March 26, 2014

Ask Anthony: “How Do I Develop a Home Practice?”

Photo: David Leggett on Flickr.

Warning: naughty language ahead. 

Anthony is pretty much an expert on everything.

Dear Anthony,

I  push myself pretty hard at my yoga class, but at home, I tend to go more easy. What should I do to develop a home practice without a whole lot of effort?

~ Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated,

Thank you for your question. Any effort at all is too much for some of us. The thought of meditation as work stops so many aspirants from lifting a finger. You are not alone. But don’t despair! Part of the westernization of yoga is creating systems geared toward total slackers like yourself.

I’ve got your effortless home practice, right here:

Step one is to set the bar lower than a black sea turtle’s belly. Cultivate a shit ton of patience with yourself, buddy. Then begin, but at about 20 miles behind the starting line. The lower the bar, the higher the odds. Or something like that.

Breathing is best accomplished in lotus position on a cushion (I like Sitlonger best) or at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of black-ass coffee. Ten mornings out of 10, for me, it’s the kitchen and coffee. Stay away from the creamers, dude—this is your tapas. Coffee must be black, or it’s just darkened milk.

Now,  just stare blankly at nothing. The coffee must be fresh and hot. Drishti is on the steam, but you know, gently. Full attention is given over to the process. No, I mean full inattention. Whatever. Water becomes steam, which melts into air, and there is a sense of letting go. Goals or accomplishments come to mind.

The work is to ignore them, and deal with this coffee.

Bring the cup to the face and lengthen the inhalation. All awareness has to be on the passage of air in the nostrils, or it’s gonna be a crap day. At this point, a distraction from a wandering roommate or an incoming text alert can damage the calm. It is critical to keep a peaceful abiding. I repeat a mantra when someone approaches me during my practice. Something like: “Shut it, shut it, shut it,” helps me to cultivate my required solitude.

This creates space for inspiration. You’ve got to make room for that shit. I perform this sacred rite in order to be of benefit. You know, to me.

FacebookAfter coffee, it’s time to start by getting on the mat.

And by “the mat,” I mean Facebook. In a non-dualistic, non-judgemental state, it is perfectly obvious that the two are the same. And getting on Facebook is easier. Letting go of your ability to reason can be of merit.

Goodbye to ideas about your morning ritual that no longer serve you.

Let your practice be not practice. The most highly disciplined among us are spending hours on Facebook every day. And by most highly disciplined, I mean the real slackers. That’s the whole non-dualistic thing.

It takes something to get your practice to a place of no practice. Think of yourself as a person on a cushion. The Facebook time is sort of a centering, hunched over at the shoulders asana. Put on Krishna Das or The Pogues. Focus on that zombie scroll. Witness people’s silent screams for attention. Let it override habitual, insecure mindset. Identify with the idiocy: be enriched. Train-wreck theory of meditation. Don’t let yourself think.

Watch political rants and photos go by like clouds. Images of kittens are an opportunity to practice tolerance.

The guru Donovan said: “Share your likes like heaven.”

Facebook is a perfect opportunity. If you must get on your precious mat, fold it up and put it on the seat under you. Throwing your likes around generously is the same as praying for the well being of others. May they feel liked. May they be safe from the danger of obscurity. May they know that putting up their pathetic claptrap was not in vain. This is the metta of alleviating the suffering of our fellow beings.

from pixotoGiving a like is the same as giving a fuck. Let likes flow from you as water from the mountain stream.

Lorin Roche says in “The Radiance Sutras,” the Tantra is losing yourself in intense experience, and finding your Self. Let the screen speak to you. Make it intense. Feel your fingertips tickle the keyboard like a lover.

After your minutes, or hours, on Facebook, it’s about time to get up and move around a little. Don’t let your practice become a burden. You may need to take a break: watch a movie, get some ice cream. Do what it takes, reward yourself—you’ve managed to create a little beauty on an often ugly planet.

Love yourself shamelessly. Whatever that looks like to you. Be insane: shower yourself with enormous affection. After that, your work is simple. Right?

Bring the practice into the rest of your day. Be a source of love on the planet. Do some dishes or you know, shower once in awhile. And call your mother, for God’s sake. What—your fingers are broken, you can’t dial?



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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: elephant journal archives

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