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One Thing After Another

By Randall Buskirk

THU SEP 24, 2020

A friend asked how important sequence was to me, and I thought that might be worth a few words here.

I've always loved a good sequence in a yoga class, from an auspicious beginning to a developing plot line of poses leading to a culmination and satisfactory ending--just like in a good story. It's a great way to learn and see the relationships between one pose and another, to prepare and expand one's capacities and then to rest and recover. It helps one to understand the components of a pose, to work on them separately, and then put them together in a more complex pose.

Sequences are like life in that way. One thing follows another, like the arrow of time from past to future. There is a logic to it. There is a predictability to it, and the brain likes predictability because it decreases threat and takes less energy to deal with.

Maybe there is causality to it--a karma of cause and effect. Maybe not. The brain will often make it karma, though, because it loves predictability that much. Predictability is repeatability and that is survivability, which is job number one for the brain.

So I like sequencing my practice and my classes in that way. But I've more and more become interested in another way of thinking about sequence:

  • breath
  • sensory input
  • interpretation/meaning
  • motor output

That's the sequence of life too, especially the life of the brain. As they say in neuroscience, "sensory before motor." Your brain receives information from the inner body and the outer world, interprets and assigns it meaning, and then creates an action in response, whether unconscious or conscious.

So that is also a very good sequence with which to work--to improve your outputs, improve your breath skills and your sensory input, and get better at interpreting and creating meaning (you might call that the mythic process).

However--there is another way that life works. It doesn't always come at you in sequence. It jumps to conclusions. It starts and stutters. It happens randomly for no cause or reason. It simply happens. Call it lila--divine play.

As Douglas Brooks says, you are always already in the middle of things, even if you are at the beginning. Where does a circle start? Wherever you are.

And the brain likes that novelty and unexpectedness too--at least in the right dosage. It makes it grow. It's like a good joke coming from nowhere, a belly laugh opening you up to the glories of the universe and being human.

Maybe that's the sequence that really interests me--creating just enough routine and sequence to get to the punchline.

Here's to the days of three people walking into a bar, or wherever you find sequence and the inspiration of divine play these days.