“You have hands.” was offered by Kate Potter as one thing she hoped we would take away. Hands, may they be strong, expressive, graceful and youthful even as we age. Yes, for sure, this was one stand out element of that first session of the Creative Life and Yoga weekend workshop in Sherwood Park at Yoga for Today last month. A simple movement of hands by breath captivated me. It was entirely NOT a point A to point B operation, but one that had to be breathed and felt. I thought, okay, just stop right there, I’ll just go back to my room now and practice that for the rest of the weekend.
A few days after returning from the workshop I wrote this haiku and generally did a lot of writing.
Breathe in past my toes
Suspend breath hands unfurling
Out breath hugs and lifts
These days, sometimes my practice starts like this,
and then I close my door to Leo. (Leo appears in this video because I was not sure if I might use this video for a DIY cat toy post, but that may be coming later. Then I started playing with iMovie, so there you go.) By the way, the exquisite cello music is by Dirje Childs from the CD, Four Contemplations, that Dirje and Kate recorded last year. It is worth getting the CD for the savasana alone. You can listen on Soundcloud.
Katharine Weinmann first invited Kate to Sherwood Park ten years ago. I came for the first time 9 years ago with Lori to a place that has always felt homey. Nowhere else have I been in a studio with a small kitchen and a couch by a fireplace. Who can say why I had such a huge teacher crush that has since evolved into something much more friendly, or felt such transformation following just three days at a time together? This final workshop, Katharine led a poetry circle that spoke to my heart and provided a space for my heart speak and to hear others in the same way. My poet self asserted herself and made some demands to be seen and heard and look for friends.
Katharine shared a story at the conclusion a workshop a few years ago that has stayed with me. To the pilgrims at the end of their journey on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a nun offered that this is when the real camino begins. Katherine gave a name to this time following a transformative journey, integration, a creative time, a vulnerable time, filled with exuberance and introspection. This time around integration came through writing, correspondence and a few poems and a few more fragments of poems, ukulele playing, playing with Leo and daily yoga practice. I felt so fortunate to spend a good week just letting some moments of awareness sink in and gradually feel like that was enough for now and that things were quite all right. I happened to catch an episode of the Future Hero podcast about integration, only Baxter calls it Re-entry: From Ideality to Reality.
I found another take on “We have hands.” when I picked up Rising Strong by Brené Brown from beside my bed it opened to this page…
The most important thing that I came to integrate was a daily personal practice and what that really looks like. I turned the corner to embrace the “deeply disciplined half-assed” practice that Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic. A few weeks ago, at the end of a practice where I was more distracted than focused, alternating between a busy mind and spacing out, I was the happiest I’d been after a practice in a long time, because I recognized that even this half-assed practice counted too. That was the best I could do that day and that was enough. Previously, I would not have thought it was good enough. I trust that I can do a daily practice. Still sometimes, I don’t want to, but that’s the day I really need to at least check in with what is going on.
The advice I’ve read about practice is remarkably similar from many teachers. Here are some ideas I use as a guide.
- Showing up and checking in is enough. Some days may be just lying down and noticing what is going on, perhaps returning to bed.
- Judith Lasater’s Keys to a Rewarding Home Yoga Practice
- Kate Potter on committing to daily practice, below.
- Taking a friendly and curious attitude to practice is my intention these days. I adore Elizabeth Gilbert and the way she champions creativity, curiosity and friendliness among our many selves. Here is a recent interview, Choosing Curiosity over Fear, with Elizabeth Gilbert from the On Being podcast. She concludes with thoughts on creative practices and the faith that keeps her going. (From the transcript,) “What gets me through those 90 percent of it being boring part of creativity without turning it into angst anymore — and I say “anymore” because I used to do it — is that faith that the work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through me. And so when it’s not coming, and it’s not working, and it’s not being good, and I’m stuck in a problem around the creativity, it’s a very important shift in my life over the years to not think that I’m being punished or that I’m failing, but to think that this thing, this mystery that wants communion with me is trying to help me. And it hasn’t abandoned me. It’s nearby. And it wants — it came to me for a reason. That’s what I always think when I’m working on a project and it’s not working. I think — I will speak to the idea and say, “You came to me for a reason.” But in the meantime, I’ll come to my desk every day with the faith that you are also at my desk every day. And that the two of us, this human being who is laboring and this mystery who’s presenting itself toward me in whatever language it’s able to, whatever signals, and clues, and hints, and inspirations, and the sense of obsession, and all the ways that inspiration comes to us, that it wants me to be with it. And somehow, if I’m patient, and it’s constant, the two of us, the idea and me, will figure out how to make something in the world. And through that process, I will become a deeper and truer version of myself. And so, regardless of how the outcome turns, it will have been worth doing just for the communion with the mystery and the idea. And I can’t think of a better way to live than to just keep doing that.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
- Practice will vary a lot. Here, Baxter describes the range of experiences he has in his daily movement practice, hoop dance. This video is from 10 years ago, but I saw that he reposted it recently on Facebook with the comment that he still stands by it today. Below is an excerpt from the end of the video.
- The seed of a daily practice is very small.
- Naomi Shihab Nye’s advice to write down just three lines a day. A practice she has shown up for since she was twelve years old.
- Rita, a friend who took a course in starting habits suggests the tiniest seed of less than 30 seconds of whatever it is you want to do tied to a trigger. She started her daily morning movement practice with 28 seconds of dancing and singing.
- “There is no end to learning.” and more advice from Schumann to young musicians.