I remember when I was around nine years old and I lived in an old colonial house in suburban Long Island. I used to crouch under the kitchen table, a tiled heavy wood legged thing that sat off the kitchen and shielded me from the bustle and noise of my family. It was here I wrote my first story. I don’t recall much of anything about the plot or the content of that story, or what compelled me to do it at all. I lost myself in the search to find the words and to arrange the sentences.
Decades later, I was invited to teach yoga at a writer’s retreat in upstate Connecticut. In exchange for teaching yoga, I participated in the workshop as a writer. For two days, I sat around a fire place with six other women workshopping. It had been years since I had written anything that wasn’t yoga related, but I showed up with a few pages of what felt like a story I wanted to tell. It was a story about my son and a difficult time we had been through. Where does the writing feel most alive was my teacher’s guiding question and aside from feeling an unquestionable love for this conversation, I also remembered how much my life had missed writing like this.
Maybe it was the three days submerged in the gorgeous comfort of a New England Inn. Maybe it was the women with whom I shared such an intimate three days. But, driving home from the retreat on the windy back country roads I was excited to have reconnected with writing again. My body surged with an energy that only newfound inspiration can bring. Why had I stopped writing was something I asked myself when I got home. I knew the excuses I made: I didn’t have the time. What was the point? My writing wasn’t going anywhere. I justified not writing: At least what I do involves words. Teaching English and then later, teaching yoga full time was a kind of consolation prize for not writing regularly.
Yet, no matter how many poems I read in my yoga classes, no matter how many times I closed my eyes to find the words to share with my students— it wasn’t writing. And on the rare occasion that I made myself write something, anything— I came up against my judgment of sounding like a yoga teacher. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t allowing the writing to tell me what it wanted to be. I was in many respects, out of practice. When I shared my resistance with my teacher, she smiled, paused and offered this bit of wisdom. You are a yoga teacher and you are a person who is living a whole life. You are a yoga teacher and this happened too. It’s this and it’s that.
It’s this and it’s that.
When I wrote about my son and all that we had been through, I had to give myself permission to tell a different story. To veer away from my expectations and allow myself to find a rhythm again. To find that writer who years ago crouched under a table to write not knowing how or why or what exactly was going to happen.
In yoga there is a strategy of sequencing a class called a pique pose. The teacher builds the whole class around preparing the body to arrive at a certain destination. Hanumanasana. (The splits). Vishvamitrasana (a deep hand balance). Vrschikasana (scorpion pose, a deep backbend). The teacher knows what lay ahead and the students step by methodical step come along for the ride. This technique has its merits for sure.I mean, a huge part of us wants to know what lay ahead.
But the thing with writing is that I can’t know where I will end up. I might think I do in the beginning, I might inch my way there only to realize I have to change directions altogether. This makes the process both maddening and liberating. I know when things are not working. And conversely, I know when things are. This I have come to realize is the case be it about a relationship, a job, a pose, a story.
To write not knowing why, how, or even what and where it will take me is exactly the point. That the only thing I can know is that my body is sitting in the chair, my legs may be crossed, my fingers hover above a keyboard and I wait and listen for the sign, the glimmer, the guidance, the direction and I go there because that is how I have come to practice living every day of my life– Willing. Unafraid. Trusting. In the face of whatever may come.