One of my favorite things about yoga, and teaching yoga, is the unlimited opportunity to try–try again, try new ways of moving and breathing, try new ideas, try on feelings.
Every yoga practice is an experiment.
Every class taught is one-of-a-kind.
When I decided to train as a yoga teacher, my husband and I were walking along a rural road on a summer day. I declared, “Don’t try to talk me out of it. I’m going to be a yoga teacher.” The directive came loudly as the voice of a fictional character dictating a story’s progress.
Though it feels strange to say it so plainly, I understand now, with the help of books and friends, that such an insight occurs when one recognizes work she’s suited for. With the realization comes certainty.
Now that I’ve been teaching yoga for awhile, I can sit on the granite rock of perspective and gaze down into the Tahoe-clear waters of the years that led to Now. There at the sandy bottom of beginning, I am a baby plump from the milk of Iowa cows, exploring geometric shapes in blocks and boards, spending quiet time with animals and alone, seeking motion by crawling or walking, swinging, or rolling along in a stroller or my parents’ International Travel All. And observing–people, sunlight, falling leaves, the blue-eyed Siamese, chattering birds. The role of yoga teacher synthesizes my travels, reading, coursework, jobs, encounters, writing, explorations.
Do people change? All the time. But our essential natures stay fairly consistent.
Wonder what you’re meant to do? Take a look at what makes you feel most curious and what you are most eager to share. What takes all of you–body, mind, heart and soul?
Recently I was teaching yoga to 15 participants of a retreat for corporate executives. One asked me why I became a yoga teacher. I told him the work allows me to apply everything I know in that moment–and then let it go. There’s an ephemerality to teaching movement and meditation.
This ephemerality creates space to continue learning more.
And hopefully my students learn, too. And hopefully what they learn about strengthening, relaxing, breathing, connecting, surrendering, supports their own life’s work.
For a few years, I had time to focus on writing poems. Knowing the time would be limited, I arranged the conditions of my situation to support the work. Long walks and day dreaming. Hours reading. Attending events of other poets. Teaching community workshops. Devising systems for generating, revising and submitting work. In this way, I was able to accomplish what I wanted: to inhabit poetry completely, meaning to think, perceive and be a poet for awhile; to share the delights with others; to write a few poems that could connect with another person.
Those who love ideas and words combine and recombine them. They notice combos that spark. I rubbed the flint of words together tirelessly, igniting fires of ideas.
Poets also know that as attempts to establish meaning, metaphors are doomed to inadequacy.
We can ever only hint at the essence of a thing.
Some say that to capture a unicorn, you stand in front of a tree then step quickly aside when the animal charges; with its horn in the tree, the animal is stuck, and yours. Writing poems can be as thrilling as capturing a unicorn: tricking the intangible to come into print.
For years, the need to write burned through me like a fever. It was exhilarating. I couldn’t rest until I’d given the writing my all. This was compulsion. Compulsion can be harmful. The compulsion to gamble, for example, can destroy a person. But this confuses compulsion with addiction. For artists–I am not unique in this–the compulsion to create is a driving force. It can be a wonderful–and usually benign–lunacy.
The words of my workshop participants and private clients must get to the page to unclog their souls. This is why the byproduct of any art can be healing: expression brings release.
A call, I can attest, is diametrically different. It’s a summons, a pull and not a push. Once I followed a bird down a desert trail, staying a little behind, taking my cues from it, pausing when it paused, stepping forward when it flew. Yoga drew me–draws me–like that.
When your call comes, answer it. Don’t roll the incoming to voicemail.
There’s a timeliness to life. Don’t neglect it.
A momentary “yes!” or even “okay” can result in I am, instead of I could or I should or I wish.
If you’ve found your calling, you know what I’m talking about. Stay loyal to it, allowing it to change as needed. Love it. Practice. Reflect. Study. Rest. Identify sources and mentors. Simplify aspects of daily routine to devote more attention to what you do and who you are. Resist external notions of success. They will confuse you. Be glad enough when your work stands for itself, but don’t think about it too much at all.
If you haven’t found your calling, open the landline of life to it by trying something new–even something as seemingly insignificant as meandering along a different route on your way home from work. Odds are the call will come if you want it to. Are you breathing? Pay attention. It will feel as if you are remembering a part of yourself that you never knew.
And don’t, as they say, throw out the baby with the bathwater. I am still a poet. Working side-by-side with a writing client is a great joy. I told a woman this week that writing my own poems is like making a soup; working with someone on his or her poem is like tasting the soup and suggesting a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon. The restraint required in some ways increases the satisfaction with a delicious result.
And one’s newly defined “purpose” does not necessarily replace a previous one. It merely becomes the most recent layer of a stratified life. I still make poems, just less often. They arrive like a phone call or letter from an old friend in a former town. So welcome, so loved and ever precious.
You may have read that I’m moving from Sacramento to Washington, DC in a few days. Come with!