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 Building a Daily Practice with Self-Pacing
 Da capo al fine: a back-to-basics practice journal
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20 Posts

Posted - Apr 22 2019 :  01:21:54 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
I hope it's all right to keep a weekly practice journal here. I haven't been the steadiest practitioner in the past, and could benefit from encouragement as I try to establish a routine. And I also think visitors to the site could benefit from seeing how it's done (there are practice journals in the archives, but I don't see another live one out here at present).

I read the AYP site (and forums!) from 2013 to 2016 with admiration,
and practiced for a while, but never with a stable twice-a-day habit, and always with heavy admixtures of techniques I stumbled across earlier in life, or ones I read about elsewhere, or both. AYP's advocacy for a systematic, habitual approach didn't carry much authority with me in what seemed to be necessarily a realm of adventure and self-exploration. After all, the guru was in me! I think a lot of us know the feeling.

But then, late last year, I began taking yoga classes on a steady basis, and now I look at things differently. First, as I get some basic understanding of what happens in asana practice, I finally see how it connects to the principle that is called "self-pacing" in AYP. I had read it here but not really taken it on board until I was in a place where I had to observe it or risk physical injury.

Second, in answer to what I considered an inner call, and after a campaign of about a month using a weird mix of techniques, I got my crown chakra open toward the end of last month, for probably the third time in my life--the second at least. It is definitely not equivalent to enlightenment. It definitely felt good, and even right. But I realized that I wasn't prepared for a sudden come-down which could happen anytime, that to do the crown justice I would have to back off and approach it gradually and systematically, getting there with a sense of knowing what I was doing. Even if it took a few years. So it was time to revisit AYP.

I happened to have bought the Easy Lessons books in a store earlier in the year, and I'm going to start from the beginning. My initial idea is to review a lesson a week and not adopt a practice until I reach that lesson, but that might be too much self-pacing: six months of meditation before adding spinal breathing could be reasonable, but nearly three years without samyama? On the other hand, I've spent much of the last three years without it too...

In any case, the beginning practice is clear: 20 minutes deep meditation twice a day and nothing else (except asana classes). And--since I've had so much going on, so recently--a watchful eye on whether I might have to reduce the time. Certainly, as I've eased into this over the last week or two, I've put off a few sessions for hours, and missed a day last week. I'm going to stay with 20 minutes for another week--and be stricter about the "nothing else"--and see whether things reach an equilibrium.

Suggestions are welcome. Wish me luck!


1542 Posts

Posted - Apr 22 2019 :  03:03:00 AM  Show Profile  Visit Charliedog's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Jourdain,

Creating a new habit can take some time, so do not be too strict. As a suggestion, if 2 times a day 20 minutes is a bit of a struggle to integrate in daily life, it is also possible to start with two times 10 or 15 minutes of DM. Do not forget to take some minutes of rest after DM. Keep it doable for yourself. Later, after a month or six weeks, you add 5 minutes to the practices....
It is a wise decision to take one step at a time.

Wishing you a smooth journey, good luck.

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United Kingdom
1486 Posts

Posted - Apr 22 2019 :  06:12:05 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hello Jourdain, welcome to (serious) AYP

"Da capo" sounds good. The "fine" will look after itself, all you need to do is take it one day at the time. You already know that. Sticking to the disciple takes a bit of effort at the beginning. After a while, you will be looking forward to your sitting sessions.

I will look out for your updates in this journal.

Good luck!
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20 Posts

Posted - Apr 29 2019 :  02:06:41 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Week 1
Changes: DM to 10 minutes (down from 20)
Samyama timer: 10 weeks
Current practice: Deep meditation, 10 minutes

Thanks, Charliedog and Blue Raincoat I'm grateful for your kind welcomes and gently helpful advice. I did find myself reducing practice time, after finding myself putting off several sessions until there was only 10 minutes left! It's harder to imagine a clearer message from within.

I expect most of my entries here to be short, but this one will be extra long as I explain (to myself as well) what I will be doing, both with the practice and with the journal itself.

This is intended to be completely mainstream, vanilla, unmodded AYP. I'll be doing a few things that aren't prescribed in the lessons, but that I don't think are discouraged. If I'm mistaken, please point this out to me at once, as my tendency to overreach is one of the main things I'm intending to work on, and I'm fully convinced now that there's good reason to hew to the line. I'll go into that in other weeks.

I'll be making one entry a week here. Each time, I'll review the next AYP lesson in sequence and reflect on how it bears on my experiences on the path--which might be only a few words, such as "I've never tried this," or "It takes all kinds." I'm working mainly from the AYP: Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living books, which sometimes have additions to the online lessons and may have minor textual differences.

Here's where self-pacing comes in, and I take it pretty far. In general, as I said last week, except for asanas learned in class, I will only adopt a practice once I've reached the lesson containing the instructions for it. By my calculations, for instance, I will reach spinal breathing pranayama this November, siddhasana next June--by which time I may be limber enough to get my foot back there!--and the first mantra enhancement two years from now. By early 2023, at the age of fifty, I'll have the tools to approach the crown again, if I then see fit; this time, hopefully, to stay.

I am not at all under the impression that AYP requires us to wait so long. Self-pacing implies setting our own paces and adjusting as we go, and the lessons weren't even originally posted as far apart as that. To bind myself to this snail's pace in advance may seem extreme, and about this I would never suggest that someone else should do the same. I do it partly so that I don't have an excuse to look at the book (or otherwise worry about my practice) during the week, but can read, write, and adjust my practice in a single session at the weekend; but, more importantly, because of the tendency to overreach I mentioned, and because I really want to build a solid base of a steady habit while I focus on getting my everyday life working better. That's part of practice too, of course, karma yoga, and I won't be surprised if the journal ends up in that subforum instead, or even in "Yamas and Niyamas". I expect it depends on what I end up talking most about.

I'm making just two exceptions, asanas aside. Since there must be a practice, I've gone ahead and peeked at Lesson 13 for the instructions on deep meditation, the only essential element (besides resting, which I know how to do --not that I always remember).

The other exception is samyama. When I first read Lesson 150, the surprising expression that came to mind was "this is a matter of common decency," and that is how I've considered it ever since: worth doing for its own sake. While it's introduced late in the lessons, the only prerequisites--some inner silence, and of course stability in other practices--can be met early on. If ever I have gone ten weeks without a change to my practice set, nothing weird is happening, and I have the merest smidgeon of inner silence, I will permit myself to reintroduce samyama. I'll wait a more normal period, three or four months, after making that change to make sure it's stable, because, once it is, I don't intend to ever stop again.

Turning to the first lesson, "Why This Discussion?"--why indeed? I have not joined the still-extant AYP Yahoo group and so don't know how the early discussion went, but I can guess the consequences of opening a group called 'advancedyogapractices' and then sitting back: there would have been a flood of people joining, and some beginning to volunteer their knowledge, others asking questions, maybe even an argument already taking shape.

But nearly everyone involved would have come to yoga through asana classes. The ideas of "something more" and "opening oneself up", that I found cryptic when I first read the lesson on the website in 2013, are, I dare say, intuitive to asana practitioners. A beginner can see with his or her own eyes that more is possible, as the teacher can do all sorts of things he or she can't--and perhaps can't imagine doing--and can often read the room and give tailored instructions while doing them. It's impressive. Divine? The thought does cross the mind, especially if the session closes with "namaste" and so on. Someone who progresses from this beginning, I'm sure, finds after a while that something has changed inside them, and wonders how far the process can go. I'm still new to this major aspect of yoga, and looking forward to it.
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20 Posts

Posted - May 08 2019 :  12:38:49 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Week 2 and part of 3
Changes: none
Samyama timer: 9 weeks
Current practice: Deep meditation, 10 minutes

I've been getting two sessions in every day, though on a few occasions they have still slipped by some hours. Achieving a regular schedule will be its own adventure.

Daily life is a little uneven--to be expected, I guess. I had what seemed like a brilliant idea about a yoga-like approach to managing stress in working situations, the gist of which is lying down afterwards but early tests had me spending most of the day lying down and I can't tell yet whether it will develop into something useful. I do seem to have less stress about my job, though (though not about cleaning house!). If I keep working on this, I will post and ask people if they think it is compatible with AYP, which I've obviously been assuming.

About this week's lesson, I think I can now appreciate the stated goal and see what yoga has to do with it. The connection to religion--at least in general--is less clear to me, but that's not a problem for me.
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20 Posts

Posted - May 13 2019 :  12:42:06 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Remainder of week 3
Changes: none
Samyama timer: 8 weeks
Current practice: Deep meditation, 10 minutes

An intense few days emotionally. A chance assignment from work landed me in the same town as my uncle, whom I haven't seen since his third stroke, three months ago. His speech is unaffected (or has recovered fully), and we had the same great wide-ranging conversations as usual, but he's still retraining motor functions in his left arm and is only now working up to using a cane. He drops playing cards occasionally. Even this much progress is the result of determined and often arduous daily practice, which he sometimes has had to insist on. He never looks forward to it, but he's certain of what he wants--retraining the left side, not just training the right side to compensate for it--and knows this is the way to get there. So my uncle stays on the case.

I didn't make the connection to this week's reading, the first lesson on desire and devotion, until I sat down to write this report. It hasn't been characteristic of me to identify goals and then work toward them daily. I can think of a variety of explanations for this, but it hardly matters. I've known devotion, but not towards something thought of as attainable--merely towards things and beings I've thought of as good. It's time to shift gears, to the extent I haven't done so already, and recognize a high good as also attainable--recovery of full function in my spirit--and that the means are within my grasp.

I've kept up meditation twice daily, including while out of town, though the times have been very irregular still.

Edited by - Jourdain on May 13 2019 05:50:32 AM
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20 Posts

Posted - Jun 06 2019 :  12:28:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Still in it! But I forgot my password to this forum and so when it fell out of the browser cache on my laptop, I could no longer post. But I have a new password now, and I've written it down in a place I'll remember, so you'll be hearing from me every week again from now on.

Perhaps surprisingly, I've missed just one practice session in all this time, though a few others slipped some hours. So I feel good about that. A weird digestive illness that arrived just after my crown opening seems to have gone away. I'm having trouble getting myself to do housework, but the often stressful job is going almost uniformly smoothly. It's tied to the school year, so it ends in a week, for the time being, but I think I have saved enough to make it through the summer. More about these things later, probably.

I'm still doing a lesson a week, but I'm not going to post commentaries according to my original plan. It'd have been most helpful when I had a question, and those I should just post in the appropriate section of the forum--there are a couple of questions I've had about meditation for a long time that I'll do this with sometime soon. There's also my "work yoga" practice, which I'm still trying to define in a way I can follow and vice versa. I don't think it should interfere with AYP, but I will be curious to know what you think about that, and the practice itself.
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1566 Posts

Posted - Jun 06 2019 :  12:34:27 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Welcome back Jourdain

Passwords in general are a cross I bear often, luckily my AYP one is tattooed on my psyche . Are you still at 10 minuets DM? Congratulations on your discipline! If things are stable, you can start adding a few more minutes as you go.

I was amused at your Samyama timer; I agree that adding samyama soon after you've sensed inner silence is proper. I love how Yogani has designed the basic practice: (optional) asanas, SBP, DM, and then samyama. The first two properly set you up for DM and then Samyama turns all that inward flow outwards, a practice of surrender that nicely completes the session and, after your rest, sets you up for sharing the fruits of your yoga for the next half-day. It has become a physical sensation for me, thanks to ecstatic conductivity.

Other byproducts of EC: asanas have creeped into everyday activity, while waiting somewhere, or in moments where I identify a sensation in my body and investigate it with a pose. Also, practices like asanas and SBP have energy signatures and I am able to drop in easily and deeply into the mantra loop with no effort. My daily duties often interfere with a strict meditation schedule, but it is nice to know that I can access DM even if I only have 5 minutes to spare. I'm not clear about what you mean about a "work yoga" practice, but if you have limited time or space to do yoga there, rest assured your current discipline will advance you to a state where yoga opportunity suddenly appears abundant. You will also discover yoga practices can be done without others knowing you are doing them in their presence .

Keep on trucking!

Edited by - Dogboy on Jun 06 2019 12:36:50 PM
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20 Posts

Posted - Jun 10 2019 :  5:20:24 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, Dogboy, you certainly make the case for adding asanas; I attended my first class in over a month last weekend and was reminded how good they feel and how they shift the perspective. Actually, I feel like adding everything back right now and I've done various things I'm not supposed to be doing, including an overextended frog pose (at home) that my hip joints still ache from after several days and that kind of thing is why I'm in this subforum, of course but now I may add some (few, gentle, brief) asanas instead of samyama when the timer runs down.

That brings us to the report...
Weeks 4 through 7
Changes: none
Samyama or maybe asanas timer: 4 weeks
Current practice: 10 minutes deep meditation

Still practicing twice daily. Everything going smoothly at work, with the school year winding down. Preoccupied with my failure to keep up the house to my mother's standards, which I promised her instead of rent when I moved in last year. But I have longstanding blocks around housekeeping, which is part of why I moved here in the first place--to overcome them. I haven't. I accept this, but that acceptance is not getting the house clean. The next two days are make-or-break, as I leave here Thursday morning and return on Monday with my mother. We'll see how it goes--fine in the long run, I know.
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