Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Yoga for Writers
Every breath is a new beginning. Or so it goes in my yoga practice and teaching. Over the years (decades!) I have practiced and studied the breath work, the postures, the scriptures, the methodology of yoga, only to find that the hardest forms of the practice exist in entirely other realms. Like, for example, novel writing. (That's me, by the way, practicing during my third pregnancy and laughing at myself.) As most of us know, yoga is a great way to learn non-attachment or, as it’s called among the folk who sport rolled up yoga mats in fancy silk bags on their shoulder, equanimity. But I have to say I learned this much more quickly through the revision process with my editors. I can write my little heart out, only to find months later that I am pressing the delete button to remove entire chunks of that once-perfect writing. Characters I adore get kicked to the curb, even plot lines completely abandoned. This is good, I tell myself. This is how you learn to “let go,” a yoga teacher’s favorite phrase. Or take humility. I generally teach that all balance postures in yoga, like tree pose, the most popular, serve up a good dose of humble-pie, which, for most of us, is exactly what the doctor ordered. But three thousand tree poses can’t unearth the lessons in humility that novel writing have generously bestowed on me. Delusions of Oprah and me chatting have met the reality of small book groups conversing over my novel. This is the wisdom I teach my students all the time, “small is good. Don’t wait for big things to be grateful, to be joyful, to be successful.” And beginnings? Well, I find I keep beginning again and again. As most writers know, you spend more time revising than you spend writing. Every word, a new beginning. Every book, a new beginning. In a way, every new reader is also a new beginning. Sometimes material seems old, as in my case recently when I had to stare down a manuscript that has already seen five major (think open-heart surgery) revisions. Only after a few days, and a few yoga practices, and a few conversations and some insight from my Girlfriends on this blog, I went back to the book and found that I had—not a new book, not a new beginning—but new eyes. With a fresh gaze, I could make a new beginning. Maybe every novelist ought to become an honorary yogini for her practice of non-attachment, humility and presence—that ability to see things for what they are, not what we wish they would be. I know what you will all say, as students have said to me for years: I’m not flexible enough to do yoga. Aha! Flexibility comes in many forms and the body is just one of them. Being flexible, or creative thinkers, is the bedrock of a writer’s talent, an absolute essential in today’s publishing world, and a practice that makes us more lyrical of mind, just as yoga poses make us more lyrical of body. Deep breath now, everybody. We’ve all got another chance to begin again, again! Samantha Wilde is the author of This Little Mommy Stayed Home. She is also a yoga teacher, an ordained minister, and the mother of three small children. You can visit her on the web at samanthawilde.com.