Sunday, February 15, 2009

Practice makes practice.

Several weeks ago, I finally brought myself to order a yoga mat and a balance ball so that I would have good tools for exercising in my own home. Last weekend, I took the further step of starting to attend yoga classes at our massive athletic center. Not very long after my first class began, I was already sweating and exerting myself more deeply than I have for a long time, in a way that I am quickly coming to love.

I've resumed exercising, after a long time away from it, because I think I see myself starting to loosen down into my age, and I don't much like it. Slowly, it's been dawning on me that I've been making the creeping non-choice just to start letting go, and it's way too early for that. Yoga on campus is a funny place to make one's peace with age, though: most people in the classes I attend are a good fifteen years younger than I am--and fifteen years thinner and more flexible. But when my teacher made a comment today about how some of us had more years on us than others, I took her comment for the truth it was. And that's the beauty of this teacher and this practice: both are about owning up to what I actually am, rather than what I might wish I were. I have been dispersing myself a lot since coming home last summer--if the process of dispersal didn't begin much longer ago--and I feel as though now it's time to gather back what's gone out.

Those of you who have been reading may remember that three years ago--can you believe it?--at about this time, I was making cryptic comments about how something big was coming, and just you wait, something big is going to happen. I was right: it is. But it's different than what I expected. Then, I expected that if I just kept building up and building up, suddenly I'd become this fount of creative production. Books would get written. Fame might be had. And those expectations meant that I felt as though I was letting everything down when I stayed in the building up and building up stage--as though I were my own false prophet.

This semester, I might be realizing that the big thing that was coming was, in fact, simply my life, and a reconception of my real life not as a big upcoming performance for which I'm always practicing but instead as a practice, plain and simple. I'm not going to perfect it--and even to type those words tonight feels slightly shocking to me.

One mini-revelation came to me right after I literally fell out of a pose during yoga class on Monday. The student who was meant to teach us didn't show up (!) and so another student took her place. Partly because his own practice is far more advanced than mine, it was more difficult for me to follow him (very much a novice teacher) than our regular teacher. At some point, we flowed into a familiar pose by way of an unfamiliar path, and before I knew it, I was starting to topple, collapsing to the floor like the purple cat toy I loved as a child: push the button underneath the black plastic base on which she stood, and her limbs and body bent and crumpled over. But rather than feel embarrassed or self-deprecating, I untoppled myself and tried the pose again. I hadn't hurt myself going down, probably because the whole point of these classes is to attain a state of effortless action, movement that follows from loosening and extension rather than from strain--and so, though I was working hard, I was also completely loose.

All week, I thought about that fall. I thought about it when I just wasn't getting around to posting here for much of the week. I thought about it when I didn't get to practice the piano as much before my Thursday lesson as I wanted to, and then when I wasn't able to be as focused at that lesson as I'd like, simply because it follows hard on the heels of my office hours. I thought of it when I missed a poetry reading I wanted to attend, simply because I couldn't see a way to lever it into the evening without pushing myself perilously close to sleeplessness before an early morning obligation. Every day, I get up and lunge forward and reach and look toward where I'm reaching, and I do my best to be open and to stretch myself as far as I can, and sometimes I overreach and fall down. Everything seems to be going at least a bit more easily as I'm adjusting to this idea of experiencing the falls as part of my real life, not as obstacles on the way to my real life.


Blogger Notorious Ph.D. said...

S., you have absolutely no idea how much I needed to read this tonight.

(And better yet, the secret password is "torte"! Damn. I could use a nice slice of chocolate torte, too.)

2:37 AM, February 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HOORAY for you.
It's the process, not the product.

NPhD, note the proper use of the apostrophe.

2:02 PM, February 16, 2009  
Blogger BadassMama said...

Wonderful. Inspiring, even.

1:18 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger meli said...

Yes. Beautifully put. I keep thinking I've got this all figured out and then realise I need to accept it again for today. The thesis is doing my head in but my life doesn't start once it's finished - I'm already living my life, now, with every word, each breath. And unless I remember this the likelihood of it ever being finished soon grows slimmer and slimmer!

2:47 PM, February 18, 2009  

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