More on Yoga

“We know what we are now, but not what we may become.” -William Shakespeare

Writing equals ass in chair. Stephen King

I am reading a book called Meditations from the Mat: Daily Selections on the Path of Yoga, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. Rather, I am being read to, as it’s in the form of an audio book.

I’m able to do my yoga practice while listening to the book. This is not what you’re supposed to do if you’re working on mindfulness. The first idea is to try to do or focus on only one thing at a time. As an art therapist I work with people who often talk while they are making something. There are lots of reasons for it.

Anyway, the thing I like about listening to the book while doing my yoga practice is that it feels like I’m being reminded what is going on that can’t be seen, whether in body, mind or spirit. Also, today I was doing seated head to knee posture right when he started talking about the posture; that was cool. It’s a male voice reading the book, which doesn’t lend itself to remembering that two people wrote it, one seems to be female. They start each daily reflection with a quote, and they quote from a wide range of sources, from Shakespeare in the above quote to scriptures of all religions to poetry to Tom Petty and yoga students.

Both the quotes above kind of go together and to the practice of yoga and writing. In order to do yoga, I have to make the time and get the mat out and get going. In order to write I have to put my ass in the chair and write. Showing up to your life is a concept that we all recognize, easier said than done.

Today I’m not sure what I’m writing about. Maybe this is my reflection on today’s practice. When in my studio, I use the floor and walls. The yoga mat is usually dusty and little pieces of paper or glitter or whatever collects on the floor gets on the yoga mat. My feet and hands get dirty from touching the floor. I shake this stuff off when rolling up my mat.

Actually rolling up the yoga mat has been a constant struggle since I started doing yoga about 18 years ago. It seems so impossible to get the mat to roll up properly the way everyone else does it, so that one side isn’t bulging out. I’ve tried doing it slowly and other things, but often I give up and leave it rolled up but not even. The other day someone said, “Just hold both sides at the same time.” I’m sure I have tried that many times; this isn’t rocket science. For some reason, being reminded or told that, I was able to focus on holding both ends and got the mat rolled up quite evenly. It is still not a guarantee that the mat gets rolled up properly. I have never been a symmetrical person in any way, so I start off balance. My body isn’t balanced; neither is my mind. One of the most important things I learned in yoga is to attend to both sides equally. If you do something on the left side, then you do it on the right side. If you do a headstand, you counter it at some point with a shoulder stand. Even walking down the street with a bag on my shoulder, I hear my yoga teacher Liza telling me to hold it on the other side as well. When she came last week, I found out my left hand doesn’t stay even with my right hand in child’s pose. I felt like I was putting my left hand way in front when she corrected me even though it was now even.

Yoga evens me out is the message. Balance and equilibrium are hard won. Every action having an equal and opposite reaction. Very basic. Most of the stuff I get excited about that I learn from my yoga practice is very simple stuff I seem to never have really known or completely forgotten. Just getting back acquainted with the hands and feet is a revelation!

That is it for today.

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New Year, Yoga and Writing

This year I have avoided the usual obsession with new year’s resolutions versus intentions and turning over new leaves, etc. Usually I get excited to start new habits, make all kinds of exciting changes and feel like I’m going to accomplish all these goals, then, like most people, run out of steam and keep very little going or follow through.

A while ago, as a way to look at the new year differently, I started picking words for the year. Last year was “Abundance”. It really turned into a year of abundance, which required patience and trust because abundance doesn’t just pour into your life on day one or month one or two! This year the first word I came up with was “AWESOME”. Then I picked two other words, “Quiet” and “Concentration” as intentions/motivation to continue things I’m already doing, especially my yoga practice.

My yoga practice has been the one thing I’ve kept up regularly for the last 3 and a half years. I already wrote two very long disorganized posts about it and realized I do want to write about it, but I need it to be organized and as usual, much shorter.

So this year, to add to my 6-7 times weekly 25-40 minute home yoga practice, I decided to link yoga with writing, as my intuition was that the two will go together well.

So this post is just a short post about my new year’s intention to link my yoga with writing. Since the new year, I have read a bunch of blog posts about different aspects of yoga, found some books, and started writing about my yoga practice.

Yesterday I wrote a long draft for a post on this blog, journaled a bunch before doing yoga, and then attempted to write in my journal a little while doing yoga and filled a page after my daily yoga in the evening. I decided to try to write immediately after doing yoga at least 3 times a week.

It’s going to be an experiment to see what comes up that I feel like writing about and how I am thinking about my practice, or what comes up specifically in any sequences or poses or other things that come up that may have little to do with yoga or seem to have little to do with it.

The words “Quiet” and “Concentration” can be connected to my writing and yoga. Sometimes doing yoga on my own is for the goal of getting quiet and working on disciplining the mind and body and learning how to be able to really focus and concentrate, which is definitely challenging with an undisciplined disorganized and full ADHD mind. I also associate these concepts with a story that I read a few years ago with my daughter that we’ve read several times and is one of both her and my favorite stories,  “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar”, by Roal Dahl. It’s written long ago but the basic concepts are very universal and the story is about the use and misuse of yoga/training the mind. It’s a great transformation story in the category of stories like A Christmas Carol and the movie Groundhog Day. A selfish self involved character full of flaws, who goes through a spiritual transformation and becomes an enlightened evolved person who gives of themselves to the world, very uplifting. Everyone loves a sinner to “saint” type of story!

Sometimes getting quiet while doing yoga involves just noticing how not quiet my mind is and how distracted I am or how I am focused on what the next yoga pose will be or getting over with each pose. The challenge of concentration involves a lot of mindfulness/DBT “Radical Acceptance”.

Other topics I’d like to write about that go with yoga/writing are:

-how I got going with my home practice after 7 year hiatus of not doing yoga

-what my home yoga practice actually involves and how I learned to sequence from an intuitive approach in the moment

-the role of my yoga “coach” and teacher Liza in helping me learn about the physical, mental, and spiritual practice and deepen my practice

-yoga in everyday life and ways to use yoga to live life from a more accepting and moment to moment awareness

-yoga and “failure”

-the yoga of speech

-my specific challenges with my writing process

-yoga and ADHD and other issues like anxiety

 

Everyday Inspiration, Back to Day 2: Lists

I’ve been rethinking the lists assignment for this great writing class I am taking now from WordPress.

I thought more about my relationship to lists and categories in general.

I enjoy categories and lists and lists within categories. Pinterest really satisfies that urge; lately I have been active on Pinterest, partly because it does not involve politics or the idea of being right or wrong. As with an art therapy group, there is no right or wrong to collecting images you like. Going back to Pinterest was very interesting in terms of how I viewed categories which are “Boards” and lists which are “pin/saved images”.

First I wanted to make a list of the lists I have been thinking of writing.

1.) There is still the List of choices for making a list provided for the class:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

2.) List of films I saw in 2016 that had a big affect on me, that I can remember right now without looking it up and also what made these films have meaning for me.

3.)  List of specific 2016 things I am grateful for.

4.) List of regrets.

5.) The list of Pinterest boards I have added and other boards renamed.

6.) The list of lists I want to write that I can’t remember now but may remember later.

7.) The grand list of New Year’s Resolutions that I am not going to make.

8.) The list of things I want to do to my studio to make it match my dream studio as much as possible.

Day 2 of Writing Class: List

These are the choices:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

I wrote a whole draft of a list of Things I’ve Learned, but I decided to do something different with the same topic.

Things I’ve Learned about My “Writer” Identity:

  1. I’ve been hiding in the writer “closet” for years, at least 30 years.
  2. I was struggling with this beast back in 1985 in my writer’s journal for an English Creative Writing class in high school.
  3. It’s always been, “What do I write about?”, “What do I have to say that people will want to read?”, having this urge to write but not having anything to write or write about, least of all fiction.
  4. I try in every way possible to destroy my thinking of myself as a writer or at least place obstacles in my pat. I left the 1985 writers journal on a subway two weeks ago. I was terribly upset and angry at myself. I had lost a big clue to who I was, not as a teenager, but as a budding writer back in 1985. When I first discovered that journal in the spring, I felt like I had been given a time capsule to this person that had been me, at least, what she wrote and how she thought about writing. I found it at this point where I had started writing a lot more again, so it seemed so just right that it fell into my lap.
  5. Did I lose that journal to tell myself that I can’t write or to make things hard for me, did I lose that writer in me, or that key into my mind as a 17 year old, or, did I lose that journal because I don’t need it and have already incorporated that writer inside me and need to focus on what I am writing now or my writing process? the Maybe both are true. The reason I was carelessly carrying around this old green covered Meade notebook was that I brought it to my therapy session that morning to show my therapist. This is a new therapist I am working with after several years hiatus from therapy. One main focus of my therapy is my struggle to be ok with being a writer and with my writing. It seemed even more of a message from the universe that the last event with that journal was for that very purpose. I texted my therapist about it right after I lost it. I seemed to need for him to know that he was the last person to see it and hear it.
  6. The more I write, the more I delete my writing and sometimes edit it but no longer just look at a first draft as finished. I used to write posts for this blog and fling them out there. Now even for the blog, I write many drafts I never post.
  7. I started writing something new in the spring that was a new kind of writing and a new sort of genre I tried out, some kind of  personal narrative. I did not know until then how much my work as an art therapist from the past especially was going into my writing. The other thing I discovered was writing and my daughter, writing about being her mother and writing with her. I already considered her a good writer back when she got excited by writing in second grade.
  8. The whole writing issue, beast or monster is intricately connected with my  GraphicNovel, started in 2000, which is a sort of memoir of the mind. This graphic novel has been torturing me for the past 16 years, most of which have been “writers block” years. It was started with the goal of publishing it; that goal has always been there despite my success in squashing it.
  9. My writing and my art have been coexisting with my Graphic Novel illness. I only realized it with writing recently when I saw that the more I write the more likely I am to get back to the graphic novel, and that whatever I’m writing somehow seems to be an act of avoiding working on the graphic novel, but sometimes seems to get me back to it. The art coexisting has been going on since the beginning. This last project involving cartoons, Bathroom Art Only, is the first series of work where my art directly connected to the graphic novel and sort of spilled into it and the art work threw me back into it after a long block. Then the door closed a few months until my writing flung me back at it. At other times, my art has seemed to focus on being as different and far away from the graphic novel as possible, as if it is trying to keep me away from it.
  10. The graphic novel has become a strange realization of my personal “Pictures and Words” struggle. More on that another time. End of list!

 

My Bathroom Poem

In response to a great video called just pee:

 

Inspired a poem I wrote right after first seeing the video:

Style: Facebook Post/Song Lyric

Topic: Poo and Being you

Device: Talking about poop when people might not want to..

Drumroll here it is:

Just poop! You don’t have to snoop.

Be you . Accept your poo.

Wherever you poo make sure you be you…

Art project: draw a good poop emoji style and have it talking to a human in a bathroom.

Day 2: Write a List

Ray Bradbury wrote a list of nouns to get inspired. I will try it too.

  1. caviar
  2. heads
  3. sandwiches
  4. The thing on a ceiling fan that turns
  5. lint trap
  6. matches
  7. oven thermometer
  8. cork paper
  9. arteries
  10. surge protector
  11. planets
  12. eyes
  13. fringe
  14. cape
  15. stamp
  16. selfie-stick
  17. fog
  18. indignation
  19. boxing gloves
  20. cable
  21. bridge
  22. castle
  23. cloud
  24. brush pen
  25. dream catcher
  26. mermaid
  27. water

I’m not sure what this list will do for me. I guess while making it, I was judging myself for mostly listing objects I’m seeing in my studio. If I look at it from another person’s point of view, any of these things could be a portal into something else and could spark something creative. I’m too lazy right now to actually try using five of them in a few sentences. It feels forced.

Writing Class, Day 1: I write because

I’m taking this class to get back into writing. I’m trying to write a graphic novel that I started in 2000 and still haven’t finished. I hope this class will inspire me to get back to doing it.

So I have nothing in particular to write about for this class; I want to return to the joy of writing for the pleasure of writing.

The assignment is simply to explain what makes you write. I am rereading the Miracle Worker (the play), so I looked to Helen Keller for her thoughts on writing and found this gem:

“Trying to write is very much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, or, if they do, they will not match the design.”

I found this very fascinating coming from someone who is visually impaired. As a visual person myself, I love this idea about patterns. It is close to the approach to writing of Vladimir Nabokov, one of my favorite authors.

 

I can’t see writing or art making in this way that Keller does, as I don’t have images or patterns in mind before or during the process of creating. I just start with something and see where it goes. Maybe after something comes out, I see something and try to play with the form in subsequent collages or drawings. Even with my struggle to do my graphic novel, I do it page by page, and have no idea who or what will appear until it’s happening.

This quote from Nabokov seems pretty accurate as a description of what I’m doing in my graphic novel:

“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are there, throw rocks at them.”

So, why do I write?

Words. Language. The first thing Annie Sullivan does to engage with Helen Keller is to spell words of things with her, to teach her language, that everything in her world has a name. As humans, even when we cannot see, hear or speak in words, we have some kind of innate hunger for language. We want to make something that symbolizes what is in our mind or environment. Language is an abstraction. Writing with words is a way to move into a world that exists only in our minds.

I like to write because the use of words leads to the imagination, where anything is possible. My favorite book ever written remains Alice in Wonderland. There is no reason for anything in the book. Alice is not on a quest to find herself or get home or anything else. She is curious and wants to explore and see what is down the rabbit hole and in the garden. Something is locked, so she has to find the key and get in to see what is there! It is very evident that Carroll successfully got her up on that tree and he and the others in the book are throwing metaphorical “rocks” at her!

For me this is the purest reason for writing, to see the familiar from a different point of view where everything becomes strange. Alice can’t use the language from her real world in Wonderland. Every time she recites something, it comes out strange and different.

That is my reason to write, to be surprised by what comes out and to see how the most ordinary word is not ordinary at all…

 

Wednesday: Image Post Day

I started doing “Mindfulness Drawings” at the beginning of this month, February. I got the idea from a patient who showed me their journal and how they were trying to write down the time and do something to get them more in the moment doodling things.

It’s a great idea and has brought me back to drawing in an observational way. It’s also a great way to draw everyday things without judging your drawing harshly.

It started like this one below in my journal, done on Feb. 4. I wrote down words that were either in my head or observations of the environment or conversation if I was with other people.

I was thinking about mindfulness principles in this one here, like “Observe and Describe” from DBT Mindfulness. In DBT there is also noticing when you’re in “rational mind”, “emotional mind” and “wise mind”.

Some of these drawings are layers of time, where I did some one evening and added more the next day.

The drawing below shows the heart hole puncher I drew as I was using it to make Valentine’s. I drew most of it during a phone session. My communications expert friend had told me recently, “Communication creates reality.” and I shared it on the phone. It was resonating for me and my patient.

This image below is the other side of the page posted as the first image, with the words “Observe and describe.”  I was looking at my watch and a clock so I drew the hands of my watch as well, and the song quoted was going on in my head about time…

The image below from Feb. 9 is in my journal. I started drawing scissors a lot because they were there. I hadn’t yet gotten inspired to make the objects talk.
  This one above is the other side of the journal drawing from the same day/time.

This one below is from yesterday afternoon during another phone session, and the tea pot is talking…

The one below was done last Friday, when I discovered that the heads or objects on the page were talking to me and about me. It started with the objects saying whether I drew them right or not and kept going. I had been drawing these heads from the coffee mug I made out of my images. The heads are from a collage piece; I noticed I was thinking about posting this picture of this drawing on Facebook which I do a lot, so the heads made a bet about when I would post it!  

This one above is from earlier yesterday. I had been drawing pens a lot and hadn’t drawn a bunch of pens in a cup as it seemed too hard. I was thinking of Morandi’s still lives and looking at post cards of them. I think I’m also thinking of Morandi as he mostly did still lives of everyday objects, and this series is starting to be about objects which are used, mostly basic office materials or art supplies, cups, etc.

This one above is on a piece of drawing paper and done last night as the date shows.

These drawings have become a way to be reminded to be mindful, in a different way than the bracelet. Drawing things you see often does get you into a different level of discovery, of looking closely at things you see every day.

This morning I drew the keys on my keychain; I’ve been challenging myself to just draw things, which get rid of judgment, another aspect of mindfulness, which is to be neutral about what is going on right here right now.

The added discovery of the objects talking to each other or saying things is partly thanks to my reading more this year, and thus reading more graphic novels, which inspire me to make my own talking pictures…