Thursday, January 6, 2011
gift, make your life a
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.