Thursday, January 6, 2011
there is a line in ethan hawke's novel, the hottest state, where william, the protagonist, says he is afraid that he's becoming the person he'd pretended to be in high school. i first read that line in 1997, and have been thinking about its meaning ever since. because the line is a sort of paradox. i mean, how can you be afraid of becoming something you pretended to be? wouldn't becoming the person you pretended to be mean you succeeded and thus no longer need to pretend?
the answer, of course, is no. because william is no longer a self-absorbed teenager, and therefore no longer aspires toward a life of self-aggrandizement, status, image.
or does he? because despite all the ostensible changes and travels in william's life, he still retreats into fantasy when he can't find the strength to face reality. the novel, then, is partly about william's desire for authenticity while chronically relapsing into fantasy to flee the messiness of genuine human relations.
i mention all of this because there are times when i feel my own adolescent/teenage persona cry out to be fed, to be given a larger slice of who i am. and i guess this is a problem because, at root, i see the purpose of my life in service of something far higher than does my "high-school" self (HS self). my HS self wants attention, fame, glory, plaudits. let's face it, my HS self wants to be god.
my true self (the person i believe i truly am), however, seeks to live modestly with a humble heart. my true self seeks stillness so as to better hear the song that's in my soul.
the weird thing, though, about stillness is i often experience it most fully while jogging or cycling or practicing yoga.
as counter-intuitive as may seem, i find stillness through movement.
but sometimes i get worried that all these activities are just there to feed my HS self. i sometimes sense he is secretly yanking these moving meditations toward the egotistical: how fast or long can run, how cool can i craft my urban cyclist persona, how perfect can i look in my asanas?
whatever the answers may be to these questions, they are not why i jog, pedal around LA, practice yoga.
i engage in the above activities because they are the best way i've found to connect peacefully, quietly, and viscerally with the world.
perhaps we all battle with a divided self. i certainly do, which is why i was especially interested in what the yoga instructor said a few classes ago. she told the class to treat our practice as a gift for the people we love in our lives.
after class, i asked if she could further explain what she meant. she said the power you build in yoga (or insert your own passion) can be harnessed to help in the quest to serve others.
and so for the past few days i’ve really been working to channel the energy i generate in these moving meditation to become--not the person i pretended to be in high school--but a servant for stillness and peace and human flourishing.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
the yoga instructor notices how many of us are struggling with some of the more advanced poses. and so he reminds us to be patient--that through patience, we will arrive where we are trying to go.
there is so much wisdom in what the instructor is saying. i find myself spending the rest of class rediscovering that word--patience--as i roll through one vinyasa after another.
after class, i still have so much to say to myself. so i head to a nearby coffee shop, find a stool by the window, and begin to write. pen and paper.
i wrote for maybe an hour. three or four pages filled with all sorts of ah-ha's, minor epiphanies, simple truths.
i had hoped to type up these notes this evening, and so began editing the piece while riding the bus across the bridge today.
and then...(wait for it)...i left the notepad on the bus.
so what follows is not a Take Two, an entry where i recreate the original.
instead, i am just going to offer a very brief summary--and pray that somehow my call to the transit's Lost + Found will prove fruitful.
so here goes: an uber-compressed version of my recently created (and even more recently lost) treatise.
patience is such an undervalued tool. i think we often fail to grasp the full power of it because we are so aware of our finite lives and thus feel we must do as much as possible in the small amount of time we are alive. patience, if anything, seems like a luxury we can't afford.
and yet, the more patience i cultivate in both my world and mind, the more my life seems limitless, infinite. i think patience allows us to enter and exist fully in the present, the life that is happening at this moment.
ahh, those rare moments when i stop chasing some external goal, and instead find myself enjoying the inner trophy of being wide awake in the Now. in those moments, i am struck by how much of life there is all around me--and how little of it i actually need to feel utterly happy, at peace, free.
the inverse is also true. the more impatient i am (the more i demand things to bloom according to my own timelines--forcing my schedule and belief system on things), the less of life there seems to love, and the more frustration i feel throughout the day.
patience--letting things exist on their own terms--is ultimately about trust. a faith in the idea that when we do our best, we finally get to let go. because when we do our best, we will (eventually) get everything we need.