Monday, June 30, 2014

Four-letter word, starts with Y

Yarn labyrinth

The summer solstice was last Saturday, June 21, and with it came the start of the summer challenge at my LYS...Local Yoga Studio, that is. The studio I go to does these challenges twice a year; whether or not I make the goal, I always learn something from them.

In that way, and many others, a yoga practice has so much in common with knitting. It can be loose or structured, fancy or simple, but however lengthy or involved the finished project, when you pull it all apart you can see that it's got just a single thread running through it. Breath is the yarn of yoga--there is no in without an out, no knit without a purl, and the little spaces between them are as important as the stitches and breaths themselves. They can be smooth and even, or loose and raggedy, but each stitch builds from and connects to the other as one breath follows another. The most intricate-looking contortions turn out to come easily when you perform them one step at a time--and this sometimes happens on the very same day that just lying flat and still poses the hugest challenge. In some yoga poses, or asanas, we are encouraged to look at an imaginary point somewhere far beyond our fingertips; likewise, when we cast on, we're gazing a thousand yards away to the finished project that the stitches we're creating will become. Take a look at pictures of FOs from a knitalong, and it's like seeing students in a yoga class--everyone makes their own unique expression of the pose or the pattern, with color, proportion and modifications in infinite combinations. I love the people I do these things with, too; they understand me in a way that other people never will, because we speak a common language, use the same special tools, and encourage one another to create things of beauty.

As with any practice that has a meditative element, I find the time I spend knitting or doing yoga on a daily basis actually creates space and freedom in my life. On Monday, one of my teachers shared a version of a passage from the Tao Te Ching that echoed this: "Water nourishes everything, and competes with nothing." Getting up a little early (OK, sometimes it feels VERY early) to attend a 7:00 AM community flow class means I get to work earlier than usual, and in a better mood, because I've already accomplished something by 8:00 besides rolling over and kicking the cat off the bed. Knitting lets me feel like my quiet time is productive, but it's also a way I can challenge myself mentally and take real joy in the process. It's a space where I can fail and still love myself; where I can try and try until I get it right; where I've acquired tremendous skill and fearlessness bit by bit. These minutes aren't spent, they're invested.

The goal of this summer's challenge is to attend no less than 25 yoga classes in the next 30 days...a pretty tall order, especially since I'm going to be out of town for several days during that time frame. So far so good, though: I've logged eight classes in the first five days, so I can even be lazy and skip a day. Like I said before, though, even if I don't make the goal, I know I'll get something out of this; I always have. Summer 2011, when I moved back to LA and started attending classes at this studio, was my first challenge; that was also my first year of being able to touch my toes, after 30 years of tight hamstrings. I was so excited about it, I would bend down and touch my toes for no reason--just because I finally could! Summer 2012, I added headstands in the middle of the room to my practice. That winter, though, I really struggled to make it in to the studio at all. I had a new job, and couldn't seem to get myself to classes on time, even though I WANTED to be there and make room in my life for a consistent practice. I realized I had to just do something differently, and that's when I first tried getting up early for that 7:00 AM class. This week, I've gotten up early three days in a row, and I'm going for five. Maybe even six...

But now that I'm near the end of this post, I realize I may already have gotten my Big Lesson from the challenge this time around. The last time I did a big clean-up in my office at home, the part that really stressed me out and pushed me over the edge into tears was sorting through the many half-finished and sketched-and-swatched-and-started-then-frogged projects that had accumulated here and there over the months. At the time, I could only see them as failures. I thought I should have been clever or disciplined or committed enough to realize my visions, and was disappointed at this evidence that, most of the time, I hadn't. All those false starts got jumbled together in my mind with my unfinished dissertation and all the other overdue-for-no-good-reason projects that tortured and shamed me. I went looking for that box of swatches this weekend, though, just after the start of the challenge. Now, I find I can see them as worthy efforts; variously, they were experiments, riffs, ends in themselves, twists in the labyrinth. They're where I've fallen seven times, and stood up eight. I could probably do 25 of them in 30 days, too.

1 comment:

Steven said...

Thank you for writing this and sharing it -- so well done. Don't beat yourself up about things undone. You're definitely doing something right.