Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The yoga sutras tell me to stay in school...

Last week (ok, and for a bit of this week, too) I was in my disgustingly predictable "post yoga-bubble slump." This is what happens to me every time I have to return to the "real world" after being totally immersed in yoga yoga yoga for a while. I come home to my life as a grad student and question whether I really want to be in grad school, or whether I should ditch the whole endeavor, take out a credit card, get myself to the next teacher training, and become a kick-ass traveling Bikram teacher.

I dragged myself out of my hole last Saturday, took class, and then went to this REALLY fun raw food potluck at another yoga studio downtown. It was a blast. I spent all night eating and having great conversations with random people - two of my favorite activities ever!!

The yoga studio that was hosting the potluck has an awesome yoga bookstore, which of COURSE I had to spend some time browsing. So there I am, on the edge of the yoga crowd, amidst the books, thinking "what am I going to do with myself?" I pick up a translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, open it to a random page, and just start laughing. No magic eight ball could have done a better job at giving me a direct answer to my question. The sutra that I opened to says, "The practice of concentration on a single subject is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments." Which means... what? Well, the commentary explains:

"The point here is that we should not keep changing our object of concentration. When you decide on one thing, stick to it whatever happens. There's no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won't hit rock again. Before you start digging, analyze well and find out which spot is good. Then, once you decide and begin, you should not question it further. Go right at it, because it will be too late then to think whether it is worthwhile or not; you should have done that before."

Hah. I actually really like this! It's a very, very old-fashioned kind of sentiment; just pick something, and then stick to it no matter what. Reminds me of the days before we had the luxury of career choice, when if your dad was a baker and your last named was Baker, you were going to be the town baker. These days, it is so common for people to cycle through jobs and careers every 5 or 10 years, and for the most part that suits me really well, but you know... there is also a lot to be said for just making a decision, committing to it, and then just digging deep, using dynamite if you have to. I especially like how it says: "you should have done that before." So merciless, but so TRUE.

Bringing the scale down a bit, I'm sure this is great advice for asana practice as well. Don't second-guess yourself! Once you're in the room, once your in the set-up, once you're in the posture, you should not question it further. Instead, "go right at it." Dig deep. You're already there. Nothing to do but blast on through.

As a friend of mine said - (I don't know where he got this from) - "Once you've gone too far, that's a good time to keep on going!"


Mei said...

Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

And AFTER grad school, BYTT, yes? :)

Duffy Pratt said...

It's not clear from the sutra whether the concentration is a short term thing or a long term commitment. The interpretation certainly makes it sound like a long term thing, but I have my doubts about the interpretation.

And, even so, how do you then know that the sutras aren't telling you to go to teacher training and drop all the gradual school stuff?

Of course its up to you to decide. Even if the sutra did address a long term commitment, it still says nothing about the content of the decision you must first make.

Cristina said...


So applicable in so many places of life.

Thanks for sharing

hannahjustbreathe said...

Yes, we waver, we waver, we doubt, we question. Such fear---of remorse in a "wrong" decision, of failure, of disappointment.

But, of course, I whole-heartedly agree with the sutra (and have added it to my quote book, thank you very much). Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge. Pull out the dynamite. Dig until you bleed.

Because then we realize we truly are the stronger for it.

Thanks for sharing, J.

lifelonglearner19 said...

Something about this post reminds of when Brad tells the class to 'commit.' You are perfectly capable of doing all of the great things you want to - just go one at time and commit fully. You've committed yourself to grad school...for now. Bikram TT comes next, and again, you will commit yourself 100%.

I like how Duffy here questions which path you've got to fully concentrate on, though. You don't really know...but, indeed, you've got to pick one path, commit to it. And hit the next path with full force. No half-assing in various places. Pick what you want and give your all.

(Being a college advisor, I might also suggest you find out if you can take a semester off for TT, then go back and finish the grad degree. Logistics could get slippery, but I tell students it never hurts to feel out the options. After TT you'd be teaching, practicing and studying, perhaps with a blissful balance. Sorry - I know this totally throws a wrench into things!)

-LB :-)

Danielle said...

I went back to work yesterday. I was in "the hole" of questioning if this was what i wanted to do, where I want to be... am I supposed to be here? That was yesterday. Today, it feels a little bit more like reality. And I am sure tomorrow, will be a little closer.

I've been going thru the same thing. However, I committed to coming back to work, so I've got to do it with gusto. 100% the right way is the ONLY WAY! I don't doubt that things may change, but I will never know if I gave up too quickly on a good thing if I were to leave it now.

Your post was so in tune with where I am right now, too. Thank you.

(BTW - just realized you actually have this blog. Yippee!!)

thedancingj said...

I'm glad this stuck a chord with you guys! And don't worry, all, TT is absolutely in my plans for the future... just not, you know, right NOW.

LB - You are right on. And I did talk with one of my program advisors back in March to figure out what my options were, and there are a few ideas. I just DEFINITELY need to pass my quals before I get any ideas about taking time off, which will hopefully happen next summer.

Danielle - Hey girl, glad you found me!! Congrats on your GRADUATION, and I hope your re-entry into normal society isn't TOO painful. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Depends on how deep the thing you're invested in is-- yoga is bottomless. I have my doubts about institutionalized education but it is handy when you want to get a job. Unless you want to open a studio (like me) and devote your life to service.
I having strong sentiments that locking your knee is equal to or greater than a diploma.

thedancingj said...

Oh, locking your knee is the hardest thing ever.

I am getting an engineering degree, so you know, it's not like I'm spending my time on things that will never have any application to the real world other than getting me a desk job somewhere. (We engineers are a slightly elitist group, in that we are moderately confused by all the liberal arts and "social science" PhD people who never MAKE anything.) We are developing new (energy efficient!) lighting technologies that people will use. So the work is cool. Even if I never go into it as a career, I think this research is still a worthwhile pursuit.

Duffy Pratt said...

What you say about engineers is true, but you are also the butt of all the "mathematician, physicist, and engineer" jokes.

Yoga Talk said...

This is an interesting idea , and it brings to mind the 'ol saying: " Jack of all trades, winner of none" But what if your pond is being a Jack of all trades -- can't you be a winner at being a Jack of all trades -- I think you can.

You can lock your knee, engineer a light: inside & out. Thanks for the post -- it definitely reminds me to keep going and not quit!

ActionJoJo said...

J, my husband got an engineering PhD and I think the process almost killed him despite his incredible resilience, determination, and sheer will. It's been 2 years since he graduated and if he digs deep inside to the memories of those times, he starts to twitch (dramatically not neurologically). He kinda fell into his program and I think if he could do it over again, he wouldn't only because he thinks the degree isn't useful to what he wants to do.

I guess, what I'm saying is: if you believe after careful reflection and introspection, that this is what you are supposed to be doing then yes, commit to it and give it 100%. If you need encouragement or advice, let me know and I'll connect the two of you.