|Cary Grant, struggling with his knitting, in "Mr. Lucky."|
One of the biggest issues my beginning students have is accepting that they are beginners. Once they move past that first rush of learning something new, they quickly become frustrated when they can't cast on or fix a dropped stitch as "gracefully and quickly" as I am able. (Thanks for that kind comment.) What they forget is that there are hours, days, weeks and years of practice behind that apparent ease. If it's true that 10,000 is a magic number for becoming an expert, then I have surely made that many mistakes in getting to where I am now.
It's not that I'm a particularly talented knitter, or spinner, or anything else. Quite the contrary-I was the worst student in the first (and nearly only) spinning workshop I took. I had years of starts and stops when I was teaching myself to knit. (Others had given up in despair.) I kept the first weaving projects I made, just so I can demonstrate to those starting out that you really can get better.
What kept me going was sheer obstinacy and a desire to learn. My hardest lesson comes in learning not to compare myself to others, but to work with my body, my opportunities and the tools I have available. I'm not there yet. Yoga is a constant reminder that I will always be a beginner, that I will never reach perfection and that, if I give in to the urge to compare myself to others, I will bring suffering to my practice. This became apparent the other evening during our Level 2 class. We were working towards head stands, practising balance, gaining strength to provide the support we need to achieve full inversions. Heather was quite clear: there was no need to go into a headstand of any kind, no final goal to achieve. In fact, if we moved into Salamba Sirsasana before we were ready, we risked our necks, literally.
There was a time, long ago, when I could do full inversions, without the support of a wall, props or someone spotting me. Life has thrown me a few curve balls since, some expected and some not. My body has changed; my mind has changed; my life has changed. I haven't done full inversions in a very long time. It was foolish to think that I was ready to do one in that class, but, as soon as I saw others go up, my ego jumped out at me and said, "Let's go! You can do it!" Every bit of me that is Ego was screaming to kick up into a headstand. And I did not.
I did the arm strengthening exercises to the best of my ability. I climbed up on the wall into as mindful a forearm stand as I could manage. I kicked up a few times to see if I could build the strength to take myself up into a headstand when the time was right. I acknowledged that now was not that time.
I'm learning, slowly, painfully, to be aware of where I am in this moment, to start from there and to be at ease in the body I have now. Just like my students, I am working towards those 10,000 steps or hours required to be an "expert," however one defines the term. Working on my practice builds empathy for others experiencing difficulty in life. To paraphrase Pema Chodron, we can learn to be comfortable in "not knowing," in "not being there yet." That, in itself, is a major achievement.
|Working Into the Pose|