Thursday, March 31, 2011

calling it into being



I had to link to this poem because I couldn't get the spacing right here.

I've been thinking of it, and of Eliot, which I hope comes later.

In like a lion and out like a lamb, they say. March has brought only more daylight in this part of the country. The high today is ten degrees lower than the average. The sun is nice, helpful; it makes it easier for me to go into the front of the apartment and do yoga early (early) in the morning. But my body is aching for warmth, for sandals and only one layer of clothing. I'm ready for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

why do you write?



I write because if I had to bear these burdens for the rest of my life without processing, they would kill me.

I write to understand what hurts or confuses or frightens me.

I write because I don't listen well; I write because I can't act.

I write because some days I think that writing will get me a better job than the one I have.

I write because the words, the ideas, the thoughts don't come out as well if I try to talk, or to make with my hands.

I write because eventually what comes out of me makes sense. I'm able to look at it and to understand what I'm thinking, where I'm struggling.

I write because while writing I am consistently surprised.

I write because I have been more deeply moved by things I've read than anything else. I still remember being a high school senior, sprawled out on my twin bed, sobbing over Emma Bovary's death, despite the fact that she was a spoiled, confused, selfish brat. I remember feeling of baptism the first time I read Ralph Ellison and felt that someone understood. I remember the emphatic bobbing of my head up and down the first time I read Sylvia Plath. I remember the wonder and silence that sat in my chest like a cast iron pot the first time I read James Baldwin.

I write because I do have a voice, and it is stronger on the page than anywhere else.

I write because I want to try my hand at the tricks that I find so impressive.

I write because I like making nice sentences.

I write because it provides me with just enough illusion that I know what's going on or that I have any control over anything around me.

I write so that I don't have to have children.

I write to lend my voice to the chorus of broken people who are trying--searching--opening and softening and searching.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the new kid

I love taking yoga classes when I travel. It's become one of those things I do that's both a great way to soak up the local culture and to do something that's familiar. It's good for my body to do yoga after getting off a plane or train; it grounds me and helps me to arrive in a new place. Often, I learn a new way of thinking about a pose; in San Francisco I learned about why I should practice Parivrtta Parsvokonasana with my back heel up versus down. This week I took a class in Philadelphia and one in New York, and both times I did a variation of Warrior pose that I've not often done called Devotional Warrior: interlace the fingers behind the back, inhale and extend the arms back and down to open the chest; exhale and bend from the waist; work the front shoulder inside the front bent knee, eventually working the head down to the floor.

But I learned something else this week, too. I learned that the new kid in class always gets adjusted. Whether you introduce yourself to the teacher at the beginning of class or you come in late, the teacher's going to know you're a newbie to her class and as such, is going to press you deeper into a forward bend, exaggerate the rotation of your spine in a twist, or further deepen your rotation in a hip opener.

I generally don't mind being adjusted in class. I believe that the teacher knows more about yoga than I do, and can see things about my body that I can't see. And I've never had an experience where a teacher's ever been inappropriate. But generally, they're fine. I like that the adjustment puts me further into a pose, opens and awakens a sensation I've never felt before.

This week, though, I felt kind of like I didn't want the adjustment. One of the teachers came over to me and pressed on my thighs when I was in baddha konasana (that stretch you did in high school gym class when you put the soles of your feet together, bent your knees and opened them wide and tried to press them down to the floor) and I didn't feel anything. Nothing; her stretch didn't change my body at all. So why, I wondered, would this woman put her hands on my body and try to adjust me if nothing changes?

Maybe the teachers feels the need to prove that she can recognize that I'm new, and that she (most often it's a woman) sees me. Maybe she feels like a stranger to her class can't possibly have a practice that doesn't need adjusting because if it was all good I'd have been there for months now, and she has to catch me up by laying hands on me. Or maybe I just need to be adjusted. I don't know. I'm learning not to mind the conspicuous feeling I get from being the new kid in a new class, but I wonder about the kinds of things that yoga means to people. I'm also learning that yoga teachers aren't these great, evolved higher beings--of course, I generally tend to give people of leadership more power than they deserve--but that they bring in their own insecurities and hangups and flaws with them, and have trouble turning them off just because they're coaching me into a pose.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

on the eve of a big trip.

The woman beside me on my morning commute posted to Facebook this morning about two people on our train car--one who was obese, one who was anorexic. I'd noticed both of them when they'd gotten on the train this morning, but hadn't thought to blog about them until I snuck a peek over the shoulder of my bench buddy and noticed she was making some pithy, witty comment about them and the fact that only in the U.S. do we have health problems like anorexia and obesity. I found her attitude about the whole thing rather uncharitable. What if the woman (women) had some thyroid problem(s) that made it impossible for them to take weight off/put weight on? Fat people and ugly people do have it prejudicially worse than just about anyone in this country; maybe they have enough trouble fitting into toilet stalls and avoiding fainting all day long, and they don't need any of us to comment on them on our blogs or Facebook pages. If we can't think something compassionate about them, then maybe who gives a fuck what's on our minds this morning.
So,
the following is lingering from the second read of a book that, the first time I read, I was too young, and ignorant, to understand. This time around, as a piece of writing, and as a comment on knowledge, relationship and the human mind, it falls on me quite differently. I've been trying to finish it before I get on a plane tomorrow morning (at the God-awful hour of 7 am), and bring instead a collection of Mavis Gallant stories I'm working through (thank God) rather slowly; but now, twenty or so pages from the end, I might just reread it again, from the top, and think again about the writing, the voice of the teller, the use of punctuation, the way we get to see everyone in the midst of a scene as the scene moves. I don't know if this is a great teaching tool, as books go, but it's an interesting book. And I share a love of it with the lady I'm visiting this weekend, so that's another reason not to leave it behind.

You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.
Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered [underlined by one of the calligraphers] in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.
Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work down without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.
--"Bhagavad Gita"...
O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!
--Issa. ...
God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by pains and contradictions.
--De Caussade. ...
"Don't you want to join us?" I was recently asked by an acquaintance when he ran across me alone after midnight in a coffeehouse that was already almost deserted. "No, I don't," I said.
--Kafka.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

because it's time to write about March, already.

Things today looked, if this is possible, both lumpy and flat. the ground was flat: brown with small, inconsistent blades of green, flat with the energy of degrading. All of the trees are budding now, or almost all. But the buds, knobby, lumpy, don't seem like they're holding anything. They seem like aberrant growths with little potential.
I noticed myself frustrated with the state of things this morning. I feel like I can barely stand the state of things. Like something has to change. I want spring to be here now, or I want to move now; I just feel so ill at ease. Spring would mean something was happening. I want something to be happening.
But I suppose Mother Earth will not be rushed. I mean, we force plants in greenhouses, but they're never as good as when they're growing in season. And the same can be said for so much growth--you can't force it; it takes the time that it takes.
But today I wish for faster.

Healing is like Spring; it is a slow, arduous process, time consuming, unrushable, happening in silent fashion, discernible only in increments until it i s through and then POW it has come raging and profound and complete, the taste of it in your mouth so wet and green and fresh it takes your breath away and makes your eyes tear. Healing is like wrestling with the angel: once it has happened, once you've been blessed by it, you are better, but you can never be again what you once were; you will always walk funny from now on.