No practice for me today.  Time of the month AND a really irritating injury!  When you go from Upward Facing dog into Downward Facing dog – something you seem to do about a hundred times throughout the Primary series – you roll over your toes , tops of your feet flat on the mat to soles of your feet flat on the mat.  Once you’ve warmed up it feels lovely!  Everything stretching and the tension releasing through all of your toes.  But when you’re cold and stiff from the freezing temperatures and lengthy journey – it can be a tad creaky and uncomfortable at first, and I seem to have damaged the big toe on my right foot.  There’s a break in the skin just above the toenail, and its caused a swelling and discomfort that would be barely noticeable in everyday meanderings, but on the mat?  It’s crippling.  Not dissimilar to getting a blister when running.

This happened on Monday, and I went to practice on Tuesday anyway – just to test it out.   Today my upper body is absolutely killing me, and all I can think is that in compensating for keeping all the weight off my feet I’ve worked into my shoulders, arms and sides with a much greater intensity than I’m used to.   Its made me appreciate how strong this practice actually is.  Over these past two weeks at the shala – one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is muscle growth.  If there’s ever going to be a practice to rid yourself of Bingo Wings – then Ashtanga has got to be it.  Crikey.  I’ve got triceps the size of tennis balls, and a handful of biceps too!  Fabulous!

And it’s not just the arms.  Thighs, bum, calves, stomach, sides, waist, back….I think I’ve described it in the past as that scene in Death Becomes Her when she drinks the immortality potion and her entire body lifts and tightens.  Things I didn’t know could lift – have done.  And what’s wonderful about this whole thing is that it’s not an objective, or a reason to practice.  I don’t ever walk into the shala and consider my weight in terms of how I’ll look or what I’ll fit into again.

There are no scales in the bathroom anticipating use after practice, or target measurements jotted down in a journal.  All that’s on my mind when I enter the shala is my breath and the silence.  And when I leave, it’s all about the positive energy and peace.

I think I’m at a place now where the physical embodiment is a vehicle.  Taking these two days off from practice mid-week would have ordinarily frustrated me or got me worried that I’m sliding back.  But I’m beginning to appreciate that my body in rest is just as valuable as my body in motion.  I’ve become more meditative, and I don’t need the asana like I used to, to reach that place of ego-less silence.  The house was empty yesterday, and I was drawn to sitting in a little meditation nest for an hour without prompting or thinking I ought to.  The 70 minute bus journey to the shala each morning is just as useful as the 90 minute practice.  My senses disappear and there is space and stars and rushing vibrations.

Next week I venture to Hereford to attend my second Vipassana course.  I’ve been on a waiting list for months and almost forgot that it was happening, but this past week or so, as it ebbs nearer, I’ve noticed a shift in my mentality.  It seems that on a subconscious level I’m preparing for a kind of pilgrimage.  Decisions about issues that have been plaguing me for months are just arriving.  No fretting or inner-debate, the answer isn’t even like an, “Ahhh – of course….that’s what I should do, why didn’t I think of that before?!”  Its more like an unquestionable statement.  I’m doing this.  No questions, no concerns….it just is.

It feels like I’m reaching the end of this particular chapter, to which I won’t really understand what it has taught me until I have some space to look back.

Last time I went into retreat it was love, death, rape, and friendship that I worked through.  This time who knows what it will be.  Atonement of the  Father perhaps, or the question of Money and Power.   Whatever it is – I’m clearing mental and energetic space, building strength so that I can do what I need in facing up to whatever’s there.

peaceful me