In honor of tonight’s Lost post-strike, second-half-of-the-season premiere, I call this post, “The Constant”, which is the title of one of Lost’s most self-contained and most technically brilliantly written and directed episodes.
But the Constant I refer to has nothing to do with Lost. It has to do with the teacher that is the constant, the touch-point for consistency in the Ashtanga practice. At least mine.
I have been craving some sort of stability in my Ashtanga experience. I have been wanting a teacher who could be relied upon to always be there and always be the same. Sir wasn’t that because although he was committed to his singular style of teaching, he was often away from the shala in the last couple of years. I hated having subs, as great as those subs were, as much as I loved the subs, themselves. Val wasn’t that because as the life cycle of her shala has changed, with an influx of students new to the practice, she has seemingly begun to spend more time with the less experienced students and less time with me. I can’t speak for anyone else. I just know that things changed, subtly, but they changed. Even the paint color on the walls has changed. And then I found the Good Doctor, whose enthusiasm and energy imbued my practice with a new enthusiasm and energy. I have spent the last month enjoying my newly “caffeinated” practice; however, brewing under the surface was worry, anxiety, clinging. Would things change? There is a history there of shifts in energy, of time away. My mind kept strategizing, “how can I keep things the way they are? what can I do to make sure that things don’t change? what can I do to contribute to maintaining things in this wonderful state?”
In my own defense, I wasn’t intentionally thinking these things. They were kind of gurgling up in my brain, like bubbles in boiling water. You’re not boiling the water in order to get the bubbles. But when the water’s boiling, there they are.
For the past few days, I did begin to suspect that things were already shifting. I worried, unintentionally again, but I worried nonetheless: “What do I have to do with this? What can I do to not contribute to this?” And then sure enough, a shift occurred. And while it had nothing to do with me at all, my first thoughts were, “what can I do to stop this from happening?”
As the reality sunk in that change was afoot, I heard a jumble of disjointed thoughts in my head, but one that kept emerging loudly (aside from heartfelt concern for the people most immediately effected) was, “I finally found my teacher, and now I am losing my teacher.”
I felt sorry for myself. I won’t judge it. I won’t call it childish, although that has run through my mind. My feelings are simply what they are, and I observe them, but I don’t create or have a hand in editing them. To try to do so is at the heart of many a bad decision. As I mulled my feelings, I realized that they were familiar. The feeling of disappointment when I perceive that I have been let down, or even “abandoned” by parents, role models, professors, clergy, and on and on. I felt some of that recently with Val. I felt some of that in regard to Sir. Perhaps to a certain extent, in regard to the STBX of Sir.
I began to obsess about how to make my feelings go away, and some bad decision-making ensued. I decided that I needed to run off to the CT Shala and reinstate my practice there. I made arrangements that were very complicated in order to do so. I desperately needed to know that I had a teacher. The constant in my practice.
And then I proceeded not to sleep all night. I stayed up and literally, really and truly, watched the clock move from one minute to the next. I decided somewhere in the twos or threes a.m. to simply meditate instead of trying to sleep. After a while, I was still wide awake. Somewhere around five a.m., sleep came. But by eight a.m., I was in no shape to trek over to the CT Shala.
And besides, somewhere before the moment my eyes finally closed last night, I had a revelation:
Teachers will come and go. Everything is impermanent. But as long as I am here, I am the Constant. As long as I am here, I am not going anywhere. I can rely on that with absolute, well, reliance.
I am the Constant.
And with that thought, sleep came, and better decisions were made, and the morning was spent making crepes with my children instead of running off half-cocked for the sole purpose of comforting myself with the notion that “I have a teacher”, which would have been cold comfort at that, considering the precarious assumptions on which it stands and considering that I was constructing those assumptions for the sole purpose of supporting a theory that would provide me comfort. In short: a house of yoga cards.
I am the Constant, and I will practice with myself today at 6 p.m., on my back porch, under the pergola, through which the springtime sun will warm my skin and light breezes will set errant cherry blossom petals aloft to float onto my mat.
There will always be a teacher. But I am the Constant.