Ah yes, the good old days. What good are they exactly? Yes, they were good at the time — like the first time a boy kissed me, really kissed me, and there’ve been many kisses since then but none quite like that. Very good at the time and yet maybe not so good now to have a fourteen-year-old boy kiss me, overdosed with English Leather and not sure where to put his hands.
Those good old days are still with me and could shape everything I do — if I let them.
That first kiss, made for a good day, because I felt special, special enough to kiss, to be that close to a boy I liked. That was just the first step in a long series of kisses, which I grew ever more fond of. The reason to kiss changed, though, from being an end in itself into a beginning, a start, foreplay for even more exciting activities. These became very good old days, too. They also ride along with me today as I continue to look more forward than backward, to see what is happening on the next stretch of road.
After all, we live moment-to-moment. It helps to keep the eyes forward, on the road ahead, so you don’t miss anything. I keep my eyes forward even though I have all those good old days riding along in the back seat calling out instructions. But I don’t pay much attention to their ruckus when they call out a crazy, sideways turn. I decide whether to take that crazy side road or keep going forward — and I never let them have the wheel.
I have this idea I need hours to write, with no interruptions, whether it is a novel or a short story: time to revisit the story, get into the main character’s head, go deep emotionally. But it’s not possible to find that much time every day. I decided to try a “short writing” approach, just as I have tried a “short yoga” approach, that is, to write each day for thirty minutes and contain each session to that amount of time. Keep it straightforward, uncomplicated, easier to approach.
For months, I’ve kept a post-it note on my desk that says: “write in clusters.” I’ve been hoping that notion would sink in, but I’ve hung on to the idea of a longer time requirement to write anything “good,” even though I’ve produced a lot of good material by writing to prompts, numerous times, for just thirty minutes. Why couldn’t I begin my novel this way: Write for thirty minutes, in clusters of paragraphs, and see if that inspires me to write more? I tried it and found a short period of writing every day exercises the muscle and gets the story out of my head, onto the page. Then, more writing follows, writing that is fun and good, and simply enjoyable again, which is the reason I write.
This daily approach to thirty minute spots of writing isn’t a long-term plan. It’s a way to ease off and listen to my deeper self, find the story that is worthy. Try it for a week or two. You might be surprised at what emerges.
This post comes in spring, that revved up time of year when the garden changes from mud to daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. The fruit trees are abloom in pink and white. With sixteen hours of daylight, all the trees are leafed-out and the grass that wet green. It’s a lively time and one that pushes me to try to do everything: more work and more play. Each day is a squeeze to keep up my routines and add in gardening, walks, and vacation plans.
Hardly time to write a blog post or attend a yoga class.
Last month I sought out a senior yoga teacher to create a home practice for me. Like everyone, I have a quirk best served by a custom practice. A daily practice of thirty minutes seemed doable. And even though I’ve only managed twice a week so far, this practice has made a big difference in my mobility and overall well-being. In fact, I sometimes add a few more poses that make it longer. But I aim to keep it short; there is a certain power in that. Still, it’s not a typical ninety-minute class, just thirty minutes. A spot of time. Not a substitute for twice weekly classes, but the best I can do right now. To my surprise, each time the healing effects are measurable and that, too, reinforces the practice.
Funny, there is enough time for a home practice now. What fell away? I can’t remember.
After months (actually, years) of deliberation and a few chapters scribbled here and there about a character I’m fond of, I made a commitment last week to embark on my next novel. When I began my first novel, my enthusiasm and sheer
joy on good writing days carried me through, in parallel with a daily yoga practice. At the time I signed up with a writing coach, I also enrolled in a yoga teacher training course (that lasted 18 months).
The combination of regularly practicing those two activities helped me complete my first novel. It was a lot of work. Am I ready to commit again to that amount of time over the next several years? I admit, I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned about writing a novel, but this time I know what I’m getting into: characters speaking to me at odd hours, flashes of inspiration, whole days wondering what the story is about, the joy of discovery, and the agony and ecstasy of later drafts. The focus required in yoga poses helped to calm my mind and stay the course. I trust I will find yoga a reliable ally again.
The idea that this is a “lift off,” the first stage of a rocket headed for the unknown, feels just right. The notion raised this question: what’s the best yoga practice for me over the next weeks? The most suitable poses are obvious: those in which we lift up. Head stand and shoulder stand seem just right. And maybe, in the end, I will get into that full handstand, too.
Orchids always catch my attention with their slender stalks and flamboyant petals. They look delicate, but the blossoms, if properly cared for, can last for months. Their strength is in the long growth period that slowly builds nutrients in the stem. This is the way we build strength in our yoga practice. We practice standing poses like Tadasana and the Warrior Series. And, over time, we build foundational strength by holding our arms, torso, shoulders and head just so, like a well-situated blossom on a sturdy stem.
Now, I find a mature orchid, in a pot, always has a wooden stick to support it. I wonder why this is. Was the plant forced to grow too quickly in a hot house, is there insufficient space for its roots to go deep? I don’t know, but I’ve seen orchids in gardens and they stand on their own when allowed to grow at their own pace and have sufficient room for the roots. The balancing is taken care of as the plant grows to maturity.
When we rush our growth it, can look like we’ve achieved our goal whether it is a yoga pose, a good piece of writing, or a well cooked meal. But when we work in a rushed manner and push through, we could be cheating ourselves. To achieve our goal, we can rely on props, steal someone’s work, use pre-packaged food. But when we take the time, honor the rhythms of our body, use healthy ingredients, we can produce beauty and strength. Of course, we can’t slow down life in the modern world, but we can create moments when we take our time. In those moments, we reflect life and growth in the natural world, where an unforced rhythm can produce a miracle. Like the petals on an orchid fluttering in the breeze.