I am picking up a minor theme of class recently where the teacher reminds us to observe without judgement. Since I came to yoga āsana from mindfulness practices, this notion isn’t a new one to me and I often like to think that I’m getting pretty good at it, that I’m pretty aware of the judgements I’m making, even if I’m unimaginably far from the dispassionate ‘witness’ of mind and body.
But now I realise I’m actually just kidding myself. An illusion of non-judgemental awareness. I tried a different kind of mindfulness practice at the weekend which illuminated this to me: I tried to observe objects coloured yellow on my walk over to class and I photographed them as part of the observation. But when I reviewed my photos afterwards I realised the amount of judgement I had brought to this. I actually only took photos of stuff that I felt positive towards in some way. I photographed the cyclists in the yellow sweaters, the pot of flowering plants, some yellow leaves on the pavement. But I didn’t photograph the sign over the pawnbroker and certainly not the pool of pale vomit which I tried hard not to notice at all. Instead of neutrally recording (witnessing) what I saw, I filtered out the stuff I didn’t like or that I didn’t want to photograph.
Maybe I’ll try again next week with a different colour and see how it goes.
Beyond this simple practice, today I’m very aware how much labelling I do of physical sensations as good or bad, and what narratives I bring along, and how that affects how I feel. Today I am sore. Sore with a capital S in fact. It’s just normal muscle sore, the natural result of strong āsana practice yesterday and today after a week of not so much. But although this is pretty uncomfortable (reaching wincing point when climbing stairs!) I’m just laughing about it. It’s so much ‘better’ than ME/CFS muscle soreness which I experience as a more unpleasant physical sensation, even though objectively it’s probably less intense on the pain scale. I label it as ‘not normal’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘unjustified/not deserved’. And this in contrast to post-āsana soreness which I associate with health and strength, despite the unpleasantness of the aching and stiffness.
With ME/CFS muscles I always remonstrate with myself, trying to convince myself that the feeling isn’t really there, or it’s actually something else (specifically I try to pretend it’s normal post-exertional muscle fatigue, even though the sensations are actually quite different!), or I crossly tell myself that I should just be able to work through it somehow. I wonder how it would be if I could experience these sensations just as a witness to them without judgement? It would probably involve less suffering all round.
I guess I really need more practice, but greater awareness is the first step. And I’d definitely prefer the fun coloured-objects meditation to the experience of physical discomfort, please! 🙂