There’s no avoiding the contradiction of my two main lessons from Ashtanga

There is a big contradiction to my two main lessons from Ashtanga.

And there’s no avoiding it.

That’s just it, though: Avoidance.

All of this is heavily influenced by Tim Miller’s teachings, of course. And these are my learnings; your mileage may vary.

One is from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sutra 2.16: “Future suffering can be avoided” (heyam duhkham anagatam).

It’s a pretty easy one to dissect, either for an asana practice or for life. For asana, it’s: If you are thoughtful, if you prepare correctly, if you research a pose, you can avoid pain and injury and ridiculous difficulty. It’s not too much more difficult for life: Keep your eyes open, pay attention to what’s coming and what might be around the next corner, and you can avoid unexpected trouble, or at least prepare to deal with the problems as they come.

The other is one Tim talks about, I suppose, mainly in terms of asana — but as with most asana lessons, it has a lot of relevance off the mat. It’s this: Avoidance is not the answer.

On the mat, it comes down to: You aren’t going to suddenly be able to do that hard pose, that difficult transition, that little flourish (if that’s you thing) by not trying it. Skipping Janu C every time (not that I do) isn’t going to make Janu C happen.

The same — even more painfully, though — is true off the mat. Have a friend (or maybe frenemy) you’re avoiding for some reason? It isn’t going to make the inevitable meeting any easier. Got a task or job to get done? Procrastination isn’t your friend.

Both make sense, right? Have you seen the contradiction?

Future suffering can be avoided… but avoidance is not the answer.

So where does that leave me?

Happily, well prepared, thanks to my study of Oscar Wilde (not, as is usual, of William Blake). From his wonderful essay The Decay of Lying comes this (admittedly, ironic on a variety of levels) quote from one of the two characters in the dialogue:

Who wants to be consistent? The dullard and the doctrinaire, the tedious people who carry out their principles to the bitter end of action, to the reductio ad absurdum of practice. Not I. Like Emerson, I write over the door of my library the word ‘Whim.’

There also is, of course, always Blake to consider, in this case from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.

It’s about living in the unsettledness of it all, the gyre.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.