Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yoga, Life, Writing: Lessons from a Fall

Recently, I fell while practicing yoga and tore the meniscus in my right knee. For some reason, people tend to struggle to hold back a laugh when I say I fell while practicing yoga. I'm not sure why. If you've ever done yoga you know falling isn't all that uncommon.

Think about it. You stand on one leg. You balance on your hands. You step forward and back while putting weight on the leg not in motion. You stretch your body into new positions, some of which you may have never been in in your life - or at least in the part of your life you remember. Yes, there are moves in yoga that are very stable, but there are also poses that push the body's limits.

Yoga is a metaphor for life. We balance our needs with our wants. We shift our weight in one direction or another as we grow into our full potential. We try new positions that sometimes force us to push our limits even while we balance that with the familiar.

Yoga is also a metaphor for writing. When I write, I seek to balance the story for content and entertainment. I shift the weight of emotion and logic to stretch my reader's imagination. I push the limits with word choices sometimes using a word in a way it was never intended but which creates a picture or feeling necessary to make a piece work. The familiar and the new must be in harmony for a piece to work. Creating art while keeping the message simple.

Yoga teaches us as does life and writing. When we ignore life, it will shake us and remind us what we need to learn even knocking us on our butts if need be for the lesson to get through. In yoga, if we ignore the signs we're pushing too far or moving too fast, our bodies remind us to pay attention again even if it means knocking us on our butts. When writing, when we push the words to the point of pushing just to push or to show off, the words will bring us back to reality, sometimes leaving us flat on our butts until we get over ourselves and fix them.

This fall taught me a few lessons about yoga, life, and writing. How long it'll be before I need yet another reminder of these lessons is anyone's guess. I'm not cocky enough to believe these lessons I keep thinking I've learned are incorporated into my life when I keep ignoring what I know I should do. And then keep getting reminded what I can't seem to fully embrace.

What lessons? You ask... Well,thank you for asking, I'll be happy to share.

When you're doing yoga and you feel dizzy, STOP. Dizziness makes it hard to balance your body. You could equate this to that moment in life when you feel completely overwhelmed. STOP. Take a breath. The world isn't going to come to an end because you can't do everything you want to do right this minute. Really, it's not.When writing, the words sometimes overwhelm and the writer feels stuck. That's usually the time to stop, take a deep breath, and settle your mind before moving forward. Again, the world won't end because the words didn't come out quite right.

Breathing is very important. When doing yoga, the yoga breath, aka pranayama, is extremely important to the poses. When the breath becomes rushed, the body doesn't get the oxygen it needs for the pose. The body can feel oxygen deprived during poses where the breath is either rushed or held. Practicing pranayama is one of the most essential parts of yoga. Without it, the poses suffer and the practitioner risks becoming unsteady or dizzy. In life, the more deeply we breath, the more focused and energetic we feel. When we rush or hold our breath, we can't function at our optimum levels of competence. When writing, we must allow the words to breath. If they don't breath, they aren't fluid. If they aren't fluid, they lose all meaning.

You can only push your body so far and must allow change to happen gradually for it be growth. Life only allows us to go as far as we're ready to go in a given moment. If we try to push into the next level before we're ready, we'll get hurt rather than find growth in the experience. When writing, if we try to write what we want to write before we're ready to write it, we lose track of our goals, our message, and our purpose. I've been working on a book on gratitude. I'm anxious to finish this book because I want to share it with others so much. That excitement has actually impeded my progress by making me force the work when it wasn't ready. I rushed the words and tried to "make" it done instead of allowing it to develop and show me the growth I needed to continue through the writing process.

We must listen... My body tried to tell me to stop, but I argued with it. My body knew what my brain hadn't recognized yet. I needed to stop not just doing yoga but everything that was in process at that moment in my life. I needed to stop. I was moving forward without thought. I thought I was thinking, but I wasn't. I was reacting. I wasn't listening to my instincts or my heart or my rational thoughts. I was just doing what I needed to do without paying attention to the life I was living. I thought I was being fully present and dealing with the changes occurring in my life, but I wasn't listening, not really. I was so busy arguing with myself that I wasn't even sure what my own instincts were saying anymore. I still told myself I was fully present and that I was dealing with life as it arose. Yet, something was off track. I could feel it, but I refused to hear it. So I kept moving forward through the fog and smog and blinding rain searching for that moment when I'd come out on the other side and everything would be clear... I'd lost sight of the moment. I'd forgotten that going through the process actually involved embracing each and every moment as it arises instead of focusing on the end goal. I'd forgotten that listening provides the clues we need to do what is right for us.

I also learned that I can't do it all. The fall didn't teach me this. The aftermath did. When I needed surgery and found myself forced to be dependent on someone else, I had to ask for help. I had to let someone else take care of me. I learned that sometimes my biggest obstacle to getting what I need is admitting that it's what I need, and that perhaps the same holds true for what I want. I'm still not able to take care of myself or others yet, at least not fully, but this experience reminded me that, sometimes, I can be too determined to handle life on my own and other people don't even realize I need them because I can't admit to myself that I need someone else to help me through. After all, isn't needing someone else a sign of weakness? Oh, how those old issues find their way back over and over and over even after we think we've learned the lesson.

And, that's probably the biggest thing I learned... Getting cocky about having learned the lesson will knock us on our butts every time to remind us that learning life's lessons is an ongoing process... But, really, I'm sure I've learned this one this time... So could we not do this again??? Really, I promise, I've learned my lesson this time, life... Trust me...

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