Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ahimsa for the High-Strung Scholar

[NB: in this post, I am all introspective-meditative-blogger again.  So if that's not to your taste, you might want to skip this post.  I'm sure I'll be back to something bizarre and random again very soon.]

As long-time followers know, I have a few extracurricular passions that ebb and flow with my schedule.  And as even more recent followers know, my post-tenure life sees me constantly struggling to carve out time to devote to them, to be a more balanced human being.  It's tough.

And it's been even more tough of late to maintain balance in the mind.  Grit City U., like every other public university out there, lately is living and dying by nickles and dimes. I shan't enumerate the many things we've lost over the past few years, but it does seem that just when I find a bit of peace with the "new normal" (are we all getting tired of that phrase yet?), a place where I can, as the yogis preach, not struggle, something new comes up, and I'm fighting tooth and claw again.

Add to this the fact that my body is now betraying me.  Nothing horrible; just a combination of age and mileage. But it means another two weeks of near-inactivity for me, and accepting that short-term frustration (two weeks of very limited activity) will prevent long-term injury.

One of the things I'm having to give up for those two weeks is yoga.  This is a blow: yoga not only keeps me physically fit, it was helping me counteract the eight or so pounds I put on when I quit smoking.  And it has the added bonus of keeping me from killing people.  Plus, there's the vanity thing: there's some thing very cool about having a perky butt and awesome shoulders when you're forty-something and used to being slightly pudgy.

So, I'm putting into practice one of the yoga principles: Ahimsa. It's usually translated as "non-injury." Now, I haven't killed anyone yet, though sometimes it's a close thing. But I tend to forget that non-injury has to be directed inward as well.  And like most scholars, I demand a lot of myself. And it makes me cranky, and makes me feel like a failure, which results in more self-directed violence, etc.

So, I'm going to try to practice Ahimsa the first week of the semester.  It seems like a good time, especially since the word can also be translated to mean "compassion," and I've been tapped to be an undergraduate adviser this year. I'm also going to tell myself that it's okay to not exercise like an amateur athlete when you're injured, ferthaluvagod.

How I will manage this without giving up on standards altogether remains to be seen.


clio's disciple said...

I'm in favor of ahimsa, certainly. And I don't know the nature of your injury/condition.
But do you need to give up yoga entirely? Could you simply make your practice less athletic, more meditative, try different poses? Does it have to be all or nothing?
In any case, hope you're doing better soon.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Actually, CD, that's precisely what I'm going to do: hit the restorative and meditative classes. It'll be interesting to try something new, anyway.

(The injury is an IT band thing, I think, brought on by overly aggressive cycling without proper aftercare.)

Comrade Physioprof said...

When I can't exercise vigorously every day, I turn into a toxic asshole if I'm not very careful.

Historiann said...

I'm with you on the yoga classes: restorative/healing yoga is what you need, and you can always decline to do poses that might jeopardize your healing.

Ahimsa is a good concept. I get through the semesters in which I teach survey courses by repeating a mantra as I walk to class: "compassion and service." It's a good mantra in general when one gets cranky about one's students and teaching in general.

Hope you feel better soon. You are gorgeous. I've never seen the 8 pounds or the smoking, so I don't know what you are talking about!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

"Compassion and Service." I like that, h'ann!