For many years—most of my life—I’ve felt that the way to solve things is to read about them, think about them, write about them, talk about them. Stage debates, work from polar opposite positions and argue until you come a little bit closer together, with your vision reworked, your point of view altered. Do the research. State a position. Try to prove it. Ask for opposing views. Refine your position. Revise. Then act on whatever you’ve decided through this synthesis of conflicting points of view. Through this experiment where I’ve moved away from my reading/writing/thinking/debating model to incorporate and integrate a yoga practice I’ve realized how many times my old model didn’t get me any closer to where I wanted to be.
The daughter of a psychologist, the English-major devotee of a dialectic, I am moving away from this model, or perhaps more accurately, trying to incorporate another approach. That approach doesn’t try so hard. It is not so full of judgement. Not so quick to form opinions. It has a lot more time for simply observing. Becoming aware. Sitting quietly.
Maybe many of the issues I’ve felt had to be “solved” didn’t require immediate solution. Perhaps many of them simply required the ability to tolerate discomfort and stay in the moment. Many of the issues presented themselves as questions. The questions nagged and made me anxious. If I can lessen anxiety through yoga and meditation and being present, I can let the questions be. Again and again I come back to this Rilke quote:
“Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.”
For a while I’ve had an idea about doing a writing/fitness program using my Writer’s Boot Camp books. I would need to team up with a personal trainer or aerobics instructor to make it feasible. The Writer’s Boot Camp books aren’t about fitness, but when I was writing them I noticed how much faster I could write if I focused on it immediately after jogging or even took down notes while I jogged. It makes sense, right? There’s a lot out there about how ideas come when you’re running, and of course exercise helps reduce anxiety, one of the biggest impediments to writing. But I haven’t seen much on combining writing and exercise, not just in the course of a day, but actually doing them together.
I won a free month of membership at Asphalt Green in Battery Park City and began today. It’s a beautiful, bright place with a great vibe (& amazing little cafe). I “kicked off” my attempts at writing-while-exercising on the stationary bike. That seemed the least risky. It was slightly awkward to write on a constantly shifting surface (notebook bobbing up and down on my legs) but it was definitely easy to focus on writing when I was also biking. It was like any energy that is usually spent on anxiety and/or distraction (or usually some feedback loop combination) was channeled into cycling.
Has anyone ever tried this? I’d be curious to hear your experience.
“Darkness is your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.”
The window here faces East. In the morning on sunny days the light is glorious. Today was rainy in the morning (and cold!). On the walk to school my kids said they hoped it would “cheer up”—and indeed it did. Clear up and cheer up both.
By mid-afternoon, it’s fairly dark in this room, even on a rainy-turned-sunny spring day like today, and by 8 or so, there’s very little natural light that makes its way into the room even though it’s clearly out there, just facing the wrong way to get in. [see pic]
I know the light is glorious at that moment for those facing the other way, watching the pink skies over Jersey. It bothers some people, who visit and complain about what a dark (and depressing? they seem to suggest) apartment it can be. I don’t mind it. We have a little something invented in the late 19th century that keeps things bright (electricity), or candles if you don’t need enough light to read or write by. Plus, I also find it quite nice sometimes to just allow the dark, to try to accept the lack of light with the same feeling I will accept (embrace that is) the sun streaming in when the next day begins.
Every now and then there is this trick that happens where the light facing East reflects off some of the windows across the way from us and radiates back, imitating the morning light and illuminating the room. The light is only a reflection, but in the cathedral hour, it feels just like the real thing.
At the library I found a book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. It’s a very short book and easy read. I found it quite comforting, the idea of preparing for your own death and not leaving things behind that will become a burden for your loved ones. It seems so important to prepare for death, both in terms of wills and instructions for how you want to go, and also in terms of leaving things easy to manage. The author talks about how this kind of preparation will help you live better. It’s funny how by realizing that you want to leave little behind makes you realize you want to live lightly too. You have to really think about and accept (if not embrace) your own non-existence before you can gain the stability and clarity you need for your life.
Along the river today I saw bunches of these purple flowers. I don’t know what they’re called. I wanted to capture a picture of the of them, but there were always either in shade or the timing was bad (too many people in the way or sometimes construction). Finally, when I was almost at my street—about to turn inland and go home—I saw this one lone flower. It seemed just as cheerful by itself, perfectly content.
I’m so happy to be featured in the upcoming (summer) issue of Bella Grace. Do you know this magazine? If you dream of reading in a lavender bath—this is the magazine you’d want to have with you. It is so gorgeously designed and inspiring and alive but also so very quiet. Reading it you feel your breathing slow down, your attention come to the present moment. You don’t think about all the things you should be doing, you don’t wonder “What else?” is out there or going on or being talked about and Liked and re-Tweeted at this moment. You feel totally content where you are. The piece they published of mine was called “Imagine Tonight” but they’ve renamed it simply, “Imagine.” It was inspired by reading the magazine and reconnecting to how much I loved evenings spent at home by myself but still in the real world.
Hope you are able to spend some time there tonight.
I am going to try to return to my commitment to posting here Mondays and Wednesdays. Part of yoga is gentleness, with others and with ourselves, as well. In that spirit, I won’t berate myself for all the missed posts on this blog. I’ll accept that those days were full to overflowing and that I had/have not built a true habit of writing here yet. I have found it easier to find my way to the mat many mornings than to the page. This is a reversal of most of my previous life.
Spring is here in New York—pink trees, the enchanting perfume of lilac trees transforming the air, orange tulips radiant to bursting with color along the path by the river. That was the scene just days ago, but today the pink petals have all fallen, the lilac flowers faded to white, mostly lost their scent, and the tulips, you can see them here in this photograph from this morning. I had wanted to capture the world when everything was in bloom, but this is what I have instead. I feel like this little scene was trying to tell me something today, but I’m not sure what.
It is sort of quiet at this moment. As quiet as this apartment ever is. Sounds of laughter every now and then from the bar nearby. A horn. The news channel playing in another room. Usually I have music playing, especially if I’m trying to write, but I don’t have anything on right now and there is a calmness to that I like. Sometimes the music feels like I’m trying to block something out. Trying to block a sound gives power to what that sound, just like with thoughts. The more we fight against a certain thought, the more power it has over us. Let the sounds float through the night. Let the thoughts come and go.
Right now I’m enjoying the sounds of the city, the sounds of life, of community, activity. I don’t feel the need to resist them.
In yoga, we move away from resistance. In my writing, I’m moving toward it.