What Yoga Taught Me about Writing, and Writing about Yoga

Yoga has seen me through various injuries and a years-long bout of chronic pain, but I don’t maintain nearly as regular a practice as I’d like. The same holds true for writing. I’m writing more now, and more often, but there will be times when I simply hit a wall. I’ve always tried the “one book at a time” approach for fear that allowing something else in would eliminate forward momentum completely. (Yeah, don’t probe that too deeply for logic.) Lately I’ve discovered that I really enjoy having a second project to switch to when I come speeding up to that wall. It’s temporary avoidance, but it gives me space to think without feeling like I’m standing still.

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A leaf bends in the wind and floats in the air. It goes, unprotesting, with the flow.

If one thing isn’t working in my writing, I no longer beat my head against it. I shift gears.

Lately after a yoga practice, I experience pain flare-ups from an issue I’ve dealt with—and beaten back—for years. The current fix is to change my practice and make it different from what I prefer. I don’t want to do that. I have it in my head what my yoga practice will be, what it should be, and damn it, that’s what I want to do. Except I hurt later, and I am so very over that. I found myself avoiding yoga to avoid the hurt, ending up in less pain but still unhappy because I wasn’t getting all the other benefits of my practice. The solution, I realized, was to shift gears.

It’s time to stop fighting. I need to set aside my idea of what my yoga practice should be and let it be what my body is demanding it become. The sooner I do that, the sooner I’ll feel better. The sooner I’ll get over the honestly unnecessary angst and move on. My body may feel some discomfort, but the true suffering is in my head. Just like when you get to that scene you’ve been waiting the whole book to write and it’s not working. It’s falling flat. Now that you’ve written everything that comes before, it doesn’t fit the way you envisioned. But this is the way you want it! No way are you going to end this book without cramming that scene in The Way It’s Supposed To Be.

Much hair pulling and teeth gnashing later, and possibly a wise writer-friend giving you a verbal slap upside the head, you realize the futility of your resistance. That scene has changed. Your vision carried you right up to it, and then it took flight, altered into something different, something that’s more than a spur to keep going. It’s now a vital, necessary part of the whole. And you’d have realized it a lot sooner if you’d just stopped insisting that what you wanted was still the same thing as what was needed.

There are times when we need that slap to wake us up. And there are times of quiet revelation. However we receive them, we should remember that their lessons can be recycled. Maybe we’ll benefit more from them in the future.

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Creating Habits

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I believe that every day, every moment, is an opportunity for change. Start tomorrow or right now, but do it. That said, the change of the calendar can be a good opportunity for a lot of things: flip the mattress; clean out the spice cabinet (which is really just an excuse to buy new spices); vacuum the cobwebs out from that one corner where they live. Because the new year comes during the holiday season, I had time to catch up on my sleep and, for once, did not check my work email on vacation like a zealot. Those things combined provided an opportunity to reflect.

2014 was an overwhelming year for me professionally. I struggled just to tread water amidst all the deadlines and demands and found little room left for the things I enjoy. Still, in the few non-work hours I had last year, I managed to complete revisions on one novel, finish another, and begin a third.

2015 should bePen 009… calmer in the workplace. I hope like hell it will be. And with that hope, my new year’s reflections found opportunity for creating new habits. I read something once that said a new habit takes at least thirty days to establish, and common sense says that if I want to write more, I need to write more regularly. Schedules work well to keep me disciplined, so I’m establishing certain days and times to write. I’m also going to seek out more resources to feed my creativity, like a March lecture at the Smithsonian on art fakes and forgeries. (That kind of screams plot idea, doesn’t it?) I want to query one novel, revise a second, and finish the new one begun last year.

That list of wants could be overwhelming. I’ve set expectations in the past to write so many words in a day or weekend, and the failure to do so made the next goal feel all the more oppressive. This time around my goal is simply to write. One step at a time – one word at a time – I can do it. By the end of 2015, I’d like to say that success is my new habit.

What habits do you want to create?