zoning out on the pathway to consciousness
We have not only crossed the threshold into a new year…we are nearing almost a year of navigating through our lives virtually. This is mirrored in the ebb and flow of our yoga classes together.
I realized recently that while teaching, I have been calling people back to themselves and their bodies a lot more frequently. Especially as we have all been practicing together for some time, I see it more and more when a student’s mind has left their body!
When we check out, the poses look lifeless, limp, dull, and begin to lose formality. Lucky for us, this presents a huge opportunity. It is only in the moment of being mindless that we can practice becoming mindful. This practice of putting the mind back into the body builds new pathways in the brain, and over time it becomes second nature, a trained response to catching yourself leaving. And, the good news is we can train ourselves by using tools at our disposal.
Mater et Pater | Material and Pattern | MAPS
We exist within bodies. The age old yoga saying of “you are not your body” is incredibly reductionist and, I find, extremely unhelpful. It is akin to spiritual bypassing. After all, the condition of how we inhabit the body impacts our mental and physical well being. I think we need to accept that to a certain extent, you are your body. Of course, you’re also so much more, but let’s take it one step at a time.
Since we exist in a body which is organic material existing within space and time, we can become just like any other material within our imagination. Just as I would go out to a trail and hike over the terrain of a mountain (a body on the Earth), so too I can go into a yoga pose and travel the internal terrain of my body.
As I hike through the mountain there will be places where the trails are very clear and easy to follow. These are places that have been traveled often over time. As I continue to hike I might come across a pathway that is blocked, overgrown, but beyond it I can see that there is an overlook that offers a stunning view. So, I do the work to clear the path a bit, bushwhacking, dodging tree limbs and rocks to get to that majestic vista and to see the entire trail I’ve traveled on the way up. In the coming days, I go back and I follow that same trail over and over, reaching for that vista and that new perspective and in time the path to the outlook becomes clear and easy to follow. I know it, it knows me.
This is what we’re doing in our practice and thankfully we don’t have to go in blind. We have maps that give us pathways to travel down. Inevitably when we get caught in the weeds, or stray off of the trail, we can reference a map that will lead us back. This is why we practice them and memorize them and use them repeatedly. We are practicing using the technique when it is easy and clear so that during times when we get caught in our internal turbulence we know exactly how to get back to an embodied place, giving our minds something to do that will occupy us so that the grip of whatever is spinning us out loosens enough for us to become mindful again.
The most influential map we use is called the Magic Square. There are a lot of magic squares out there, ours is from the Lo Shu turtle (pictured). If you follow the link for the Lo Shu turtle you will get to dive down a rabbit hole of how the Magic Square connects and cross references other esoteric ideas.
Nevine Michaan, creator of Katonah Yoga, took the Lo Shu square off of the shell of the tortoise and laid it on the front of the human body. In this way, flipping the dialogue from one of a shell, the past, protective, to that of potential. So the one we work with is a mirror image of the original.
Many of you will have heard me mention this map, and have maybe even had the pleasure of being completely confused while trying to follow it in class. Know you’re not alone. Everyone is confused by it at first because it does truly take time and repetition outside of class to learn it. Did no one ever tell you that learning Katonah Yoga comes with homework?!
Here is your homework. Look over this image and try to follow it in your body. First you’ll just start with the points:
- Back of the head on the right
- Left shoulder, left lung, left arm
- Front of left eye
- Center of the chest
- Right hip, leg, and foot
- Right shoulder, right lung, right arm
- Left hip, leg, and foot
- Third eye
The points alone leave the map as 2D, i.e. flat. Eventually we need to layer in the route, the route will make it 3D and turn the Magic Square into what it really is… a Magic Cube.
If you already know how to use the Magic Square in your body, my challenge to you is to articulate it to someone who doesn’t know what it is. In our struggle to explain these concepts we gain new insights!
And then, let’s explore this foundational map and travel the terrain together!