A lamp does not flicker in a place where no wind blows. –B.K.S. Iyengar
I’m very excited that you have joined me here for my first blog post. My plans for this space are focused, yet diverse. I’m going to be looking at many different aspects of the writing and creative life from the particular perspective I’ve developed over the years, and doing fun things like talking about about writers and books and things that inspire me, sharing my favorite writing and drawing tools and my idiosyncratic writing setups, and coming up with writing prompts.
These first few posts will be pretty fluid as I wrangle with site design. Don’t be surprised if all the pictures, text, and layouts change for the first few weeks as I hone in on what I really want. The site will start out pretty simply, and grow as we go along.
I decided to begin by sharing this quote from B.K.S. Iyengar, who, as you likely know, was one of the primary yoga teachers of the 20th century. Although I grew up with yoga and later became a teacher myself, I was first exposed to Iyengar in college, where his book Light on Yoga was the textbook for a class I took. This was on the very first page, made a deep impression on me, and returns to my mind regularly. The full line goes like this:
A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect and self, being absorbed in the spirit within him.
I love this quote, because it’s a simple, quiet image that reminds me to both cultivate fiery passion for my work and also protect it from the disturbances of my own thoughts or other people. I like the contrast between the fluid flame and the steady mind that prevents its wavering. I’ve often found it helpful to take a few breaths and recall this image, and then get on with things from a point of balance.
One of the most important things I learned from yoga practice was that agility, strength, and flexibility develop over time. The first forward bends I did in that class involved leaning on a window sill of the boathouse that was our classroom because I was too stiff to bend even perpendicular. Both at that rocky beginning and when I come back after time off, my body is stiff, weak, and clumsy, and grace and agility seem inconceivable and out of reach. Yet with regular effort—in particular, daily effort—that iron body slowly becomes molten and pliable, and shows me that my limited conceptions about my abilities were null and void.
It’s the same with writing. Sometimes when I look back at my early work I think how amazing and out of the box it was. Now when I write a first draft, if I don’t watch myself, I catch myself thinking that I sound like everybody else. But then I rewrite and rewrite again, and there is my voice, after all. Just as the body responds with daily yoga practice, the agility of my mind returns with the heat of daily action. For me, Iyengar’s image has been a lifelong gift and thread by which I can remember and return to the commitment of daily practice, whether it be yoga or any creative discipline, so that when obstacles or interruptions invariably arise, it’s possible to sit down, focus on the flame, and get the work done.
Let me know if you have a favorite quote that brings you back to center.
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