Why yoga is the ultimate “ex”

I’m on again in my on again-off again relationship with yoga.

This, perhaps, is why you might find more typos in this post than normal. My right shoulder is a little upset with me. It’s even trembling as I type.

I’ve been practicing yoga — and practicing is truly the operative word here since I’ve never quite committed nor become expert — since 1997.

It was through an employee-friendly work environment at Scholastic that I found myself first sitting cross legged in a dimly lit room and mumbling “Ong Namo. Dguru Dev Namo.” At the time, Scholastic offered exercise classes to its employees after hours, in addition to a fully-equipped gym both during the work day and after. (My current teacher on Hannaton also offers yoga in the workplace. More corporations would do well to adopt this mindset and strategy.)

In my fickle 17 year relationship with yoga, chanting, and meditation; I’ve found that the only thing that’s really changed over time is me. Yoga stays the same. It’s my needs and my approach to the practice that changes.

I’m very fortunate, in that case, that yoga is willing to welcome me back, time and time again.

This time around I’m noticing, of course, how my almost-40 year old body can’t quite meet the floor the way it used to. Where I once prided myself on always getting my heels to the ground for Downward Dog, I now notice the inch of space between my heel and the floor. Where I once used to marvel at my inner innate gymnast, I now realize that gymnastics is really suited to the under 30 crowd.

Mostly, I’m noticing my mind more than my body, this time around. Interesting, I suppose, as my body becomes more of a point of struggle for me than my mind. Whereas I used to be less accepting of my mind both in yoga practice and in life — my anxious thoughts, my incessant inner dialogue; I’m now open to what arises.

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I truly notice, as our yoga teachers suggest we do, instead of judge. Not all the time, every time (there’s still some judging, especially when it relates to my aging body). But in most instances when furious thoughts arise during my practice, I find curiosity has replaced judging.

“They” say that women at 40 are in their prime. That women at 40 can have any man, any woman. That women at 40 find themselves at an intersection of confidence, knowledge, and life experience. That, at this intersection, we can choose to focus on whatever we want — career, family, relationship — and succeed.

Don’t they say that? They say something like that.

I think there is truth in it. But in addition to confidence, knowledge, and experience, I think what women at 40 begin to develop is curiosity and wonder. It was always there — curiosity and wonder– lurking under the surface since before adolescence. But somehow was pushed down by either Self or society in order to achieve our personal and professional goals. Women these days take on the world. Control becomes our goal.

As I approach this intersection, and as I invite yoga back into my life, I’m noticing the return of curiosity and wonder, and the slow exit of control. The gentle inviting in of uncertainty.

Yoga knew I had it in me all along. But like the wise older gentleman in a May-December romance, understood I had to discover it on my own, in due time. Yoga knew that no matter how much he tried to convince me I was beautiful and perfect just the way I am, I would not be convinced. Not truly, deeply. I’d have come to that conclusion on my own.

As I laid on the yoga mat in shavasana today, I felt the aches in my tight hips and the pulsing in my under-used shoulder muscles. And I quietly laughed. There aren’t many things in life, certainly not in fitness, that are so willing to accept used up, broken down bodies. Then I thought to myself, maybe it’s because yoga doesn’t see us as broken. Yoga sees us as whole and complete. Yoga sees us as perfect.

And this I chose as my intention for the day as I sunk down into relaxation. Yoga sees me as perfect.

Genius in a bottle

I hit my head this morning. Hard. On the corner of the stackable washer/dryer in the very tight space that is my bathroom/laundry room.

After the stars stopped spinning, I waited.

What was I waiting for?

A stroke of genius.

My flux capacitor.

The only thing that came was a golf ball size lump on my forehead.

Lucky enough, I’ve remained conscious since and can see straight enough to write this post.

But sadly, my knock on the head didn’t wake up any sleeping idea.

Except this one …

Not only are we always half expecting that one day our great idea will come to us, but

we are also always half expecting it will come to us quite by accident.

 

 

Whose writing do you want to make out with?

When I was a little girl, I would swing high on the swings next to Rachel or Lisa or Debbie who would be fisting two Twizzlers while simultaneously reaching with their feet for the moon.

Rachel or Lisa or Debbie would say, “I love Twizzlers so much.”

And I would say snidely, “If you love them so much, why don’t you marry them?”

There is a period between the ages of 6 and 7 in which this is the response to pretty much any sentence containing the word, “love.”

And while it’s easy to shrug this off as an immature, but age appropriate reaction to the word “love,” I’d also like to suggest that it also demonstrates a need for a word or expression that illustrates how one can love something inanimate so very, very much.

Is that really love?

Or is it something else?

After-the-QuakeI need a word for when I want to make out with good writing.

Last night, I finished reading Haruki Murakami’s short story collection, “After the Quake.”

As I do when I finish all of Murakami’s work, I sat in bed and absorbed the final words of the penultimate sentence in the book.

His writing does that to me.

It makes me want to bathe in it.

Soak up every last character description; every musing; every carefully thought-out analogy or metaphor.

In this particular instance, I was so grateful to Murakami because I have been struggling with a particular element in my own writing — how to describe the way music makes me feel. How to show, and not tell, how a character may be transported back in time in an instant at the first note of a song or by the tapping of certain keys on a piano.

Music plays this very role for the main character, Satsuki, in Murakami’s story, “Thailand.” A driver who picks her up at the airport slips a cassette tape into the car stereo and in an instant Satsuki recognizes the jazz tune “with some emotion” from a record her father used to play over and over as a child.

I read the passages on this page three or four times. The first time, as an engaged reader, but the following times as a student of the craft.

How does he do it, that genius, Murakami? What words does he use that don’t sound trite?

And how does he keep the reader’s interest when the reader does not know the music that he is describing?

I struggle with this a lot — how can a reader reading about Van Morrison appreciate Van Morrison if she has never heard him?

Right now, if I could aspire to any writing, it would be to Murakami’s. He is the moon I want to reach with my feet. He is the Twizzlers I want to double fist.

His is the writing I want to make out with.

Is blogging the new MFA program?

Before I was in high tech, I was in publishing.

At Scholastic, I worked in the creative marketing department, not directly with authors, but with their work; trying to make their work appeal to the largest audience as possible.

My claim to fame is that I wrote responses to fan letters for R.L. Stine and K.A. Applegate. So if you came of age in the late 90s, we were probably pen pals.

I also was a part of the exciting marketing campaign surrounding the release in the U.S. of the first Harry Potter book.

Good times.

After I left Scholastic, I spent a few years in other publishing jobs: in the promotions department at Parade Magazine and as an assistant editor for a Jewish newspaper.

I soon became expert in making other people’s work better.

Of course, through this experience, my work became better, too.  In addition to assigning and editing stories to freelance writers at the Jewish newspaper, I would report on local happenings and sometimes interview C-level Jewish celebrities for features.

Every time my boss, the Editor, would hand me back my first draft, I would grimace at the red marks in the margins.

But the marks, when implemented, always made my stories better.

In time, I became a confident writer of short form non-fiction. Your work becomes better the more you write and the more heavily you are edited.

I imagine the process is similar for any form of writing; especially in fiction and poetry, two genres in which I am experimenting and want to improve.

This is why so many emerging writers and published novelists come out of MFA programs.

They’ve dedicated themselves to writing, yes — but they’ve also committed to being publicly criticized for two years in the hopes of improving. In the hopes of one day being so good they will be noticed. Noticed like a misused metaphor, like a dangling participle.

This element of the writing program — the communal critical eye — is missing from the fantastic writing community that is the blog-o-sphere.

I never — or hardly ever — publicly criticize a blogger’s work. If I add a comment to a blog, 99% of the time it’s a positive comment. If it’s a negative comment, it’s finely worded so as to not offend the author.

I’m not talking about political blogs, where trolls feel completely uninhibited to offer their frank opinions about how the author is a stupid, naive right-wing psychopath. I’m talking about the community of essayists that have sprung up through the popularity and ease of the blogging platform.

Mommy bloggers.

Aspiring novelists.

Flash fiction writers.

People who feel the need to chronicle the every movement of their cats.

Everyone can be a published writer now.

A published author even — thanks to Amazon.com and a host of self-publishing software.

And, yes, this is awesome.

Really awesome.

And … not so awesome.

I like to read good writing.

I like to pay for good writing.

I’m annoyed when I read bad writing, especially when I’ve paid for it.

I want the books I read to have been written by people who cared enough to become better writers. I want those books to have been through at least one, if not five, careful revisions by an editor.

I say this not just as a writer, but as a consumer of the written word.

Maybe I hold myself up to too high a standard. (That sounds obnoxious, I know. )

Maybe if I didn’t, I would already be a published author myself now. (I’m not counting The Fantastic Adventures of Me & My Friends or the two other activity books I wrote for Scholastic. That also sounds a bit obnoxious, doesn’t it?)

Maybe I’m worrying for nothing.

Maybe the world is a happier place because more people are writing and finding their own audiences.

But I think there is room for criticism in the blogging world. Perhaps we would do more to support each other by not just commenting when we think a post is good, but when we think a post is almost good — when something could be just a little bit better if only it was rewritten once or twice.

It irritates me when I write a post that I think is really good and a commenter writes something simple like,

“Lovely.”

This happens a lot. Which should be a good thing.

But I want to follow up on that “lovely.” I want to know, “Why?”

“Why do you think this is lovely?”

Did it strike a chord?

Was it my careful phrasing?

Was it how elegantly I described the herd of goats by the side of the road?

And how could it be better? How could I rewrite it into something you’d be happy you paid for? Satisfied you spent your time on?

This is what is missing from the blogosphere. And why, at least now, blogging in community will never be as serious as a writing program.

Most of our comments are just blatant attempts at trying to attract new followers.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Are you a blogging writer who seeks comments like this? Who wants more than just a

“Great post!”

If so, let me know — perhaps we can build a more critical commenting community together.

Help each other… emerge…from red marks in the margin.