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Remedial Mauna, week 2

Last week's experiment in applying mauna, or silence, at work, was not a huge success. Part of that obviously is the fact that I'm at work where communication seems to be almost all that's happening. Also, what I realized is that it's hard to keep a commitment to silence except situationally, as in, oh, when this stressful thing starts happening, I'll be quiet then. Or I'll experiment with being quiet in this meeting (not effective in one-on-one meetings, naturally!). And I suspect that the kind of being quiet that's called for is the kind where words are not leaving my mouth because my mind is not generating them, and wow, that's a whole different kind of silence than I was able to muster last week.

So this week, I'm staying with the mauna discipline, watching to see how I can quiet my mind and watch the words, decide on them, as they form and well before they leave my mouth. The words seem like they're the end of the thought, the extremities that I need to pull in for stability. I could use more stability for sure, especially at work, where I do feel unsafe most of the time, on guard, out on a limb.

Pulling in, that's how I'm thinking about the mauna this week. Keeping my words to a minimum, using only the ones I need.


Spring cleaning of the heart

There's an aspect to this blog that feels a little bit like cheating, since I go to class, am totally inspired, then come home and write about what I heard. It's not like I made it up, like I'm the clever, sweet, deep creature who strung these thoughts together in the first place. Nope, that's Laura, almost always. Me, I'm just the scribe. But I get so excited about what I hear, the words take up residence, that I can't not write about it, share it out to those of you who don't have the great privilege of laying your mat down in front of my teacher. Really, I owe her a daily debt of gratitude for which there are not enough words in all the combined human and non-human languages -- but I still try, in the language I know best.

Last night's class delivered, as usual, the precise message I most needed to hear. Laura introduced the malas of which there are three. The malas provide handy names for the ways in which we become cut off from our own truth, from a sense of connection, from our own power. We talk about the malas as dust on the mirror of the heart. The point of the yoga is always to clean the mirror, to show us what is already and always there -- the heart.

We spent last night with anavamala, the veil that cloaks iccha or intention, the heart, leading to a feeling that something is missing, a feeling of lack. It is the very opposite of fullness, a diminishment. And boy, could I relate, wasn't I really feeling the effects of anavamala after the crash-and-burn Tuesday I had at work, which lingered on in a prevailing sense of sorrow. How to clear the anavamala? Lots of chest openers, shoulders up and back, inner body bright, shoulder blades lifting the heart forward. But mostly a reminder to see the shimmer, as Laura put it, within yourself and within others and everywhere around you. It's there.

It was truly a spring cleaning of the heart. I know I felt bigger,taller, fuller, connected, all the accumulated dross of the week gone, heart bright and shiny, by the end of class. Now all I have to do is stay on top of that dusting, something I know my friends and teacher will help me with, and this fresh, just-cleaned feeling will hang around a bit longer.


Today will be better

Yesterday was a bit of a crash-and-burn -- seriously not a good day at work, seriously not a day I could walk away from with satisfaction -- so today's bound to be an improvement. I am super-committed to still working the mauna. I probably would have benefited yesterday from not speaking, might have turned out better, but enough regrets. Time to start again.

This morning I finished reading "The Weight of Heaven" by Thrity Umrigar. I am still thinking about how I feel about this book (which says something already), but I do particularly like a quote she includes in the Acknowledgements:

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.
-- Virginia Woolf

Me, too!


Quiet, please

In a few hours, I embark on day 2 of this week's experiment in applying yogic austerities at work. To peace of mind and gentleness, I add the discipline of silence.

It's helpful for me to spend this time in the morning, before heading to the office, remembering the point of this exercise for me. The degree to which I can apply these disciplines, the seriousness and devotion of my focus, are in direct relationship to the fruit these disciplines will bear. As Laura asked (and the question still echoes for me, daily), "how bad do you want awakening?" Because however bad you want it, that's how hard you need to work it, how consistently, how everywhere.

Let's be honest: I want awakening bad. And I know it's up to me. If I want, I can keep postponing the moment, by leaving the work in the future. Or I can do what I'm doing now, making it the central focus of each day.

So here I go, taking some silence to the office with me.

Mauna, this silence, is about choosing not only my words with deliberation, but also the frequency of my speech. It's about slowing response time, not adding more noise to an already noisy-landscape, instead choosing words that build harmony. For me specifically, it's about minding my snark, my punning, my barbs. I love to play with words, so this will be an interesting experiment in quieting that impulse. And at my job, which is communicative to the point of exhaustion, it's going to be super-interesting to haul myself out of the coursing chatty whitewater, stand on the bank and watch.



Austerity #2: Saumya -- soft outside, diamond-strong inside

After four days of working Austerity #2, saumya, at work last week, I think I may have found a key, if not The Key, not only to how to get through however much longer I am going to have to stay in this job, but also to just getting along better in the world. Saumya is just another way of saying the thing I keep hearing in yoga, about being soft on the outside and diamond-strong on the inside, a big big challenge for me but clearly I need to keep hearing it and get on with doing it already.

The way that saumya manifested for me at work was that I proceeded about my tasks more slowly and I chose my words far more deliberately, going for a gentleness of expression. I took the "knowing exactly how much strength to apply in any given situation, using just as much force as necessary, nothing more" as instructions on how to communicate. Really, I feel like mostly that's all my work really is, moving information from one set of people to another. And in several difficult situations, I was glad to be able to express an idea, provide a suggestion or difference of opinion with strength but without sharpness. Now that's some saumya for sure, and oh so very much more effective. Not every situation calls for a knife.

And at work, I do believe I am known more for the knife.

The combination of the manah-prasadah and the saumya -- contentedness of mind and gentleness -- made for a much more pleasant work day, and one I could walk away from 100% when I walked out the door. I was clear and direct but without rancor. Added bonus: I don't feel like I carried home any of the usual gunk, maybe because I didn't accumulate any. Aha, very, very interesting.

Don't get me wrong: my days in this occupation are numbered because I really do need to get off my a** and do the thing I'm here for, and soon. But at least working these yogic austerities is helping me be present where I have to be right now with a whole lot more grace and joyfulness, way less bitching and moaning. How delightful that I'm about to add austerity #3 to the menu for the week: mauna, silence. Now that will be really fun.