A yoga teacher steps off the mothership mat to try her hand at literary asana.
Since last year, I’ve been hobby-writing about a year. My family lived in the coastal rain-forest of Costa Rica, where my kids attended a bilingual school and I taught yoga at beach jungle studios.
Attending a Writers Critique Group for my first time last week made me realize how sheltered I’d been in the yoga world’s kula of nice. Submitting three of my creative writing pieces for review, little did I realize they had entered a literary gladiator ring.
What a bloodbath.
I discovered that writing critique folks are brilliantly unapologetic. In editor speak, that would be mad skills for a competitive, no-nonsense world. It simultaneously impressed and intimidated me.
I, of the garden variety, open arms to all mindset, had some lyrical sharpening to do if I was gonna roll with these ruffnecks and be relevant. Support group sanctuary this wasn’t.
“Who’s your audience? If it’s lay people you wanna reach, you lost me because what is Tantra and Source?”
“You fluctuate between 1st & 3rd person, but your style seems personal essay or memoir, so where’s your story arc?”
“Save your character justifications and spread them out instead of lumping them in the beginning. Your plot is as surreptitious as your introduction.”
Ouch. Story arc, kiss my ass-ignment, I thought.
Call it pen envy, but I wilted when I began fearing my heartfelt metaphysical scribbles might not be more than kinder-fluff; destined as litter box liner for my Jack Russell Terrier to wipe her asana on. The phf-f-ft sound of my pen deflating could barely be heard above the din of chattering critique and slurps of decaf. Of which I spilled mine under my chair. Amateur.
Yoga had taught me equanimity amidst the fluctuating emotional landscapes of day to day life. It had helped me accept and not covet pleasant encounters, and
accept and not run away from unpleasant encounters. The oft used Yogash chitta vritti nirodha (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind) reminded me of this.
So as I silently observed my internal ping-pong defense mechanisms kick in, I laughed. Internally. Because adverbs (and emotion) were frowned upon in this group. Someone next to me in the critique circle had used the dreaded “ly” ending describing her protagonist as skipping “happily” and was forewarned.
My ego was having a knee-jerk shadow reaction to constructive criticism and the insight was amusing. I remembered what the spiritual author Esther Hicks had said about following your bliss:
“There is a big mix of different things going on out there, and there is not one way that was intended to be the right way. Just like there’s not one color or one flower or one vegetable or one fingerprint. The variety is what fosters the creativity.
And so you say, ‘Okay, I accept that there’s variety, but I don’t like cucumbers.’ Then don’t eat cucumbers. But don’t ask them to be eliminated and don’t condemn those who eat them. Don’t stand on corners waving signs trying to outlaw them. Don’t ruin your life by pushing against. Instead, say, ‘I choose this instead. This does please me.'”
My personal truth was that writing clever-ly was becoming tiring. Writing from my place of bliss, even if very few were listening or agreeing, came out a lot easier.
As a Yoga teacher, I’d made efforts to not come off preachy (failing often) when I was teaching, designing curriculum or writing. But the healer brat in me always returned to a nurturing archetype hell-bent on cosmic resolution.
I’ve accepted I’m no Erma Bombeck. Or Shiva Rea. Can you visualize her trance dancing through the daily laundry I fold? A sacred retreat of washing kid spit-up on the shores of Baja’s Sea of Cortez?
I may one day cough out the get-real mother’s version of Eat, Pray, Love that I aspire towards, because unborn manuscript masterpieces surround me.
My teenage son detests reading and writing. But he lives to surf the cold waters near the world famous Mavericks. How he came out of me, the only womb in Northern California with a library in it, is baffling. He gifted me with a delicious quote recently that inspired me to write. Peeling off his wetsuit and boots after a surf session, he held one of his boots upside down and drained its murky run-off.
“Mm-m, check out that booty juice.”
Our whole family laughed.
I might call that piece Buddha Juice. Beware the 80 proof brew that pours out an adolescent boy’s wetsuit after five hours of surfing (and peeing) in it. Not FDA approved; almost as toxic as splenda & aspartame. For cold water surfers only, not for the faint of heart.
And my new kindred friends at my writers group will be the first to review it. You bet your bandha I’ll be back. In black, like a ninja attack on bad alignment. I thank them for helping me refine the direction of my heart’s desire.
Yoga of yes, meet your paradigm.
Editor: Andrea B.