Writing & yoga

When I was flirting with the idea of making a career of writing in college, I was baffled by what I was going to write about. I did not see my own life or ideas as worthy of putting down on paper. I went off to Latin America, eventually ending up in Peru, in search of adventure and found the raw material that helped me learn to be a writer. I worked as a journalist and researcher writing about a people and culture facing change. It makes a big difference for a writer to choose a topic that he really cares about, something that stirs and inspires him.

When it came time to move on and back to the States, I found that my Peruvian content and inspiration did not provide me with many career options. Then I had several depressive meltdowns. I gave up any thought of writing professional again.

Over the past five years, I have gradually worked my way back into mental and physicial health, and am writing, but I missed the fire that came from writing about something that impassioned me.

Over the past few months, I have re-encountered a joy in writing, both on my weblog, in an online yoga course and in my private journaling, as well as more ambitious. I am writing truthfully and sincerely. The union of writing and yoga is liberating a new dynamic of understanding about myself and the outer world. What is different is the enthusiasm with which I approach the writing. It is not just a tool in my hands, but an instrument for self-discovery. Through the process of yoga I have a new window into my own interior life and into the world outside.

While thinking about this change in my relationship with my creative enterprises, I keep coming back to a yogic term — tapas, “the purifying heat,” and what Kelly told us about it in the 10th week:

“Although tapas is often interpreted as personal discipline, I think of it as the willingness to do the work necessary for transformation. It is a kind of focus that helps you access energy for change. While it involves some discipline, it is not blind discipline. It is not doing hard work for the sole purpose of doing something difficult. It is the commitment to stick with something difficult, when that challenging action has the power to transform.”

I have been using Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to work through a creative recovery. I have also run across Jeff Davis’s Journey from the Center of the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (Gotham Books, 2004). At first, I thought it would be one of those formula-restricted books (Yoga for Bad Breath, Yoga for Hay Fever, etc.) that have cropped up recently. But Davis has done an excellent job of demonstrating how yogic principles can be applied to the creative process.

As I began to understand how yoga was helping me heal my body and mind, making me raise my head to see beyond my narrow world, I began to see the possibility of harnessing my practice to a creative enterprise. I initially used yoga as a defensive mechanism, as a bulwark against depression, but I can also turn it into a proactive creation. I wanted to tackle all those obstacles and quirks that had kept me from fulfilling my potential as a writer. I made Inspire and Create equal partners with the other aspects of the my practice. That’s why I mentioned transformation as a new criteria within my life.

These are pretty ambitious goals — and I accept them as an open-ended adventure, just as I headed off to Peru 30 years ago, only know I am armed with more knowledge, understanding and tools.

A turning point came me a while ago when I grasped a flash of comprehension — like a waking dream. I saw myself in an inviting room clearing space for my yoga mat. I move a piece of old furniture out of the way and found behind it a trap door that leads to a springhouse where all my memories are stored, cool and preserved, in the dark interior of the sanctuary. I had thought that because of my depression they had been lost forever, wiped out like a power failure eating all your work on a computer, that I had lost the raw materials for my creativity. But in this vision, the memories were merely held in safekeeping. I may not be able to regain every last detail, but I can regain access to this well of inspiration through combining my yoga and writing, using my tapas to heal myself.

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