Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Get in your car and drive.

Yesterday I was teaching and I had this image of Savasana being like getting into your car and driving. Recently I read the obituary of a Clifford Nass, the scientist who cautioned the effects of data deluge. Nass believed, "the increasingly screen-saturated, multi-tasking modern world was not nurturing the ability to concentrate, analyze or feel empathy." He gave the example of someone driving an automatic car while playing Angry Birds on their phone. Initially it is sunny and the streets are clear, but soon it is raining and there is erratic traffic. When the automatic car asks the passive driver to take over, they don't have the mental presence of mind or capacity to do so.

Yesterday I guided the 25 students in class into Savasana time and time again. "Just return to the physical position of Savasana" I'd say, "your body remembers it. You don't have to reinvent it." I had the image of a rental car. Whenever I rent a car, I always think for a moment, "This car is different. How do I drive this car?" But I always figure it out. It might have a keyless ignition or an unfamiliarly located gearshift, but I always manage because I know how to drive. Driving is driving. I do it all the time.

As I watched many people struggling to settle down in Savasana (as I often struggle to settle down, stay still, focus my eyes), I was reminded of how much each individual in the room is managing. All the information from their lives, their phones, their computers, the constant stimulation outside the studio walls and inside their heads. "It's like driving" I said, "just turn on the car and go." In Savasana we are trying to achieve conscious relaxation which, in our current cultural state is becoming more and more difficult. Savasana isn't automatic. We have to navigate the changes in our mental roads. One day we come to class and the sun is shining, there is a gentle breeze, no traffic for miles. Smooth ride. Other days, I-5 is packed, a semi is jack-knifed, blocking all traffic from Everett to Southcenter and it is pouring like Seattle's new rain is likely to do. Hard driving.

In Savasana, know that the idea is to get to conscious relaxation, and that on different days, it will take very different forms. Your car is not automatic. You have to be engaged and drive it. Get in the car, turn it on, notice what's happening within the roads in your brain, start the car, and drive.