After a hiatus of two years I've just begun to practice yoga again. It is taking a lot of willpower make the commitment to just go, show up to class, even though I know its benefits, that it is the one activity that engages and loosens my body, mind, and spirit. I know that if I continue I will feel better, look better, be healthier, more mindful, kinder, happier, more patient, and more disciplined in all areas of my life.
I'm looking for a good teacher. There are so many kinds of yoga teachers. Teachers who say just do it the way you feel most comfortable and the correct pose will come with time. Those who say do it precisely right, and the comfort will come in time. I prefer the latter, and this afternoon in a Hatha class I got one. She slowed down to correct a pose, sped up when we were all doing it right. She strove for perfection in the moment, to correct the past, to improve the future.
It's so much harder to be precise and to attend to the details and strive for improvement than it is to just do what's easy, what's comfortable. Much harder than just throwing yourself out there and seeing if some kind of flow, some kind of comfort happens. Like, you know, how it's really comfortable to sit in front of the television set with a beer, or say yes to a friend who wants you to go out and play, or bake cookies or do something that is, you know, easy. In my life I have had arguments with people who say that if it's not flowing it's not worth pursuing, it's not in the stream. That if you have to work at it, it's not meant to happen. If it's meant to happen it happens, they say, it happens easily. I disagree.
Right now I'm trying to finish my book about China. Often, it doesn't flow. I sit here, I cook, I take a walk, I sit here again. I check email, update my twitter status, go off on hyperlink tangents, everything except write, actually write about China. I have two more stories to go. It is not flowing. That does not mean that it's not worth pursuing, I know that.
It's hard. I have little time for it, and I want to be efficient. I want to see results. It's hard like it's hard getting up at 7 am on Thursdays so I can take a walk before an entire day in cubicles and meetings. It's hard intellectually as I learn a new procedure or program, like video editing. It's hard mindfully like it's hard to find time to do laundry, or shop organically and buy things that are not toxic in content or creation. It's hard physically like it's hard holding that pose where your leg is bent and your arm is stretched up and your torso is twisted and your eyes are looking at your thumb at the same time trying to remember to put as much weight on the straight leg as on the bent leg and to raise the torso so that there's space between the vertebrae in your spine and to keep the fingers activated and the toes stretched wide and the heart raised and raise your head up out of your neck where it's sunk without your knowing not to mention to relax your tongue and eyes so your face doesn't squinch up and oh yeah remember to keep that crease between hip and thigh on the bent leg and, during all that, to breathe.
It's something like Vispassana practice that way, the scanning from head to toe, from toe to head, checking out the sensations, making corrections, staying focused trying to gain a state of just being until that dissolution comes and you can't tell where the atoms of your body end and the atoms of the air around you begin and by extension that feeing of lightness, of being everywhere at the same time.
All around you people are doing their version of whatever it is and you try to ignore it. Tonight in the yoga class there was a woman who didn't make a sound. Every jump out of down dog was graceful and silent, every pose was advanced. She twisted and threaded her arms through her legs and grabbed her elbows and bent more deeply. And then there was the kindof fat guy who panted and clunked on the floor, falling out of poses and trying again and again making loud bangs. I was glad to see he was smiling. But after a while I forgot them because I was doing what I was there to do. For 90 minutes it was all about me, about making me better, so I could do what I want to do, and well, as best as I can. For me, and for you, and the world (you know the saving the world thing), which is right now to write as best I can about what happened in China in 1998 and 2008.
It mostly gets harder. Sometimes you start shaking, and you wonder how long you can keep the pose, but you know that the longer you do it the longer you'll be able to next time, and the more naturally it will come until it's a habit and then you get to the really fun part, the reward. The reward is getting past the procedure to work on the refinements, the subtleties and nuance that let you blast through to you, your own creative process, to your invention, your art, your work. It's a rush, like good sex or some drugs, both of which are easier.
After that is where the burst of genius happens and creation blooms and flourishes. That's when it becomes effortless, you worked so hard to get into the flow and the vision you barely envisioned all that time you were doing that hard work bursts into a concrete idea, a realization of manifested refinement.
Athletes feel it when the endorphins kick in. I've felt it before, when I used to run. I was running and suddenly everything smoothed out, my body floating gracefully, effortlessly through space. Was I horizontal? Was I vertical? Who cares! Hearing was not happening. But who needs it? Just the swoosh was good. And when I was done running up and down and up and down the beach how many times, I don't know, I didn't know how much time had passed, how much distance I'd gained. Those little details were secondary, unimportant.
Writers and artists feel it when they've clicked in past the process, the mechanics of laying down the base color, the foundational words in preparation for the shape that only you can give it. It's flow. It's both selfish and generous because it's a physio-psychic merge. The sound is turned down and you're there, just there, and when you look up again because you need to pee or you're thirsty you see that it's the middle of the night and how did you not notice?
It's not flowing yet, but I know it will, with discipline.