Friday, May 20, 2011

Process & Practice: the Writer in Savasana

It's been the kind of busy week that makes a gal's head spin: an article due, revisions coming back from various editors, career opportunities throwing themselves in my path, changes at the day job, invitations to fun social events five days of the week. And behind it all, the constant pressing knowledge that queries and submissions are out there, my work under evaluation and my future on the line.

Hey, it sounds melodramatic, but dang it, that's how it feels! You know it. You've subbed to big things before, things that could have a significant effect on your life. If you let yourself think about it, your brain might explode. You can't work, because the pressure and excitement sucks the words out of your brain like a Dyson vacuum cleaner--and we all know those things never lose suction. The only solution is NOT to think about these things and try to focus on the work in progress.

But if you're anything like me, burying my thoughts is hard. They have a way of knotting inside me and settling like lead into my gut. I've always had a lot of issues with my thoughts bursting out as physical manifestations, and it's part of the reason I spent a lot of time being sick as a young person. Interest in the mind-body relationship took me to yoga and yogic philosophy, and at one time, I actually planned to be a yoga teacher.

That's right. Me. The lady who creaks when she tries to touch her toes, the lady whose Reubenesque physique is more aptly associated with Polynesian royalty than fitness instructors. I was a yoga junkie--Bendy Wendy, beloved children's yoga class leader! And I quit yoga for the same stupid reason a lot of people quit writing: I forgot to focus onprocess, not results.

You see, I've always been a chubby kid, and I've always been sensitive about being overweight. And one day, after two years of reading and studying and pretzeling, I saw a picture of myself and realized I looked nothing like what a yoga teacher should look like. My limbs were stocky, my ankles blocky. A predisposition toward a pear shape gave me the requisite prominent ribs, but my thighs never got the memo that I was supposed to be skinny. My confidence crumbled. And one day, I walked into my yoga class and realized that every woman in the room, put together, would fit into one pair of my pants. (Hey, it seemed completely possible at the time!) I ran out of the building crying.

Little by little, I left my yoga practice behind. Dropping into Downward Dog was just too emotionally exhausting, and it was easy to push yoga time out of my schedule: I'd made a commitment to writing more, and I could justify any amount of time sitting in front of the computer.

What I forgot is how great yoga feels when you're doing it and not thinking about anything else. Like writing, it's easy to fall into a magical space where your inner essence is perfectly aligned with your activity, where you're just you, and nothing else matters. Whatever happens once you roll up your mat or click that "submit" button doesn't really matter. That you you find when you hit that magical space? That's the gold. You have to let the crap--the recycled pop-bottle mat carrier that everybody else is carrying to the studio; the rejections from the agents; the good reviews of your latest story--fall away from that place. You can't let it touch the you you've worked so hard to find.

In the last few months, I've started to forgive my body for being itself. I had a realization one day, and Regina Spektor says it best in her song "Folding Chair:"

I’ve got a perfect body, though sometimes I forget
I’ve got a perfect body cause my eyelashes catch my sweat

My body is perfect because it does the things it's designed to do. Instead of resenting its shape, I've started treating my body better, revisiting the healthy recipes I used to love, taking those long walks. Setting up a standing workstation, like Christie did. Even doing some yoga. It's amazing how the old lessons come back, all the training for clearing the mind wiping away the tensions my writing life piles onto my mind and body. After doing something physical, it's usually much, much easier to come to the keyboard. The monkey mind, with its constant need for reward, is settled. Instead of feeling neurotic about seeing results, you can enjoy the process of writing.


molly said...

Hey lady! Hope your process is a beautiful experience. I know how hard it is to move out of that place of "wtf is this baggage attached to my brain" because I struggle with it too. Best of luck, and you know where to find me if you need e-support! <3 <3 <3

Kat Howard said...

I love this post. Love it. Thank you.