This past week has been the week of modifications. We have been asked to use modifications in our practice all week long, in every class we take. It's been difficult, frustrating to have to constantly be thinking about what the modifications are for every pose, but helpful toward developing compassion for the beginner and understanding of what if feels like to do the practice on your knees, both literally and figuratively.
Taking all the modifications in class has been quite the ego-buster for me. I've been laying my mat in the back rows, so as not to confuse or entertain the other practitioners, who are under no obligation to modify and would probably wonder what the hell I'm doing if I were to take a front-row spot. Also, I've found that the practice with modifications does not draw my awareness into my body because the sensations I seek are lacking, so I have found myself looking around the room in classes, watching the teacher or peaking at other students. I tried to overcome this distraction by focusing more on basic alignment points and, of course, the breath, breathing extra loud and strong to build the heat that my muscles weren't providing. It worked, sort of. The breath certainly helped me to find a rhythm, and I think it may have helped others. I've been told that my loud breath is helpful in a class, people seem to feed from it energetically. When it really gets going I sometimes hear it echoed from points across the room. It's a beautiful thing... sort of a call-and-answer, an energetic embrace.
But yesterday, I went to a class in the evening, and I just couldn't take it any more. This week has been a stressful one, and I really needed to wring that tension out. I did not modify. I practiced with straight legs, floating arm balances, and full binds... and it was glorious. None of the other teacher trainees were there, so I felt okay about not taking the modifications, in spite of our assignment. I rationalized the choice with the fact that my misbehavior wouldn't be influencing anyone else. The teachers at the studio are aware of the "all modifications, all the time" rule for the trainees this week, but she let me go on with my bad self. Maybe she sensed my need for a good sweat. I was grateful.
As for the life intensive this week, simplification was the word. Simplify and modify, break it down to the essentials. This was a difficult task for me, since I'm already on a pretty tight budget and minimalism has been a pursuit of mine for some time. I had to think hard about what else I could cut out. I came up with a few things: beer and wine, blogging (both writing and reading), and food (though not entirely, of course). Cutting out the drinks was easy -- can't really afford it right now, anyway. I simplified my meals, cutting out unnecessary ingredients, and tried to cut out snacking entirely, limiting my diet to three meals a day, supplemented by a piece of fruit if energy started running low. As for the blogging, I limited my reading to once a day, and actually went a whole day without reading other blogs or checking on my own blog once (which doesn't happen often). I did attempt to write a few posts during the week, but they just weren't coming to me quickly enough, so I decided to use the time some other way.
We are currently reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle; finally, a book written in language beyond a 4th grade reading level. I was apprehensive about this one, seeing as how it's got Oprah's Book Club stamped on the cover, but I'm actually really intrigued by Tolle's ideas about identity, humanity, and the collective consciousness. We're meeting tonight for a class, followed by a book discussion. I'm looking forward to delving into our interpretations.