as the espresso I just drank :-)                  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eating anything that crawls, swims or flies

Earlier today, I was chatting with a friend. She was trying to plan what kinds of food to cook for her family for the coming week, and was running out of ideas. In an attempt to get me to give her some ideas, she asked, "What kind of food do you like to eat?" I was about to respond by saying things like Indian food, Thai food, etc., but then I stopped myself: It occurred to me that she wanted suggestions on things that she could cook at home given her culinary expertise (i.e. typical North American housewife cooking skills--somewhere above mac-and-cheese, but not at bistro or restaurant level, and definitely not at the level of restaurant-level Indian or Thai food).

Seeing that she wasn't getting much out of me in the way of culinary suggestions, she tried a different tack: "Well, what would you ask your mom to cook for you if she were in town?" Ha! Actually, this is an even harder question for me. Firstly, my parents live on the other side of this planet, and I don't get to see them that often. Secondly, I've never had the sort of relationship with my mom which involves me asking her to make my favorite foods whenever I'm in her presence. Not sure why this is so; for as long as I can remember, when I lived under the same roof as my parents, I basically just ate what they cooked. This might have to change the next time I visit them, though: Having been vegetarian for the last four years, I don't think I can (or even want to) revert to the omnivorous diet that is so ubiquitous of Chinese cooking. There is a (Chinese) saying that the Chinese eat anything that crawls, swims or flies. And I know, from personal experience, that this is literally true. And without being preachy or all-high-and-mighty, I really don't want to go back to eating things that crawl, swim or fly.

But I digress. Back to my conversation with my friend. Rather than go into a long discourse about the ubiquity of Chinese cuisine (as outlined in the previous paragraph) and possibly bore her, I decided on what I thought was a more straightforward response. "Well," I said, "I actually don't know what I would ask my mom to cook for me. The last time I saw my parents, I was still a meat-eater. But neither of my parents are vegetarian (actually, nobody else in my family is), so I honestly won't know what to ask them to cook for me when I see them [Note to self: I need to start thinking about this at some point.]."

Needless to say, my friend didn't quite know what to make of what I said. I can't really remember what she said after this point, but I'm pretty sure she (or I) changed the subject, and the conversation went in a completely different direction.

Not the most interesting thing to blog about, I know, but this is my life right now. Just another day...      

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sein und Zeit, Kapotasana, Titthibhasana

As you can tell, I haven't posted much on this blog (or any other blog) lately. Have I been busy? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. I have been reading quite a bit lately, and busy turning my attention inwards in that way. Specifically, I have been rereading Heidegger's Being and Time (the last time I read it was many years ago, in grad school) in preparation for my class on Existentialism in the spring, which I will be teaching for the first time. I can't really explain it well, but there's just something about reading B&T that makes me very pensive and contemplative and inward-turning, causing me to minimize my present-at-hand relations with the world. And you have to admit that writing a blog is a very present-at-hand kind of activity, at least for me. Oh, I guess I haven't explained what "present-at-hand" is. But in order to explain what presence-at-hand means, I would have to get into a present-at-hand relationship with presence-at-hand (does this give you a hint of its nature?). And I don't feel like doing this now.

Suffice to say that there is just something about reading a text very carefully, deliberately and slowly that causes a kind of inward turning in the reader; or at any rate, in this reader. There does not seem to be much to show for all this inward turning, at least for now. But well, it is what it is.


But I do have a couple of cool things to say about practice. As of right now, I'm still doing half-primary plus second up to Pincha Mayurasana. There hasn't been much to say about practice for most of the last few weeks; for the most part, it's just been showing up at the mat, doing one's best, and then getting on with one's day.

But in the last couple of days, a couple of pretty cool things have transpired on the mat. Firstly, my breath has been very long and expansive in Kapotasana these last couple of days, where it is usually rushed. I don't want to jinx myself by writing about this here, but two expansive-breath-Kapotasana-days are so rare to come by in my practice (actually, I can't remember the last time my breath was expansive in Kapo for two days in a row), I must be doing something right. Maybe it's the Heidegger? ;-)  

The other significant practice development is that I have been successfully binding in Titthibhasana B the last couple of days. It's really nothing to write home (or write here) about; it's just barely clasping the fingers. But still. I hope this means that my shoulders are finally opening up.

Alright, that's all I have to say for now. More later.