Failure, Desire, and Enlightenment on the Mat…in the Gut, and in Life

Failure, Desire, and Enlightenment on the Mat…in the Gut, and in Life



As I sit here, exhausted from trying to handstand…trying, trying, trying….trying for that slow, controlled movement, that graceless precision that comes from hour upon hour of literally training and feeling into the body, I think that this must mirror the purpose of life itself.  Not only is it trying to achieve some-thing, some asana, some posture, but it is really about Mastery.  That is what this is really about.   And tonight it hit – like a ton of bricks: All the stuck places in my head, my thoughts, my consciousness, that is where I am stuck in my physical yoga practice, in my body.
In Daoism, the center of spiritual realization is not in the heart, most definitely not in the head, but in the GUT.  Deep, deep down in the center of the low belly, in the center of the body.  Hui Yin they call it.  All of Daoist practice is aimed at essentially strengthening and supporting this energetic center and its supporting structures.  In Yoga, this correlates to Uddiyana Bandha, deep in the low belly.  For a long time I’ve thought I would someday come across the muscles that correspond with Uddiyana Bandha…until today.  Today I realized, it IS an ENERGETIC center.  There are no corresponding muscles.  Let me state that again, if you think there are corresponding muscles, there are not.  It is an energetic center.  After 15 years of physio-spiritual exploration through yoga and other means, I can state with certainty that there are not muscles as part of the “gut center.”  There are some muscles that lay over this particular Center of Power and that contribute to lift in handstand, jumpbacks etc, but they are not IT.  That is why a lot of old yoga masters harped on bandhas, not muscles.  This Center is accessed through a particular action in the body as well, but I’ll save that for another post.


Whatever weakness is in this “Gut Center,” will show up in handstanding practice directly.  Especially if one is going for the super slow controlled movement, all the way up, and all the way down.  The beauty of it is, the weaknesses link exactly to points in consciousness, belief systems, “blank spots” where a practicioner refuses to look, and other ‘tweaks’ of consciousness that exist as ways we keep ourselves unenlightened.  Holdings, if you will.  If I look deeply into that gut center as I practice the lift into handstand from forward fold, there is a point where consciousness literally gets cut off – and I cannot move my legs anymore at that point.  I am going to encourage practicioners to investigate this for themselves.  Of course, one has to have a certain level of strength (and flexibility to get the feet close to the hands) to begin the process of lifting into an arm balance, but one must start somewhere.  Especially if handstand is part of your yoga dream, however far off it may appear.  Just start.


And this is where I want to talk about failure and its utter inevitability.  Every.  Single.  Person.  Who has ever practiced yoga (or lived for that matter) has experienced failure.  And, if they are practicing honestly, no matter how advanced, they experience a degree of failure every time they practice.  There will always be places the human body cannot go.  Now, there are always degrees of success intermingled of course.  But I really have been thinking about this aspect of failure.  It’s quite like life, in that we have to experience a certain amount of pain and suffering in order to call up the energy of Transformation.  Failure is inevitable, and necessary, and good.  Without it, there would be no desire to transform, in practice or in life.  There would be no desire to further open the body or further expand consciousness, which are exactingly linked for most yogis who are paying attention.


As I crashed into the wall tonight while attempting to backbend my way into a handstand, the energy of transformation just showed up.  There it was, having me sense into the fact that I haven’t achieved in practice what I might have thought, no matter how great the physical act, if I did not have the smooth, clean awareness all the way through the action.  This is really what I speak to a lot in my own teaching, for those of you who have taken class.  And it is a tall order, but then again, so is the whole premise of yoga.  Enlightenment through the physical body.  If an awareness, a realization, goes all the way through the body at deep levels, you can bet it is the “real deal.”  Even if it does not stick around, the realization “comes back for every single part of itself,” as Mukti said to me recently.  It will work itself out in you.  Not – you will work it out.  It will work itself out in you.  That is why the body craves sacred physical practice, yoga.  For those who have yoga as part of the path, you know what I mean!


Mukti’s husband, Adyashanti, also talks about the “existential grip in the gut” when he gives dharma talks.  You may not even know you have an existential grip in the gut, but when the awareness of it comes, there’s no denying it after that.  Apparently it is something everyone has, until, practice leads them into letting go.  And that is really what most helpful spiritual practices are about, right?  In yoga, we strengthen and open the body and release physically so we can let go.  In daoist practices of chigong, we strengthen meridians and organs, gather energy at hui yin, so that we can let it all go.  Letting go requires strength, paradoxically.
In the wake of explosive moments of realization, what is the basic characteristic?  What is Freedom?  It is release.  No grasping, no holding, no desire.  It is the big “Let Go.”  In mind, body, and spirit.  It is dancing wildly, with abandon, upon the grave of contraction and self-consciousness.  We transcend the body through the body, in spite of the body, and WITH the body.  What hearts and eyes come alive then!

Everything is like that.  I have to desire so hard, so much, that I finally let go.  I have to crash into the wall first, though, and suffer the pain.  Then, eventually, in the letting go, the goal is reached.  Each attainment is a little bit of an ego killer – if you do it right.  The spontaneous arising of the Joy of Grace.  Holding onto ego creates “blind spots” that you have to go back and undo.  It creates separation that has to be realized does not really exist.  So, love your failures.  Let them rip you indiscriminately and totally apart.  Feel the pain of them totally.

There are many who have attained physically great acts.  But, that means nothing if it just physical.  What are we serving?  If we cannot live in innocence, in moment-to-moment awareness as we go through our day (for that is the true practice), we have not attained as much in practice as we think we have.  WHERE IS YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE IN PRACTICE?  Every. Moment.  When I lose track of moments, especially in yoga practice, I know there is some seeking left to give up.  Not that there is something to do.  There is something to give up.  So that I may stay in This Moment, and not stray into fantasy or regret.

So, fearlessly investigate your body, your practice, your consciousness.  Do not assume you have attained, for in that, you can be sure you have not.  I speak from experience.  If you are reading this, I challenge you to go back and investigate in consciousness what you have taken for granted.  Those are the places for improvement.

Uddiyana Bandha!


#1 The Nagual of Houghton St., Part 1


Hello Dear Readers!!

…to those who are just beginning with me as I start this blog.  I have tried so many times to write a blog, but I’ve felt there’s no way to catch people up on what might be the bizarre, mystical life I inhabit.  So, I figured I would just start with last week!

The Nagual of Houghton St.

Do you know what the Nagual is?  It is a Place of Mystery, an alteration of time and space.  It was first described in literature by Carlos Castaneda in his book Tales of Power.  However, among Mexican Indian shamans it has been known for a much, much longer time.  In the Yaqui Indian shaman culture, the Nagual comes upon you, you do not control it.  It is a mysterious, strong and sometimes quite scary Power of Attention.  And this is exactly how it happened on this night in early September.

New Mexico has a particular kind of storm during the monsoon season, which we are now in.  It comes up in the afternoon, and the sky very slowly gets dark and cloudy, and the wind creeps up over hours into an almost continuous gust at dark.  It may or may not actually rain.  But, in this magical landscape and this magical land, it is easy to find the Nagual upon you when a storm like this comes in.

So, it was exactly happening like this, getting windier and darker and darker as I was walking my dog through the neighborhood as I usually do around early evening.  I didn’t think much of the storm, because it does not often rain during these types of storms.  We walk extensively, and while the Santa Fe streets are full of nooks and crannies, unexpected things, I wouldn’t have thought an entire street could materialize out of the blue.  As I’m walking down a main neighborhood cut-through, I see a curvy small street to the right I had not noticed before.  Houghton St.

Wait, let me back up a second.  First, I was walking by the school, coming upon a property that sits up on a hill, with a low adobe wall surrounding it, at knee height.  I saw a man-ish looking woman, Mexican Indian no doubt, sitting on the wall in front of me as I approached.  I could feel her gaze studying me as I walked closer.  Her outfit was odd though I did not notice at first.  She was wearing jeans and a man’s Stetson hat.  As I neared, I saw that she had a cigarette hanging off her lip comfortably, which it seemed she had no intention of lighting.  She looked to the side of me and said, “How do you do?” a statement which I found strangely antiquated.  That is when it hit me.  The Nagual was upon me.

It was a matter of intuition after this.  Those who encounter the Nagual know never to fight it.  I don’t even want to know what happens if you fight a force such as this.  You surrender, and then you surrender some more.  No agenda.

Back to where I was, Houghton Street.  Like I mentioned, I stumbled onto this street I had never seen before.  And my body immediately steered me down it.  I was no longer driving this experience, and at least I knew enough to know that.  The street wound around and I came to an intersection where the road and its intersecting road turned to dirt.  The thought that I was in the middle of inner-city neighborhood was completely gone from me.

A curly haired man with glasses was standing there in an plaid shirt.  Through the gusts of wind he asked, “Do you know where 317 Houghton is?”  I looked around for a street sign.  “We’re on Houghton,” he said, warmly.  I saw that we were at 209.  Since he had come from just ahead of me, I suggested he walk back where I had just come from and maybe cross the main road to see if it was on the other side.  We parted and I started walking, toward the dirt road, which narrowed into an alley with high walls on either side.  211. 213.  The house numbers were going up.  I looked back to see if Curly was in sight, but he was gone.  “This is getting weirder fast,” I thought.

As of now, I was determined to find 317 Houghton for myself.  Just as I was reaching the alley part of the road with the high walls, the next house number read 991 1/2 Don Miguel.  By this time I was starting to resign myself to the weirdness, so I kept going.  Just as I got down the alley, I turned to see Curly coming back up the street.  I walked back towards him and shouted, “Did you find it?”  Now, I was genuinely interested.

“Yes, they found it!” he said as I came up to him.  Reading the perplexed look on my face, he added, “A car came by my house and I happened to be outside.  They were looking for 317, not me.  Some people in another car knew where it was, and they agreed to show them.”  Wow, he lives on Houghton and doesn’t know where 317 is.  That is weird,” I thought to myself.

By now we were standing in front of what I presumed to be his house.  As if reading my previous thought, he said, “I just moved here.”  I looked at the plates on the car in his driveway…Alaska.  Odd, I had just been talking about Alaska with my recent ex-boyfriend. “Cool,” I said.  We made some small talk and then I headed for 991 1/2 Don Miguel to see what was going on.

As I came through the alley, I reached another main road, to my surprise.  I also had not heard of this street.  Don Cubero.  I turned left so as to go around the block and hit the main road that would take me back home.  It actually seemed to be threatening rain this time.  I turned left at the next block, walking quickly.  To my total shock, I look up and see….Houghton.  My body turned me left onto the street, as though figuring out a puzzle.  1000 Houghton…..911….901….and all the way down until…I curve around a corner and bam!  I am back at the intersection where I had first met Curly.

Now what in the hell is going on?  I had not even noticed this configuration of roads when we had first met.  I was at Houghton and Houghton, and, to make it even worse, Houghton also turned off to the right at an angle.  I cannot possibly give you a visual image to describe how these roads were set up.  I went to the right at an angle.  Went around another corner….317 Houghton.  There it was.  Maybe I was not too crazy after all.  As I passed the driveway, I noticed nobody was home.  Odd.

I was still on Houghton and was walking very fast, as the weather was threatening and turning very rapidly.  I felt a drop.  Heidi Dog was almost running beside me.  Some mystery was thickening in the air all around me.  There was a twinge in the gut, but I was not afraid for some reason.  I pass a house, falling down, with two couches facing each other in the front yard, along with other debris.  There was a table between them, with a fully set up chess board, ready to go.  On the other side of the house, a large zombie doll sat and behind it I saw a bright yellow truck with “St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store” on it.  Very creepy.  Another house, adobe.  This one had outside stairs to a very tiny room on the second story, probably one that could barely fit one person in there.  Creepier.

I get dumped out onto Don Gaspar, the road I live on.  I have my bearings back suddenly.  I’m walking very fast now and I get the feeling that I have to drive to Galisteo, NM, a tiny town about 30 minutes south of Santa Fe.  I had never been there.  My recent ex had been looking at a rental property there, in hopes of moving.  Some guests at the Inn I work at also told me the town was known for a church, or sanctuario, where healings had occurred.  I am going to Galisteo, I thought.  Even though it is dark and raining, and New Mexico has one of the highest drunk driving rates of any state.  It’s Friday night.  And I am going.
To be continued….



Welcome to Paige Cochran Yoga and Healing~


    A Gift has been Given.  It is time to Begin, to give back what has been so Graciously Shared.  It is time to Blossom – Fragrant, Beautiful, and Fecund in the Space that the Universe has allotted Life.  Within us all is the Seed of Perfect Wholeness.  When it Blossoms, We see Radiant Beauty in Everything.  It has the power to make the deepest Hells look like Glorious Garden Oases.  We are healed, made Whole.  Here you are Invited to Water, Nourish, and Feed the Seed of your Soul so that You may Bloom into Wholeness. So that you may make the Garden of your Life something Lovely for All the World.

   May you find Beauty, Renewal, and Hope as you peruse this site.  May your Passion for Life be Ignited, may you be Inspired, and be moved towards Health, Fullness, and Abundance in your Spirit as you read through the story of the Mysticism that has been my Spiritual Path.  May you be moved towards the place where Stillness Speaks to the Heart, and where there is Recognition of All as the Self Divine. 

With Deep Love,


  “At the root of all magic: choice. In the depths of all choice: hope. Always hidden and sometimes lost, in the mystery of hope you can uncover the core, the mystical core of great magic. Within the depths of that mystery, within the August depths of hope: grander love and greater healing wait for your touch.” —Lazarus