from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Owning my practice

Hmmmm not sure how to articulate to just jump in and let it work itself out.

I went to a Shala for the first time three weeks ago after a year and a half of self-practice (see posts below) and it was great, very beneficial and no doubt just what I needed. I was made aware of some of the physical possibilities of my body through adjustments. Pulled up gently on a couple of asanas I'd missed out and came away with a mental list of things to work on; getting the sequence of the last third of primary right, focusing on the correct sequence of breath, chakrosana etc. I've been working on all these elements for the last couple of weeks.........thing is, my practice doesn't feel mine anymore. Or less mine.

I started practicing Ashtanga alone at home with a book from the library, and then a DVD, more books more DVDs, youtube and the Internet. Asana I thought were impossible for me, for my body have become possible. All the time it's just been me on my mat, alone in a room early each morning, my practice. It's followed my mood and inclination, will, desire, frustration, stubborn determination, whatever.

Somehow now, after visiting the Shala, it feels a little like I'm practicing for someone else, my teacher? I need to work on this or that, improve this or that. Those elements to work on didn't come from me, didn't arise in me. Perhaps they should have done and done so a long time ago perhaps some things I might never have noticed on my own. Don't get me wrong I'm so very grateful for the attention, the adjustments, advice, suggestions it's just that each morning this last week it's felt a bit of a chore, my hearts not been in it. I feel more distant from my practice, less involved.

No doubt it will pass and it's just an adjustment but it's strange no? Wondered if anyone else had felt the same. And then I began to wonder if there's something similar when someone changes teachers and if so what that says about the teacher / student relationship ( I used to be a teacher ). And when you go to India, to Mysore does it feel more or less your practice, more Guruji's perhaps, more the traditions practice. Or does it always feel your practice.

Perhaps if you began learning Ashtanga in a Shala it's different. If you give yourself over to a teacher to the tradition it's still your practice but in a different context. For me there was just this style of yoga that appealed to me, that appeared graceful and yet powerful, beautiful, perfect. I looked at it as practiced by John Scott, Doug Swenson, Richard Freeman, Sharath, Lino, Kino. And it's the same practice but each time subtly different and sometimes not so subtle. A personal expression...... there you go, a personal practice. As far as I know they all learnt from teachers and studied in Mysore and yet all have their OWN practice. So perhaps I'm just over reacting and it will pass, I hope so because i know i can gain so much from visiting the Shala and perhaps one day, a trip to mysore. And yet...........?

Just read over this and I'm not sure this is what I'm trying to get at, but it's a start.......


  1. I find that when I start practicing at a new shala, I have a few uncomfortable practices. I'm not used to my new surroundings, I feel self-conscious, teachers usually pick on little things here and there, and there is nothing meditative about those practices. But then I settle and everything kind of falls into place.

    That said, there are people who are just happier doing home practices, and those who alternate periods of months at a time of shala practice with periods of home practice.

    Whatever works! :-)

  2. I just had a mini change in teachers. I had a sub in my mysore class for a few months who I absolutely adored -- there are some teachers who just resonate so loudly with one. When I got back to my regular teacher, my morning practice kind of felt so unlovable. Nothing particularly bad, just not happy.. I'm still working through it, but these are my two favourite thoughts at the moment
    - "practice what I've been taught, as I've been taught"
    - "just one breath at a time"
    They don't really help me love my practice, but when I had a chat with the sub, he said that it's just a tough time of the year, it gets dark etc. so take it easy :) you've got the rest of your life to practice!

  3. For me this is such a delicate issue. It is only recently that i have been able to "make it my own practice", up to then it was always for the teachers or very depending on what the teachers thought, commented, mentioned.

    And the interesting thing is that I decided to make it my own practice life changed around and I ended up in a very dedicated shala with good instructors, where there is a perfect balance between the amount of corrections I get and the space I am given to go within.



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