by Jane Hirshfield
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
This month in January, Manouso taught this backbend, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, in an advanced class that was freeing for the neck and shoulders. It has been probably fifteen or sixteen since he’s taught me that pose. These backbends did not come easily for me. I can remember what it was like not to be able to sit in that front hip or move my chest to allow my shoulders. A big part of what my teacher has taught me is NOT to be dependent on him, and about the kind of persistent effort it takes to make progress through a relentless approach to the preparatory work, repeating and repeating the actions, building the layers that allow a complex pose to evolve safely, looking and realigning, relaxing the extra effort. Class taught me how to practice.... Taking in a set of understandings from an experienced practitioner, a teacher, is quite a bit like being parented. He can show a set of actions and positions to help improve a situation, like advising a child to put on a coat when it’s cold outside. The teacher has to show detachment over the resistance of the students. As a parent, tooth brushing is not optional for my children. It’s a job to remind them and make sure they do it while they are little. Ultimately we go out on our own and are responsible for our actions, how hard we are willing to work to care of our end of things, or make a change. A student sent me this recently:
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki: “Knowledge plus one thousand times equals ability."
The teacher attends to the class, the student learns to be attentive:
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity...
Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.
Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” —Simone Weil